It’s not quite time to celebrate Peru as a wine tasting destination, but if the passion and enthusiasm applied to all things culinary is anything to go by, it’s quite likely that in five to ten years the landscape will be completely different.
Peruvian wine is not unlike pisco. Five years ago it was a completely undervalued industry; its name conjured little more than memories of frothy sours and sharp hangovers. A few premium labels had started to appear, but it still seemed like a long uphill climb to get wider recognition.
These days, the supermarket shelves heave with choice, people talk about their preference for Quebranta, Torontel, or Albilla, and bartenders are beginning to treat it like a fine spirit. Now, it’s an honor to present a fine pisco as a gift, and this, says Carlos de Piérola, a wine writer and international judge, is where the Peruvian wine industry needs to get to.
De Pierola is the founder of Barricas, a local, wine-focused website, and is the driving force behind Lima’s first Peruvian Wine Week (which will take place every second week of July). The goal, he explains, is to help wineries and consumers get to know each other a little better, to overcome the prejudices created by the low quality wines that have dominated the market.
And the best way to do this is through food. Restaurants all over the city opened their doors to this mini-festival, from Gaston Acurio’s La Mar to Hector Solís’ Fiesta and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s Amaz, and participated with special offers and tasting menus paired with local wines.
The sommeliers’ ready acceptance of Peruvian wines goes beyond national pride and the chance to pair local wine with local food; the simple fact is that the wines have gotten better.
They’ve been making wine in Peru for some 500 years, with production traditionally centered on Ica, a city set among sand dunes four hours south of Lima. Although watered by snowmelt from the Andes, much of which still runs along Inca-built waterways, conditions are harsh, making the production of modern fine wines a challenge and driving the focus of grape production to pisco.
This changed five years ago when one of the four large, traditional wineries, Santiago Quierolo, launched their Intipalka range of wines. It quickly became a local favorite and it's the most widely available Peruvian wine in the US. Their efforts seemed to have motivated their peers to a similar modernization of equipment and ideas and that has resulted in a decent range of wines at every price level in supermarkets these days.
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