In our routes searching for Orange Wines and wines produced in amphora we have traveled to different countries such as Austria, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Greece and Georgia but so far we had stayed in the Old Continent. Now we will take a short leap and cross to South America, where we will find an Orange wine in Peruvian soil made with native grapes that has jumped to the wine lists of some of the best restaurants in the world.
José “Pepe” Moquillaza is the architect of this wine. Pepe is a winegrower since 2003 when he started producing Pisco, the typical Peruvian distillate made from fermented wine produced in Peru since late in the sixteenth century.
In the town of San Juan de Ihuanco in Cerro Azul, province of Cañete, the vineyards of El Quintanar are located five kilometers from the Ocean Pacific, only five hectares planted with the Albilla, Italy and Quebranta, traditional grape varieties that are pisqueras. A plot of three hectares is planted on a hillside with ungrafted root stock and another plot of the remaining two hectares is planted with native grafted vines. The soil of the plots is fairly mineralized, with granite and quartz, and have a yield of about 4,000 kilos per hectare.
The Quebranta variety is a gray grape, not a red one, and using it since 2012 Pepe produces a traditional Peruvian claret, Quebrada de Ihuanco, along with his partner Camilo Quintana, with a production of 1,800 bottles per vintage that this year will will raised to 3,600 bottles.
MIMO Wines & Spirits is a new project of Moquillaza along with his other partner, Matías Michelini. La Quilloay winery is in the Valley of Ica, 300 kilometers south of Lima. There is a small vineyard of Italia grapes and an old wine cellar equipped with a copper still and 40 concrete fermenters of 1,800 liters each that got a bit damaged by the 2007 earthquake.
The Quilloay is the epicenter for MIMO wine production (Michelini and Moquillaza). They work together for an oenological connection between the Ica Valley in Peru and the Uco Valley in Argentina and produce three MIMO wines: a red wine of Ica cofermenting Quebranta with Moscato Rosso and two single varietal orange wines using Italia and Torontel. The reds spend eight months in barrels of sixth use and the oranges four months in clay amphora made 80 years ago.
For the Peruvians, the Quebranta grape is the queen of the grapes. Its main characteristic is that it generates a lot of sugar and has large grains in areas with high luminosity like the valley of Ica. It is a very good grape for pisco but not so much for making wine. In Ihuanco, the climatology is quite adequate for the vineyards, being located by the sea, which provides breeze and fog that translate into less luminosity, smaller berry and thicker skin, as well as mineralization and salinity.
The obtained wines are of a young profile without a long aging. They are wines that are ideal to accompany the subtleties of the Peruvian gastronomy.
Pepe also produces a mistela recovering a tradition of the sixteenth century called Old Families with a small production of some 600 bottles a year. His pisco is Inquebrantable and he produces 1,500 liters per year but he only make 990 bottles a year with 10 years of ageing. Peruvian rules allow bottling right after 3 months of ageing.
In 2014 Jose added a new wine to his portfolio, the main character of our article today. Albita de Ihuanco is the first Orange wine coming from Peru, made with Italia and Albilla. The winemaking is as follows: firstly, it ensures that the grapes are not fully matured by advancing the harvest for about 30 days so that the grapes have a lower sugar level and a higher acidity. After the harvest, a third of the grapes are introduced into the deposits to have a little natural carbonic maceration. The rest of the grape is destemmed and broken. The must is then in contact with the skins for 60 days at uncontrolled temperature. Once these 60 days have gone by, the grapes are pressed and the base wine is obtained, that then is divided. One third goes to clay amphora and two thirds go to a Flexitank where it stays for another 90 days, and then it is bottled with the minimum amount of sulfites required.
The 2014 and 2015 harvests hovered over 1,200 bottles. In 2016 a cold wave reduced production and only 300 bottles were obtained. In 2017 the vineyard endured a flood that caused damage and production has reached 600 bottles, all pre-sold to the world’s leading restaurants.
Soon we will talk with José Moquillaza about all his work and wine philosophy.
Photos (c) José Moquillaza