Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pisco "Don Moisés"

On the morning after Hernán and Carla's wedding, as we were walking over to their house for lunch and to say our "goodbyes", I noticed the owner of the hotel we were staying at come out of a lot across the street. This drew my attention to the lot itself and, in it, to an old pot still or alambique in the yard.

The hotel's owner, Mr Julio Sánchez, heard me mention it to my dad and stopped to chat with us about it, mentioning that it was still used, and graciously acquiesced when I asked if we might be able to go in an take a closer look.

Mr Sánchez (in the burgundy shirt, at left) proved to be gracious and informative host. He allowed us to clamber up around his still, taking pictures, while he explained the history of the still, how he still uses it make pisco, and told us about himself and Ica.

It turned out that Mr Sánchez and my dad were nearly paisanos (countrymen) as he was originally from the town of Anco, near the border between Ayacucho and the nextdoor department of Huancavelica. Mr Sánchez is also the President of an association of Quechua-speakers in Ica dedicated to preserving and prommoting the use of the language amongst iqueños. Naturally, he and my dad had a lot to talk about.

Mr Sánchez explained to us that he acquired the property with the still on it, and that the place used to be referred to as the "Silent Industry" as it was a bodega which almost exclusively employed deaf-mutes. All the employees knew the procedures in making pisco and the timing of each step was dictated with a series of colored lightbulbs.

Among his other enterprises, Mr Sánchez continues to use the facilities to produce his own high quality artisanal pisco.

During the Vendimia, or grape harvest, in March, the grapes are loaded into a large circular masonry tub - the lagar- to be pressed. Here the grapes are pressed in the traditional way, by foot. It was explained to us that there are some lovely young ladies who are experience grape stompers who come and do the job. Netting must be put up to protect them while they are stepping on the grapes, as the sugars and aromas draw bees and wasps "by the thousands".

The extracted juice is conducted via a pipe to a rectangular lagar built at a lower level, from whence it is transfered to the fermenting vessels, of which there are thirteen built onto the hillside. Mr Sánchez indicated that this step can be done with a pump but that, most often, they find it easier to just use buckets.

After fermentation is complete, the must is then transfered to the alambique for distillation.

The resultant liquor -which can be produced in batches of up to 300 liters- is then aged for the requisite minimum of three months in plastic containers, and then bottled as needed.

Mr Sánchez's very tasty pisco, Pisco "Don Moisés", can be purchased across the street from where it is produced: at the Hotel Belle-Sand, Casuarinas B1-3, Residencial La Angostura, Ica.

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