The Ica valley is the most prolific wine area in Peru, but that doesn’t mean much.
Guess what? They make wine in Peru. In fact, the first wine in Latin America originated from Peru, when the Spaniards introduced their grapes here, soon after having colonised the area in the 16th Century. So why is Peruvian wine, unlike its Chilean and Argentinian counterparts, not world famous?
Because it is actually not very nice. Ica is the centre of Peruvian wine production, thanks to the river that flows whole-year-around from the Andes to the Pacific, and has thus huge irrigation potential. Combined with the almost always sunny, and always hot climate, growing grapes is not the challenge. Turning it into wine, however, is something altogether different.
It is true that Peruvians like their wines sweet, so we were warned. The so-called dry wines we tasted in Vista Allegre, one of the wineries in town, were something metallic, no matter whether red or white; quite different from what we are used to, and not at all pleasant to the palate, to say the least. The semi-sec, well, why bother calling it that, it was already very sweet, whilst the sweet one we finished off with was… well, in fact the only wine that we appreciated, as a quite decent desert wine. In short, for the wines you don’t have to come here. And yet, the visit to the winery was one of the nicest I have ever done, not because we went through the whole wine making process again – we didn’t – but because we had a very knowledgeable, albeit opinionated guide, all for our own, with whom we talked about all different aspects of wine for the best of two hours. And from whom we learned more than during any previous winery visit.
Compared to this, the next bodega, Tacama, one of the biggest in Peru, simply had to disappoint. And it did, a huge commercial complex, with several tour options, a restaurant, and a shop where the focus was more on tee-shirts and other paraphernalia than on selling bottles. We left before the tour started – in all honesty, we had already tried some of their wine earlier, and were not impressed. Neither were we at the third ‘winery’, El Catador, which in fact was another tourist complex, with many little shops, selling a whole lot of rubbish. The wine, to be sure, falls in that same category.
So now we have decided to stick to Pisco – all of the wineries here make Pisco, too; after all, what do you do with so many grapes. Or, the only acceptable Peruvian wine so far, Inkapalka, which origins we haven’t visited here. Or perhaps any foreign wines we can get hold to.
In any case, the main reason to come to Ica was to take a few days off, in a wonderful guesthouse with swimming pool, before heading east, into the mountains and away from the desert. Even we need to recuperate from our busy schedule, so once in a while. If only to avoid another IV treatment in the local hospital.
next: to Ayacucho