Peru has scored a significant victory in the age-old battle with Chile over the origin of the two countries’ most popular liquor, with the European Commission recognizing the former as the original home of pisco
The decision establishes the Peruvian village of Pisco as the geographical origin of the drink and will thus protect the country’s right to claim its provenance in the European market. Peru will additionally benefit from “immediate protection within the EU market,” according to a press release by the Peruvian Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday. Nonetheless, Chileans distilleries will not be deprived the right to export the liquor by the name pisco, a word which signifies “bird” in the Quechan language.
The assertion on the Peruvian side of the conflict, is that the spirit derives from the port city of the same name, 143 miles south-east of Lima, which has stood since pre-Hispanic times.
A younger homonymous village to that found in Peru can be found in the Chilean region of Coquimbo — the country’s biggest pisco producer — in which a law-decree in 1936 changed the locality of La Union’s name to Pisco Elqui in bid to claim globally accepted origin rights for the grape-based drink.
The notorious cocktail pisco sour, made with pisco, lemon juice and ice in its most basic form, is also in the midst of the historical struggle between the two countries, with both Peru and Chile claiming the credit for its invention.
Unlike its companion piscola, a mix of pisco, cola and ice, the “sour” version is widely consumed and cherished in both countries, although one version of events has that the drink was coined by U.S. American Victor Morris in his bar in Lima during the 1920s. The first appearance of the term “pisco sour” in Chile was in fact in a 1924 advertisement by Morris himself in the Valparaíso weekly magazine South Pacific Mail.
Chilean pisco production, which involves distilling grape juice in copper pot stills, exceeded 20 million liters in 2011, while Peru produced little more than seven million liters in 2012.
The main international buyer of Chilean pisco — whose exports amounted to approximately 2.9 million dollars in 2012 — is currently France. Yearly exports to the country leapt in 2012 from less than 8,000 liters to more than 170,000 liters in the course of 12 months, representing 26% of Chile’s international pisco sales. The United States, Argentina and Russia are the next largest importers, while European states Germany, Spain and Poland figure among the top ten.
Chile is the second main importer of Peruvian pisco, with the country accounting for more than a quarter of Peru’s foreign sales for the first half of 2013. The U.S. is Peru’s main consumer and accounts for over 60 percent of the country’s income from pisco exports, which was more than US$5 million in 2012. In the same year Colombia, the United Kingdom and Germany followed Chile as the biggest buyers of Peruvian pisco, with France and Spain also appearing in the top ten.
By Mimi Yagoub - The Santiago Times