Fascinating and captivating; this is the history of pisco

Have you ever wondered how the story of pisco began, where it was first produced or why it was given this name? At Marca Perú we’re going to clear up these and other questions surrounding the origin of this distilled grape liquor, National Cultural Heritage since 1988.

First of all, it is important to specify when and how grapes and wine appeared in Peru, and to do this we must go back hundreds of years. To 1528, in fact, the date of the first reference to wine. This happened when Francisco Pizarro, who – after dropping anchor off Tumbes – received a visit from a “gentleman with a truly aristocratic demeanor” to whom the conquistador gave wine, “a beverage which he seemed to like”.

The history of Pisco

The history of Pisco

The first descriptions of grapes in Peru

Following the arrival of wine in Peru, we find ourselves in 1547, the year in which the Spanish chronicler Pedro Cieza de León arrived in the country as part of the peacemaker Pedro de La Gasca’s forces to put an end to the Pizarro revolt against the King. On his journey, he witnessed the existence of grapevines on the outskirts of Quito and in Piura, which he mentioned:

“At the present time there are large vineyards in many of these valleys, from where many grapes are picked. Wine has not been made up to now, and so it is not possible to say what it will be like. It may be assumed that, as it is on irrigated land, it will be light in body”.

Garcilaso de la Vega, for his part, the great chronicler of Peruvian history, also wrote, thanks to news that he heard, about the arrival of grapes in Peru towards the end of the 16th century, and their first harvests. 

“With Noah’s plant [vine] they are honoring Francisco Caravantes, an old conquistador, one of the first in Peru, who hails from Toledo, and is a nobleman. This gentleman, after calmly assessing and looking at the land, had a plant sent from Spain, and the man who came brought tight clusters of grapes from the Canary Islands so that they would be fresher, and that is where almost all the red grapes came from. The wine is light, not completely red and although many other plants have now been brought, including Muscatel, even with all this there is still no white wine”.

Pisco today

Peru has a number of companies which produce pisco, some of which use the latest technology, have modern equipment and have hired high-level specialists in the different fields of production and marketing.  This has not only made it possible to regain its previous level, but to surpass it. With respect to education, mention should be made of the creation of institutions such as the first School of Oenological Engineering, and the Wine and Pisco Institute, which has the most modern tasting room in the country, as well as other specialized schools.

Currently, our flagship drink reaches 33 markets in the Americas, Asia and Europe. The United States is the largest with a 46.2 % share, followed by Spain with 15 %.

Did you know?

  • The Pisco denomination of origin is recognized in 70 countries and has earned innumerable prizes in the most important liquor and spirit contests in the world.

  • At the start of 2019, Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Mincetur), launched the industry brand "Pisco, Spirit of Peru", the slogan that will accompany our flagship drink in its conquest of world markets.

  • In recent years, Pisco exports have shown sustained growth. In 2009 shipments abroad totaled US$ 1.3 million and in 2018 accumulated US$ 5.7 million, growing 320% in this period.

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Diego SmithComment