Peru does not enjoy the reputation yet of either Chile or Argentina, and indeed the wine industry is not near the high quality and level of development. Yet, the wine industry is a long established one, and some high quality vineyards and wineries do exist. Grapes (mainly Muscat) are also grown for distillation into Peru’s most famous alcoholic product, Pisco. However, some specialized wine people, like Adolfo Hurtado from Cono Sur, think that Peru is the next world big wine region.
Peru’s winemaking legacy began in the 1500s following the Spanish conquest. Peru was the first South American country in which systematic viticulture was actively encouraged, and vines were planted in coastal areas with the majority around Ica, a region just south of Lima. Over the years, pests and politics reduced the country’s vineyards from 125,000 acres in the 19th century to little more than 2,500 acres by the 1980s
There are five different vineyard regions in Peru: the North Coast, the Central Coast, the South Coast, the Andean Sierra and the Selva. Of the 11,000 hectares of vineyards in the country, the most important can be found in the Central and South Coast where the best known wines, like Tacama, Vista Alegre and Ocucaje are produced.
The coastal region of Peru is basically a desert, intersected by a series of valleys flowing from the Andes down to the sea.
The best vines are grown in these fertile irrigated areas, which benefit from the cool currents of offshore air that rise up into the vineyards. The essential balance between the humidity and daily contrasts in temperature provide exceptional vine growing conditions.
T In he city of Ica lies within the province of Ica, which is the center of Peruvian wine culture. This is the area where wine grapes were first introduced and many smaller wineries still make use of ancient techniques to produce wines.
The province of Ica is known as an area of sand, sea and oases. Despite its hot and dry climate, Ica has ideal conditions to grow wine grapes. The fields are thoroughly irrigated with water from the Andes and virtually any crop in the world can grow here. Peru’s best wineries are located here and are referred to as “bodegas” which actually means “wineries”. All Peruvian wineries are prefixed with this word; Bodega Tacama, Bodega Ocucaje, etc.
In some ways, Ica (the province) is not just the cradle of Peru’s wine culture but of Peru as a whole. Saints and medicine men are a part of everyday life and this is also where the best Pisco brandy is distilled. Pisco has attained a certain degree of world fame and is considered to be Peru’s national drink. It would be very hard to find a Peruvian winery that doesn’t make Pisco alongside their wines.
Peru’s micro wine production has actually played to their favor though, by allowing them the time to experiment with different blends and wine making techniques without getting a reputation for low or mediocre quality wines. Instead, Peruvian wine exports are arriving on the North American market as a seeming newcomer with surprisingly high quality. In fact, you could be forgiven for not even knowing that Peru has a wine industry.
The SAQ has 3 listed products on the Peru section. It is a shame as I hope that this changes soon. I recently picked 2 bottles for tasting exploration. My tasting notes below as always
Tabernero Gran Tinto Reserve Malbec / Merlot 2012. SAQ Code: 10746746. Price: $14.90
This is a robust and full-flavored wine with an intense, fruity bouquet that recalls spices and black fruits that can be sensed progressively when it is served. Produced using Malbec and Merlot grapes it has a vigorous structure with its own unique style. It is a good match with red meats, pastas and cheeses. Amazing value at the SAQ. 90\100
Tacama Seleccion Especial 2011. SAQ Code: 00976225. Price: $23.95
On the nose, sweet and jammy aromas of plum jam and cherry. On the mouth, the wine is expansive with a round texture, ending with a sweet finale. Best for meat bbqs. 89\100