Sunday, March 2, 2008

Washington D.C. Wine & Food Festival - Spirits

In our never ending quest for new and exotic spirits, the Washington D.C. International Wine & Food Festival delivered brilliantly with two spirits from neighboring South American countries. From Peru, we discovered pisco, a brandy made from grapes. If you've never heard of this spirit, don't be disappointed, Pisco Ku is the first pisco sold in the United States and has only been available for the past three weeks. This brandy is made from a blend of several indigenous grapes which means its made in the Acholado (Half-breed) style. Pisco made from a single grape variety is called Pure, whereas pisco made from the muscat grape is called Aromatic. Ten pounds of grapes are used to make a single bottle. The Pisco Ku is similar to grappa but without the tannic finish. That is because only the grape must is fermented; the stems and skins which are included in Italian and Chilean grappa must are removed. The result - a spirit that is extremely smooth like a good Vodka, but with a slight grapey flavor similar to grappa. Another interested note about pisco is that by Peruvian law, pisco must be made to proof in a single distillation - i.e. the fermenting grape juice must be distilled exactly at 40 proof the first time - no second or third distillations are permitted.Plus no additives may be added to the pisco that could alter its flavor, odor, appearance or, of course, alcoholic proof. Pisco Ku is marketing their brand as an alternative to Vodka - suggesting it as a mixer with orange juice, cranberry juice, or lemons. I think it's perfect neat or I plan to try it how I like my grappa, adding it to an espresso.

The second discovery comes from neighboring Ecuador and is a brand of rum: Zhumir Seco Soave and Zhumir Aguardiente. Each brand is made from a different rum making style. The Seco Soave is made in the traditional fashion, by turning the sugar cane into molasses and then distilling the syrup. The Aguardiente is made by distilling the sugar cane juice directly and reminded me a little of cachaca. Even though neither are aged in wood - they are smooth and ready for sipping. The most popular brand on Saturday was their pre-mixed Zhumir Pina Colada and on Sunday their flavored Zhumir Limon - the Aguardiente mixed with lime juice. We went a step further with a few daring souls and mixed the Pina Colada with the neighboring Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur Liquor that we discovered in south beach the previous weekend. Now that was a cocktail.

The next step is to determine if these brands are the best spirits Peru and Ecuador have to offer........possibly the Zhumir Reposado Reserva Especial or Zhumir Reposado.


Cisco Pisco said...

Pisco from Peru has been sold in the U.S. for many years. It has been available in larger DC area liquor stores for many years. Among the more known brands are Pisco Inca (I think now defunct), Pisco Montesierpe and more recently Macchu Pisco.

Stephanie said...

I am in Fort lauderdale, FL and I am trying to find somewhere local that sells Pisco so I can buy a bottle. Anyone have that info to help me out?

Dave said...

Chilean pisco has also been available in DC, Houston, and Miami area for years. Most common in the market here is Pisco Capel, excellent for pisco sours. Don't join the argument about which pisco is beter, Peruvian or Chilean....enjoy them both!!