martes, 5 de enero de 2010

Spreading the Culture of Pisco: Noches de Cata

Katrina Heimark
While pisco is not relatively young by any means, it certainly lacks an established culture, such as that celebrated by wine enthusiasts around the world. And, according to Livio Pastorino, editor of the monthly e-magazine, El Pisco es del Perú, not only does a culture of pisco need to be celebrated throughout Peru and the world, but also pisco lacks a transparent organization of authority on its quality, standards and production.

Precisely because of this, Livio has established an organization called Asociación de Catadores Independientes de Pisco (ACIP), in which four graduates from the Insituto del Vino y del Pisco (IDVIP) meet every fifteen days to perform what they call blind taste testing of Pisco. They then publish the results of the testing on their blog, Noches de Cata. Each time ACIP meets, they taste 8 different brands of the same variety of pisco. The organization formed a little over a year ago, and they have sampled over 200 varieties of pisco.

They do so in a very strict, precise, and formal manner, but it wasn’t always that way. In April of 2009, ACIP began the blind tastings. Livio states that he noticed a higher level of efficiency, as well as more honest and transparent rating of the different piscos. “Things changed when we began the blind tastings,” he states, smiling. “We began to use the standards set up by the OIV (International Organization of wine and vine), which we religiously see as the official way of evaluating wines and piscos.”

“The truth is, in many nationalized Peruvian congresses on pisco, these standards are not even incorporated into the evaluation of pisco,” Livio explains. He is proud of his organization, because it is comprised of pisco lovers without any sort of ties to bodegas, production or any type of pisco company. “We are more transparent, which means we can evaluate pisco in a more honest and fair way. Over 60 percent of the evaluators of pisco in the congresses and competitions are producers or work with pisco in the bodegas. Most are self-taught, which is different from our group. We were educated in an institute.” And, Peru doesn’t not have a group that regularly dedicates itself to the evaluation of pisco, “because it is time consuming,” states Livio.

ACIP evaluates piscos on a scale of 1 to 100. “When we first began the tasting, we were really strict,” says Livio. “But now we’ve become more accepting of varieties, but we certainly haven’t lost our ability to criticize,” he laughs. A good pisco must achieve a rating between 88 and 90 points, combined from ratings from the four regular tasting participants of ACIP. However, an excellent pisco has to reach between 94 and 100 points, a tough grading scale.

Livio explains that ACIP proceeds very carefully through all of the tastings. They only focus on one variety, and although they have little over 4 months to complete a year of blind tasting, they still haven’t finished the evaluations of all the different types of piscos. ACIP only evaluates pisco that one can buy in the major stores in Lima, but they do once and a while taste a pisco that a producer has directly sent to them. Livo explains that these tastings are listed in the blog as “bonuses,” as most people won’t have a direct or easy access to the alcohol.

Each pisco is evaluated for clarity, aroma, the first impression in the mouth, the persistence afterwards of the flavors, and the correspondence between the smell and the flavor. Livio states that the best way to evaluate a pisco is to drink it close to where it was produced, as that gives you the sense of aromas, climate and influences on the grapes while they are growing. “Each pisco picks up the flavors of the region it is produced in, and it is a completely different experience to taste a pisco in Lima than in Ica, for example,” he states.

When asked about his favorite variety of pisco, Livio states “I am a loyal fan of pure pisco. But out of all the varieties, I would have to choose one of the aromatic types as my favorite. I fell in love with the aromatic varieties while studying pisco in IDVIP. It is incredible when a pisco can remind you of jasmine, magnolias, pineapple, just by the smell, and when you have the pisco in your mouth, you have the sensation that you are eating the fruit. It is very difficult to produce a good aromatic pisco, and because of that I find that it is my favorite.”

With the organization ACIP, Livio explains that all the group members have learned that pisco is marvelous. While I would think that goes without saying, Livio explains that pisco is truly a unique and versatile distilled alcohol. It has a high number of varieties, and comes from a limited area of Peru, but yet, it still has a huge range of diversity and charm. And that, precisely, is why he wants to spread the culture of pisco, not just through Peru, but through the rest of the world.

“Someday,” Livio says, “We would like to offer a pisco evaluation service for the bodegas and the producers of pisco in Peru. And, of course, we would love to continue doing more and more tastings, as well as teach Peruvians and foreigners alike the intricacies of tasting and valuing pisco.” And, with these noble efforts, one can only imagine ACIP will make it possible.


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