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: Aug 8, 2019

Grape rootstocks provide resistance to diseases and pests, promote a more extensive root system and improve tolerance of calcareous soils (Perry and Sabbatini). Because of their indispensable influence on the future success of vines, we carefully select rootstocks that will best adapt to our vineyards.


The great majority of the vines we imported from France were grafted with the Fercal rootstock. Genetic analysis showed this variety is a cross between Berlandieri Colombard #1 B and 31 Richter, as seen below:



In addition to being one of the most adequate for limestone soils, the Fercal rootstock is also resistant to chlorosis, downy mildew and anthracnosis. It moderately protects against gallicolae phylloxera and has a very high tolerance to radicicolae phylloxera.


We don't know of any availability of the Fercal rootstock in South America; the majority of grapevines with this graft are located in France. Planted over an estimated surface area of 30,000 hectares, vines with this graft are found in Champagne, Aquitaine, Charentes, Alsace, Midi-Pyrénées, Val de Loire, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Languedoc-Roussillon and Rhône-Alpes (Barbe).


We believe that with the Fercal variety, our new grapevines will thrive in our limestone soils. Selecting the best rootstocks, tending to each and every vine, hand picking the best grapes- all are part of the meticulous viticultural process at our winery.




Sources:


Julien, Barbe. “Catalogue of Vines Grown in France.” Plant Grape, plantgrape.plantnet-project.org/en/porte-greffe/Fercal.



Perry, Ron, and Paolo Sabbatini. “Grape Rootstocks for Michigan.” MSU Extension, www.canr.msu.edu/grapes/viticulture/grape-rootstocks-for-michigan.

  • Apu Winery

Updated: Aug 17, 2019



Our high mountain vineyards have an inherently low yield. While the relationship between yield and grape quality is hotly debated, we strongly believe that our wine has exceptional quality and intensity because of a meager grape yield of less than 1 ton per acre. For us, a small crop and smaller berries means more concentrated flavors.


Many factors influence our grape output, including the age of our plants, poor soils, high altitude and occasional spring damage.



1: Age of our plants

Imported from Chile in 2015, our Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines are currently the only plants in production at Apu. These young plants currently produce grapes that are sparse and small, although their size is increasing with each season.



2: Poor soils

In Apu’s vineyards, a thin top layer covers rocky limestone soils, forcing the vines’ roots to seek nutrients and moisture deep below the surface. That vine stress forces the development of grapes instead of leaves and canopies, producing smaller berries and thus, lower yield.



3: High-altitude

There is less oxygen at our extreme high altitudes. Plants that receive less oxygen absorb nutrients slower and therefore grow slower. The end result is smaller berries with a high ratio of skins and pips to juice and more concentrated phenolics, the chemical compounds responsible for intensity in wines.



4: Occasional spring damage

Hailstorms can be a threat to our vines. For example, in the spring of 2018, large hailstones destroyed about 30% of our grapes. This makes our production per vine even more meager, but gives us more concentrated fruit.

In conclusion, these 4 factors all contribute to low yield, meaning we have smaller grapes with more intense flavors and aromas. The end result is a unique, premium Peruvian wine.





Works Consulted:


Echeverría, Gerardo, et al. Effects of Soil Type on Vineyard Performance and Berry Composition in the Río De La Plata Coast (Uruguay) . 3rd ed., vol. 51, Oeno One, 2017,


“Learn Everything about the Soil, Terroir and Climate of Bordeaux.” The Wine Cellar Insider, www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-topics/dirty-little-secret-soil-terroir-bordeaux/.

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