In 2014 I visited La Caravedo, the distillery where they make Pisco Porton. In this distillery there are really two distilleries, the old one dating to 1684 with primitive falca stills, and the shiny new one with copper pot/alembic stills.
Peruvian Pisco Law Review
For Peruvian pisco (as opposed to Chilean - much Chilean pisco is column-distilled and and aged in wood), here are the laws of production:
- It must be made from one or more of 8 approved grape varietals. Aromatic grapes are Torontel, Italia, Albilla and Moscatel. Nonaromatics are Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina and Mollar.
- These piscos made with the grapes can either be "puro," of all one variety; or "acholado," a blend of more than one.
- They must be distilled a single-time in a falca or pot still.
- Pisco must be distilled to a final proof of between 38 and 48 percent alcohol. Water is not allowed to be added to bring it down to final proof.
- It must be stored in nonreactive vessels (no wood barrels).
- "Mosto verde" pisco is made from grapes that are not fully fermented before distillation. This requires around 40 percent more grapes to produce. Mosto verde pisco can be made from any of the eight approved varietals or be a blend/acholado.
Porton Actually Has 3 Sets of Stills
- Falcas, the old style stills at La Caravedo
- Pot/Alembic stills at La Caravedo
- Cognac-style pot stills at another of their vineyards
This means that for any one grape varietal, they could make 3 different distillates as each still will produce a slightly different spirit. And they do.
How Porton Is Blended
Pisco Porton is an acholado mosto verde, meaning it's a blend of mosto verde distillates. The 2014 bottling blend is:
- Mosto Verde Quebranta distilled in falca stills at La Caravedo
- Mosto Verde Quebranta distilled in alembic/pot stills at La Caravedo
- Mosto Verde Quebranta distilled in cognac-style stills
- Mosto Verde Italia distilled in cognac-style stills
- Mosto Verde Abilla distilled in cognac-style stills
- Mosto Verde Torontel distilled in falca stills at La Caravedo
The blend is:
- 70% Quebranta
- 1% Albilla
- 25% Torontel
- 4% Italia
- After distillation, the spirit is rested. Then it is filtered before bottling.
- First they chill the spirit to help precipitation naturally. No filter is used.
- Then they use a cationic filter, which is a mix of resin and paper. This removes mineral and copper. (When we tasted un-blended piscos, a coppery note definitely showed through so it's clear this is needed.)
Component and Blend Tasting
While at the distillery, I was able to taste several single grape varietals, in puro or mosto verde puro form. It was fascinating how different the varietals of grapes tasted from each other, and how different the same varietal could taste when put through a different still.
(Reminder, my tasting notes aren't supposed to make sense to other people.)
- Mosto verde quebranta falca-distilled, freshly distilled: Hay, fresh-peeled banana, black olive tree.
- Mosto verde quebranta cognac still-distilled, rested 30 days: Similar but not as tasty
- Blend of these two, married for 15 days: better than the sum of the parts
- Mosto verde quebranta alembic-distilled, freshly distilled: headsy
- Puro quebranta albembic-distilled 15 days ago (not mosto verde): Chex Mix, corn flakes, yeasty
- Negra criolla (not sure which still or when distilled): Cantaloupe, wet wood finish
- Albilla (not sure which still or when distilled): Fresh-picked blueberries, minerals, caramel
- Moscatel mosto verde (not sure which still or when distilled): Dirt and violets.
- Italia column-distilled (so not pisco): Green tea mochi
When I tasted the 2014 Pisco Porton blend, I could pick up so many of those individual grape varietal notes it all came together and I appreciate it so much more than I did in the past. It is complex with earthy minerals, musty, wet wood, deep structure, and grapey. I can't wait to taste it again.