Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Different Seawall Picnic

So, here we are in Lima, Peru. When Boo suggested we try an adventure in Argentina, he ran into no opposition from me. After all, what vacation to the land of tango and gauchos would be complete without Mendoza and Malbec? However, I did tell him that it's taken me this long to make it to South America. Odds are pretty good that I may not travel down here again for a good many years - if ever.

He, therefore, had to grant me Machu Picchu - an all-time vacation goal of mine. It may not exactly be a day's drive (or even flight) from Argentina, but, hey, it's on the same continent.

The only realistic path from Vancouver to Machu Picchu is through Lima. So, we've got a day to take in the Peruvian capital. That really only gives us time to take a quick walk in the morning, fit in a tour of the historical district in the afternoon and go out for dinner that night.

We were staying in Miraflores, one of the nicer suburbs of the city, and one of its highlights is a promenade that follows a good portion of the cliffside that touches the Pacific Ocean. So, it seemed a natural fit to wander the paths and maybe stop for a glass (or bottle) of wine.

I'd hoped that we could find and try some Peruvian wines while we're here. A Vancouver blogger, Ivan Loyola, gave me a couple of tips of what to look for and our hotel pointed us in the direction of a higher end grocery that carried a selection of wines. The wines were displayed throughout the store - rather than in a single section - so, we couldn't peruse a grand selection and choose accordingly, but we did manage to find one Peruvian wine. So, we picked up some cheese and meats that we were advised are very common for local palates. Then we found a great spot on the promenade for a bit of a rest.

608. 2009 Tacama Gran Tinto (Ica Valley - Peru)

We were told that, unlike Argentina and Chile, Peru isn't exactly a hotbed for wine - even for South America. Production doesn't come anywhere near the volumes of those other two countries. That doesn't mean that there isn't a wine history in the country, however. And, it seems that, whenever you read about that history, Tacama plays a front and centre role. In fact, it been called the "biggest, best and most important winery" in Peru. It was one of the first Peruvian wineries to hire an ex-patriot French winemaker and it regularly uses French consultants to help improve Tacama's wines.

The Tacama vineyard was actually the first vineyard in South American and it was created in 1540 during the times of the Spanish conquistadors. The wine culture in Peru was likely stunted in 1776 when Spain banned the import of Peruvian wines. Therefore, the grapes being grown for wine were subsequently used for the manufacture of Pisco - the ubiquitous eau-de-vie liquor found in the country.

The Tacama vineyard was purchased by the Olachea family in 1869 and they continue to own the vineyard and operate the winery to this day. The winery has embarked on a large degree of modernization of the last decade or two and their wines have been attracting more and more attention.

The Ica Valley, which is 150 miles South of Lima, is the centre of the Peruvian wine industry and it is referred to as "an oasis surrounded by desert." The Valley is found only 10 degrees South of the Equator; however, the valley benefits from the influence of an ocean breeze that flows up from the Pacific Ocean.

I was actually surprised by the Gran Tinto which is a blend of Malbec, Tannat and Syrah - grapes originally found in the South of France. I wasn't expecting much in the glass, but I thought it was a balanced, simple wine. I don't think there was a lot of nuance to the structure, but there was nice fruit and there was enough tannin and acidity that the wine didn't come across as a fruit punch.

There might be more to the wines of Peru after all. But, we had a tour of the historical centre to catch. Later.

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