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Fire Water and Punch

  Pisco is at its simplest, is Brandy from Latin America.  Pisco is Aguardiente, the word comes from the Latin “Agua” for “water” and “Ardiente” meaning “fiery” – Fire Water.  Simliar to Brandy, which is short for Brandywine, from the Dutch expression for “burnt wine” or distilled wine.

Most nations in Latin America claim proprietorship of Pisco and that has lead too many arguments, from the halls of academia to the tables of tabernia. Peru claims the beverage got it’s name from the Peruvian town of Pisco. Chilean linguist Rodolfo Lenz said that the word pisco was used all along the Pacific coast of the Americas from Arauco to Guatemala, and that the word would be of Quechua origin meaning “bird”. Most convincing (to me) is Chilean linguist Mario Ferreccio Podesta’s theory, that the etymology to which pisco was originally a word for a mud container, much like amphora.

The Spaniards introduced distillation almost as soon as they arrived.  In the Viceroyalty of New Spain vineyards were introduced by missionaries wherever they could get Vitis Vinerfera to grow. and the late 1500’s there were vineyards producing wine commercially from modern day growing regions like Chile in the south to California in the North . So significant and threatening to the Spanish mercantilist that in 1595 the Spanish Crown banned the establishment of new vineyards in the Americas to protect the exports of its native wine industry.

By the 17th century Pisco was being exported including back to Spain and Portugal for fortification of wines. By the 18th century Pisco represented almost 90% of the grape beverage produced. During the California Gold Rush Pisco became a hit in San Francisco.

Pisco is made in an alembic Pot Still, just like Spanish Brandy or Cognac. It is distilled to between 60 and 80 proof with some Gran Pisco coming in at 86 proof or more. There are eight approved grape varietals, Muscat is by far the most popular grape because of its aromatics followed by Torontel and Pedro Ximenex. Pisco must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels of “glass, stainless steel or any other material which does not alter its physical, chemical or organic properties”.

Peruvian Pisco must be made in the country’s five official D.O. (Denomination of Origin) departments—Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna (only in the valleys of Locumba Locumba, Sama and Caplina). Chilean Pisco must be made in the country’s two official D.O. (Denomination of Origin) regions—Atacama and Coquimbo. The right to use an appellation of origin for pisco is hotly contested between Peru and Chile. Peru claims the exclusive right to use the term “pisco” only for products from Peru. Chile, regards the term “pisco” as generic, and it argues the spirit is simply a type of alcoholic beverage made from grapes.

The Bank Exchange and Duncan Nicol, circa 1893.

Pisco Punch was made famous by Duncan Nicol at the Bank Exchange Saloon in San Francisco. Nicol was the last owner of the Bank Exchange when it closed its doors permanently in 1919 because of the Volstead Act.

Duncan Nicol invented a pisco punch recipe using: pisco brandy, pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum arabic and distilled water.

Simple Pisco Punch
2 ounces pisco
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 ounce pineapple Juice
1 ounce simple syrup

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 15 seconds. Double strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

 

One bank Exchange regular said, “It tastes like lemonade but comes back with the kick of a roped steer.” Others said “it makes a gnat fight an elephant.” Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine wrote in 1937: “In the old days in San Francisco there was a famous drink called Pisco Punch, made from Pisco, a Peruvian brandy… pisco punch used to taste like lemonade but had a kick like vodka, or worse.”

Pisco found many fans during its heyday. In Rudyard Kipling’s 1889 epic From Sea to Sea, he immortalized Pisco Punch as being “compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”

Pisco has found fans in a new generation of Mixologist and imbibers. The clean nature of the bandy makes a nice base for cocktails. Here is a modern update on Punch from me.

Lenny’s Pisco Parlor Punch
3 ounce Barsol Pisco
1 ounce Lime Juice
½ ounce Lemon Juice
1 ounce Small Hands Pineapple Gum Syrup
½ ounce Velvet Falernum

Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cherry or pineapple or both.

 

Velvet Falernum is a longtime staple item of resorts and bars in Barbados, and today for its use in Tropical, Tiki and Caribbean drinks such as the Rum Swizzle, Mai Tai and Zombie. Made from an infusion of spices and lime juice into sugar cane syrup and Barbados Rum.

Small Hands Gum Syrup is about as close as you can get to Duncan’s original.

Bodega San Isidro dates back to the 1800’s. However, the most remote documents retrieved from the local town archives date back to 1919. In 2005 Bodega San Isidro became the top exporter of Pisco of Peru, being the first company ever to export one solid 20’ container of Pisco in Peru’s history. BarSol specializes in piscos produced with Quebranta, Italia and Torontel Grapes. They are produced in both styles, a) straight pisco and b) Mosto Verde Pisco. An “Acholado” pisco is also made, from a blend of piscos from the 3 single grape varietals.

 

 

 

 

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

Dynasty noun – a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field.

The Lurton Family can trace its winemaking roots in Bordeaux back to the 17th century. But it was the marriage of Denise Recapet to Francois Lurton in 1923 that the story of this family dynasty begins. Denise and François Lurton had four children, André was born in 1924, Lucien in 1925, Simone in 1929 and Dominique in 1932.

