26.4.13

SUNLIGHT IN A BOTTLE

 

In Spanish, giving birth is "dar a luz", which actually means "giving to light".  In cartoons and comic strips, when someone has an idea, a lightbulb appears above their head.  In religious iconography, one of the most powerful images of the Holy Spirit is Bernini's stained glass depiction of a bird emanating sunlight.

Light is a very important concept for us, and sunlight even more so. 

When you stand in the vineyards of Ica, Peru, the sun rises from the mountains' side.  In contrast to the lush green valley where the vineyards grow, the mountains are bald, clear, and light coloured.  As a result, when the sun rises from behind them, they look like they're made of light.  They are the reason why our pisco is called Monteluz: mountains of light.

When you hold our pisco up to your eyes, you notice just how bright and reflective it actually is.  It, too, looks like it is made of light.

Yet it is only when you finally bring our pisco to your lips that you realise that you are, in fact, drinking sunlight, as the scent and taste of a million delightful sunrays tickle your senses. Pisco Monteluz truly is sunlight in a bottle.

To make great pisco, you must understand light.  Every aspect of it: the seen and the unseen.  Visible light and invisible light, such as ultra-violet and infra-red light, which are responsible for the grape's ageing and ripening, for the sugar levels in the juice, and for the components of the skin that will turn it into wine.

   Once you understand light, you can control it: use it when you need it, take it away when you don't.  Making pisco is a little bit like photography in that way, the way it used to work with film rolled up inside the camera.  It's all about light and absence of light.  Once you have captured the sunlight in the grapes, exposing their juice and the wine to the light is like exposing your film to the light when you take it out of the camera. 

Just as photographers used to work in darkrooms to process their film and print their images, we believe as little light as possible should get to the juice once the process of skin maceration and fermentation has begun.  And just as the finest prints will fade with time if you leave them out in the daylight, so it is with pisco.  Store your pisco away from sunlight!

And then, of course, there is the connection between light and heat.  For example, most distilleries transport their grapes from the vineyard in large trucks that heat up to 40 or even 50 degrees in the sunlight.  This heat, combined with the shaking and sheer weight of the grapes, is fatal: it kickstarts a process of fermentation while the grapes are still in the truck, and it is the catalyst for a transfer of bitter flavours from the grape's seeds to the juice.

A simple way to overcome this is to do the grape picking before sunrise, when the air is so much cooler.  It might look weird, but extraordinary things come from unusual methods.