Say 'hola' to pisco, South America's clean white grape spirit

Both Chile and Peru claim ownership of the white spirit, but agree it's great in a Pisco Sour.
Both Chile and Peru claim ownership of the white spirit, but agree it's great in a Pisco Sour. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Good things can happen when winemakers collide over a beverage at their local pub.

When a group of winemakers and cellar managers from South America and South Australia started swapping stories at the Victory Hotel in McLaren Vale, ideas started percolating.

Sam Dunlevy and Chloe Fitzgerald (Berg Herring Wines), Kisani and Steven Soper (Chapel Hill and Fox Creek), Chilean sisters Consuelo Moreno and Javi Moreno Hielbig (d'Arenberg), and Gonzalo and Kate Sanchez (Lloyd Brothers and Maxwell Wines) formed a collective called Tiny Friday and fixed their sights on a small run of pisco production.

Put simply, pisco is a type of brandy produced in Peru and Chile. Delve deeper, and centuries of history unfold.

According to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the word pisco derives from pisccu, meaning  "bird" in the ancient Quechua language. Made by distilling fermented grape juice, it is clear to the eye, pretty on the nose and punchy across the palate.

"There is hot debate [and 100 years of feuds] over Chilean and Peruvian pisco," says Kate Sanchez. "Peru makes it with a host of native varieties while in Chile it is predominantly made from muscat gordo blanco grapes."

Making it wasn't the tough part. Naming it was. Much like Champagne, the name pisco is protected and controlled by a designation of origin.

"We'd done some research and found that a crew in Western Australia were sent 'cease and desist' letters from the Republic of Peru after making and labelling their spirit as a pisco," Kate says. "We realised we would have to come up with a unique name, something that was in line with the fun we were all having with the project."

Tiny Friday's Gordito was born.

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"We make the spirit from muscat gordo blanco grapes and our logo has a fat little cupid on it, so that's how 'Gordito' came about.

"In Spanish 'gordito' translates to 'little fatty'. It's not offensive in any way, but a playful, sweet term you use with people you are very close to."

The small-batch Tiny Friday Gordito ($60, 40 per cent alcohol, tinyfriday.com.au) launched last year on Chilean Independence Day, September 18.

"This year we've got our sights set high and are purchasing muscat gordo blanco grapes to make everything from scratch," Kate says. "It is exciting to have full control from grape to still. Shelves are awash with Australian gins and whiskeys, and we think that a pure, clean white spirit from wine is something with a big future."

Pro tip Serve it over ice or as a Pisco Sour (Tiny Friday's ratio is one-part pisco, two parts lemon or lime juice and one part sugar syrup).

Four Peruvian piscos to try

Barsol Puro Quebranta Pisco (a premium artisanal drop made using distilled Quebranta grapes from Peru's Ica Valley), $79.99, 41.3 per cent alcohol, devinecellars.com.au

Pucara Pisco Quebranta (made with Quebranta grapes using a 160-year-old recipe), $65, 43 per cent alcohol, pucarapisco.com

Pisco De Carral Quebranta (imported by Melbourne's The Pisco People), $74.95, 42 per cent alcohol, thepiscopeople.com.au

Santiago Queirolo Pisco Quebranta (imported by NSW's Thick Spirits), $73, 42 per cent alcohol, jimscellars.com.au