André, married to Elizabeth Garros, received the family home, Château Bonnet. In 40 years he amassed property totaling 600 hectares situated primarily in Entre-deux-Mers and the Pessac-Léognan appellation, of which he was one of the founders in 1987. Today, the fourth and fifth generations of Lurton’s control 27 Bordeaux châteaux. Everything from Bordeaux’s largest producer, Chateau Bonnet which is run by patriarch Andre Lurton to 2nd growth Margaux property Chateau Brane Cantenac to Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem.

Today the family has wine interests on most continents and almost all major wine growing regions. In their turn, Andre’s sons, François and Jacques, acquired wine estates in Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and the Languedoc.

 

“If I were a vine, I would choose to be planted in Chile.” François Lurton

François and Jacques Lurton found this “dream land” whilst working as consultants for the San Pedro vineyards. The first bottles of Araucano, the name of the last of Chile’s indigenous people, was first released in 1997. In 2000, François bought 200 hectares of land in the valley of Colchagua. The valley around the town of Lolol, had that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, that combination of high altitude clay-limestone soils, radical diurnal temperature change and the cooling influence of the morning fog.

 

The estate is located in a high valley that runs from East to West, which funnels cold air from the Pacific Ocean. The large temperature differences between the sea and the land causes a white fog “Humo Blanco” to develop, which can be seen most mornings just above the estate vineyards. Hot, dry days and foggy, cool nights, textbook perfect conditions for growing great wine.

The Lurton family bring literally centuries of winemaking knowledge to bear on this project. But, Francois is a forward thinking man with a vision. Francois Lurton employs 10 full time enologist that work across France, Argentina, Spain and Chile. 2012 the Araucano wines obtained organic certification. In 2013, Hacienda Araucano obtained biodynamic certification (Demeter). The winery is also 100% solar powered.

Lolol is one of the new coastal appellations in Chile. This wine represents the essence of the cool climate of Lolol. It is made up of the best plots of four grape varieties that excel in the valley: Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. This blend was put together by Francois himself. The grapes are handpicked, double sorted and then left for a lengthy cold soak to gently extract the fruity aromas and smooth tannins. Once fermented separately the different grape varieties are blended together and are aged in French oak for 18 months. A true Chilean wine with a French touch.

Clos de Lolol Red Wine 2013 (Chile) $14.99 / Save $10

“Woodsy, spicy aromas of herbal plum and berry come with a light coating of chocolate. A round, rubbery palate is tight in the long run. Saturated plum and blackberry flavors are oaky in front of an extracted finish that runs long and doesn’t hold back. Drink through 2022.” 91 pts Wine Enthusiast

92 James Suckling, 91 pts Wine Advocate

“There’s never been a better time to buy Chilean wine.” James Suckling, “Indeed, hundreds of outstanding quality wines are entering the market. It doesn’t hurt that the current vintages available, especially for reds, are fantastic – mostly 2013, 2014, and 2015.”

@Chef_Lenny

Wines of Chile: Pinot Noir and Syrah Shine

Vineyards in Chile
I’ve had the privilege of participating in the Wines of Chile blogger tasting the past three years. It’s always a great experience: 8 wines, bloggers from all over the world, plus a live video chat with winemakers ably MC’d by Fred Dexheimer. (And you can always count on my fellow bloggers to comment on the relative attractiveness of the winemakers as well as what celebrity they resemble. Naturally, I abstained from participating in these shenanigans.) I have to give Wines of Chile credit for acknowledging my insistent whining that Pinot Noir be a focus of the tasting, as they obliged me with a flight of four to begin the festivities:

Chilean Pinot Noir

My thoughts?

  • Valdivieso: Light and fresh with great acidity. A lively porch-pounder, lovely with a bit of a chill.
  • Nimbus: Put this in the cellar; for around $20 retail, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more age-worthy wine to purchase by the case.
  • Veramonte Ritual: Nice balance of fruit and tannin, though I wonder if the tannins (somewhat woody) will integrate with time. (Retasted the next day: tannins resolved.)
  • Cono Sur Ocio: People were going nuts over this wine; it’s gorgeous, no doubt, but expensive: $65ish retail. (Though I’ve had dreadful Burgundy and sub-par California and Oregon Pinot for that price.)

Then we shifted gears and tackled four Syrahs:

Chilean Syrah

Another impressive batch:

  • After I adjusted to moving from Pinot to Syrah, enojyed the earthy richness of the Tamaya. A little too much earth at first (for me), but time in the glass helped significantly.
  • The Loma Larga was a big bruiser of a Syrah that could go toe-to-toe with anything coming out of California or Washington.
  • The Undurraga won my (someday-to-be-coveted) Wine of the Night award. I loved that it had great acidity and was not too weighty. Very balanced and Rhone-y.
  • The Arucano was a lot of Syrah for a suggested $13 price tag. Hard to quibble with a rich, palate-coating red like this for under $15.

ChutneyI must give special mention to the chutney provided by Puro Chile. The uniqueness of Myrtleberry combined with the Merken (a cumin and chile spice blend)  gave it a sweet-and-spicy combination of flavors that went great with both the Syrahs and Pinots. I, alas, only had some bland crackers with which to accompany my chutney. Some of my fellow bloggers, however, went a little more upscale with a spread of great breadth. Behold the tweets that  mocked me as I typed and tasted at my desk:

And if that wasn’t enough:

If I’m lucky enough to participate again next year, I’m RSVPing well in advance with Mellissa or Winnie. Mind if I stop by? I’ll bring 8 bottles of Chilean wine.

Full disclosure: The wine was provided free of charge by Wines of Chile.

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