By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene. Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son. When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.This week national press in Peru and Chile have been abuzz with the recent decision from the Hague which has shifted the maritime borders between the two countries. I won’t dive into the details, but basically after around eight years of deliberations, the court shifted the sea border, but not as much as Peru wanted. In Chile, it seemed like a defeat, but it wasn’t really a victory for Peru either.
The best analysis? Something I came across on Facebook: The fish will now have to decide whether they want to die in a Ceviche with a Peruvian sour or on the grill with some Chilean wine. In the end, the ocean is for the fish.
However, it offers a moment to look at Chile and Peru’s other long standing dispute: Pisco. Who came up with it first? It might not be wine, but it’s a distant cousin, distilled from grapes. In December, a group of Chilean academics addressed the dispute, putting something of an olive leaf out and supporting the concept that Pisco, in its roots, is a distilled liquor that came about during the Spanish Colonial era. Have a read for yourself.
The manifesto was first published on the blog of Chilean food critic Carlos Reyes, unocome.cl:
Due to the confusions surrounding the historical facts of Pisco, we want to, as members of the national academic community, clarify the following:
The aguardiente known has Pisco had its origins in the Colonial period, precisely in the 17th century, which has been amply demonstrated in Chilean and Peruvian history.
The main commercial objective of Pisco was to satisfy the demand for booze in Potosi, the main center of mining production in South America at this time.
The extraordinary prosperity of Potosi was a strong stimulus for food and beverage production in the entire region.
In this context, producers in the south of Peru and the north of Chile, worked to put in place an important aguardiente industry destined for this market.
The producers of Southern Peru shipped their stock of aguardiente from the Port of Pisco, 128 kilometers from the port of Callao, and from there it traveled to the port of Arica, where it was loaded on mules to continue on to Potosi.
Producers in the north of Chile used two routes: one option was to ship from the Coquimbo port, and arrive at the port of Arica to go by land to Potosi, the other alternative was to perform the entire journey by land, crossing the cordillera in the San Francisco or Agua Negra passes, and then continue on the road that passed through the cities of Catamarca, Tucuman, Salta, Jujuy and then on to Potosi.
The grape growing zones of the south of Peru and north of Chile acted as one geo-economic family, and producers had long ties between them, both family, economic and political. It was a single sociocultural unit, separated by the Atacama Desert, but integrated by many social ties. This unity facilitated the elaboration of the same product, destined for the same market.
A considerable consolidation in the industry was the production of alambiques or copper stills, led by the settlement of Coquimbo. In this area, numerous copper stills were then commercialized and transported throughout the entire region.
The leadership in Chile in the production of copper stills is documented in various documents starting in 1586. While the oldest still in Peru dates back to 1823.
The dynamic of the Port of Pisco contributed that, due to its uses and customs, the name of the port was associated with the product. In the Potosí market it was customary to call the aguardiente, Pisco. It was a general name used to describe all products from the production zone.
With the passing of time the producers of the two bands of the Atacama Desert, that is the north of Chile and south of Peru, consolidated the production of aguardiente in colonial period, calling it Pisco.
Following this, Peru started to partially abandon its industry. It introduced sugar cane and started to distill spirits with this product. Adding to this was the effect of the white gold fever: the first industrial revolution, which pushed the English to buy cotton at high prices, many Peruvians opted to prioritize the production of cotton and lost interest in vineyards. In addition there were the effects of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, which weakened the Peruvian industry.
While Pisco declined in Peru, in Chile it stayed alive. The attempts to introduce sugar cane failed. This situation contributed to keeping Pisco alive. Chile continued with grape growing in general, and the tradition of aguardiente in particular. As a result, in 1931, the President of Chile Carlos Ibánez del Campo defined the Designation of Origen of Pisco.
In the second half of the 20th century, Peru regained its interest for the aguardiente, little by little it began to mobilize its productive forces and in 1991, produced its own limits of the Designation of Origen of Pisco.
Currently, the two DO of Piscos coexist, one in Chile, one in Peru, but in reality it is one DO born in the colonial era.
Pisco predates the existence of the two states. Pisco emerged two centuries before the Republic of Chile and the Republic of Peru.
Pisco is a collective work, constructed in a community and cooperative effort and would not exist if it were not for the work of grape growers in the south of Peru and the north of Chile.
Pisco also shows the valuable results that Chilean and Peruvians working together.
These facts must be considered in our current era, just when both countries have discovered the convenience of working together and have started designing a project to encourage integration.
Unfortunately the other vision that rules the relations between Chile and Peru is distorted by the over visualization of the War of the Pacific, these three years, which has overruled three centuries of cooperative work between Chileans and Peruvians, which has generated many fruits, among them Pisco.
We call on the governments of Peru and Chile to advance in a change of the vision of the other, starting with a new look at history, that finds better balance and puts focus on the solidarity and integration that has occurred.
Therefore, Pisco merges as a high value, symbolic emblem because it is a Denomination of Origen built from the ancestral brotherhood between both people.
Pablo Lacoste, Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Hernán Cortés, Universidad de La Serena
Leonardo León S., Universidad de Chile
Leonardo Jeffs C., Universidad de Valparaíso
José del Pozo, Universidad de Quebec
Gonzalo Rojas A., Universidad de Chile
Amalia Castro S., Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez
Félix Briones, Universidad del Bio Bio
Diego Jiménez C., Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Fernando Mujica, Escuela de Sommeliers de Chile
Paulette Aguilera, Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Raúl Sánchez A., Universidad Autónoma de Chile
Gonzalo Olmedo E., Museo O’Higginiano y de Bellas Artes de Talca.
José Jeffs, Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Aldo Garrido, Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Carolina Polanco, Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Philippo Pszczolkowski, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Josefa Balanda B., Escuela de Sommeliers de Chile
Rodrigo Aravena A., Biblioteca Nacional de Chile