Lima: The Original Wine-Making Capital of South America
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
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.
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.