Updated: Jun 25

According to historian Guillermo Toro-Lira, the first vineyard in South America was planted in Lima between 1539 and 1541 by Hernando de Montenegro, a Spanish captain. The first wine was made in 1551, marking the beginning of a new era of wine-making in the New World. By the end of the 16th century, Peruvian wine had significant global demand.


Because Peruvian wine was so highly sought after, we can assume it was of superior quality. But just how good was Peruvian wine in the past? The purpose of this blog is to find the answer to that question.


Centuries-old documents indicate that Peruvian wine was really good. At the end of the XVI century and beginning of the XVII century, Reginaldo de Lizárraga, a Spanish friar, was one of the first to document the quality of Peruvian wine on his travels throughout South America. He stated the wine throughout Peru was “very good” and that wine production was “very abundant”. Felipe Huaman Poma de Ayala, a Quechua nobleman, stated that Peruvian wine was the best in the kingdom.


These are just 2 examples of many that demonstrate the quality of Peruvian wine in the past. However, this investigation brings up another important question: What happened to the abundant wine production in Peru? In a study completed by the Wine Institute of California in 2015, Peru was #33 of 63 wine-producing countries, making only .25% of the world’s wine. One would think that if Peruvian wine was so good, its sales would have increased, not decreased, over time. Come to find out, the decline was caused by restrictions imposed by the Spanish royalty.


The timeline below summarizes the efforts of the Spanish royalty to hinder wine production in Peru:


1539 -1541- First vine (Listán Prieto) planted in Lima by Hernando de Montenegro

1551- First wine made in Lima, making Peru the first winemaking region in South America

1595- Felipe II prohibited planting vines in the colonies. However, people continued planting and making wine.

1595- Felipe II- started taxing vineyard owners, which diminished the amount of vines in Peru.


1614- Peruvian wine was competing so much with Spanish wine that King Philip III prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Panama.


1615- The sale of Peruvian wine was banned in Guatemala.


1641- King Philip IV prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Spain. Since the market for wine was cut off, vintners in Peru began to use their grapes to make pisco.


So now we know, Peruvian wine was not only delicious, but it imposed a threat to winemakers in Spain. In order to control wine production, Spanish royalty used many methods, including prohibiting planting more vines and banning imports to other colonies and to Spain. For that reason, wineries in Peru, including Apu, have the mission to revive the wine-making traditions and success of the past.



Sources:

Huertas Vallejos, Lorenzo. “Historia De La Producción De Vinos y Piscos En El Perú.” Revista Universum, vol. 2, no. 19, 2004, pp. 44–61.


“Lima, Cuna Del Primer Viñedo y Del Primer Vino De Suramérica.” www.efe.com, 28 Sept. 2018, www.efe.com/efe/america/gente/lima-cuna-del-primer-vinedo-y-vino-de-suramerica/20000014-3763502.


“Wine Statistics.” Wine Institute, www.wineinstitute.org/our-industry/statistics.

  • Apu Winery

Updated: Nov 8, 2019



We recently planted 4,000 ungrafted Malbec vines in our vineyards at 2,850 and 3,300 meters. It is widely known that the main risk of own-rooted vines is their susceptibility to phylloxera, a tiny aphid that eats the roots of vitis vinifera, capable of wiping out entire vineyards.


Despite this risk, we are interested in exploring the benefits of ungrafted stalks. Some arguments in favor of own-rooted vines include: production of more balanced, intense wines, more uniform clusters, faster maturation periods and consumption of less water (Stolpman).


There are precedents that show that our remote location and high altitude could protect our vines from phylloxera. In the late 1800's, a few vineyards mysteriously survived the pest that devastated the vast majority of Europe's vitis vinifera. The article “Islands Safe from Phylloxera's Destruction: Survival, Renewal and Magic in the Vineyards of Italy”, proposes that low temperatures at high altitudes most likely prevented phylloxera from infesting vineyards in Val d'Aosta in the Italian Alps.


Another example was seen in Montalcino, in southern Tuscany, where isolation from other vineyards presumably acted as a safeguard against the plague, the dense woodlands and hungry birds protecting the vines. We are located far away from the vast majority of Peru's vineyards that are located on the coast.

We hope that the two factors working in our favor, our extremely high altitude and remote location, will protect our Malbec from phylloxera. If we are lucky enough to avoid the unfortunate fate, it will be interesting to see if our wine from ungrafted stalks is more intense, ages better or shows other unique qualities.





Sources:


Singleton, Kate. “Islands Safe from Phylloxera's Destruction : Survival, Renewal and Magic in the Vineyards of Italy.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 July 2004, www.nytimes.com/2004/07/10/style/islands-safe-from-phylloxeras-destruction-survival-renewal-and-magic.html.


Stolpman, Peter. “Own Rooted Vines: The Risk.” Stolpman Vineyards, 21 June 2017, www.stolpmanvineyards.com/blog/vineyard-revolution/own-rooted-vines-the-risk/.


Zecevic, Aleks. “Own Rooted vs. Grafted Vines: Which Make Better Wines?” Wine Spectator, 13 Apr. 2018, www.winespectator.com/articles/do-grafted-or-own-rooted-vines-make-better-wine

  • Apu Winery

Updated: Jul 27, 2019




There are many factors that help determine when it’s time for harvest, but all viticulturists use a mix of science and intuition to make their decision. Achieving the right balance of sugar, acidity and tannins during the ripening process of the grapes will result in a wine with great equilibrium.


From a scientific perspective, the sugar and pH levels must be optimal before harvest. The yeasts need the right amount of glucose to convert the juice into wine. Brix is a measurement of the sugar content of the grapes. Ideally, Brix levels should be between 24°-26° for red grapes and 22°-23° for white.


We also measure the acidity to know if the grapes are ready. As the fruit ripens and sugar levels increase, pH rises and acidity drops. We need to maintain certain levels of acidity so the wine is well-rounded, so we strive for a pH of around 3.2-3.4.


One must also consider the physiological changes of the vines. Fernando checks the color and texture of the grapes, stems and seeds. Grapes that are ripe will have bright, plump fruit. Stems and seeds will be brown. The seeds should also be hard but easily chewed.


Finally, intuition comes into play throughout this whole process, but especially when we taste the grapes. When the grapes are at their peak, they will taste sweet, be slightly acidic and the tannins will be notable. The characteristics of each variety will also be easily distinguished.


In summary, determining the ideal moment to harvest requires science and intuition. Taking all this into consideration and making a precise decision about when to pick grapes allows us to bring out the full qualities of our terroir and make the best quality wine.

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