Location: Ica, 300 km south of Lima. Ica is the region where most pisco has traditionally been produced, and where most pisco is still produced to this day.
Distillery founded in: 2014
Pisco Varieties: Quebranta, Mollar, Torontel, Moscatel, Italia, Albilla, Mosto Verde Acholado, Mosto Verde Torontel. Besides, they also make a Quebranta brandy (aged 1 year)
Our favorite pisco: The Albilla! Slightly salty, with pronounced apricot notes
Unlike most pisco producers we´ve met, Ismael doesn´t come from a pisco family. He comes from a family of cotton farmers, like many around Ica. In fact, used to be a major cotton producing powerhouse for several decades. Cotton was so profitable that it was referred to as "the white gold". Then, the industry collapsed, and Ismael´s family had to adapt. The reason it collapsed? Well, it´s pretty simple. Ica receives virtually no rainfall, as it is located in a desert. And cotton is a water-intensive crop. What is absurd is not why the industry collapsed but rather why it even began in the first place. Today, Ica´s water supply is piped from the Choclococha Lagoon, over 120 km northeast, in the Andes. So Ismael´s family, like many others, stopped growing cotton and opted for vineyards instead, less thirsty for water and better adapted to desert-like environments. Vineyards had been around for a very long time in the region, known for its pisco production.
Ismael comes from a family of cotton farmers that switched to vineyards about 10 years ago. Indeed, vineyards require much less water, and are thus a more adapted crop to the desert-like environment of Ica. They own 25ha of vineyards.
Ica´s situation is very precarious, and the deviation of the Choclococha lagoon´s water supply didn´t happen without issues. The local population protested heavily, and the issue was, and still is to this day, highly contentious. Unfortunately, it highlights a situation that is commonplace in the world today. The world´s water supplies are unevenly distributed, with some places getting more floods, while others are running dry and depend on external water sources. A recent example is the conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia´s building of a dam upstream, which would impact both other countries. With climate change, we´re likely to witness more and more of this water conflicts.
TODAY, ICA´ S WATER SUPPLY IS PIPED FROM THE CHOCLOCOCHA LAGOON, OVER 120KM NORTHEAST, IN THE ANDES.
Flooding system with canals & gates used to irrigate the vineyards. The region used to produce cotton, which, due to its water-intensive nature, was replaced with more adapted vineyards.
Ismael tells me that the vineyards are irrigated just twice a year by a flooding system, employing canals and locks. "The problem is that here in Ica, those who serve themselves first are the large industrial groups with huge orchards. This year, we got lucky, it rained more than usual. But who knows how next year will be. This isn´t sustainable." Indeed it isn´t. As I engage in a sandboarding activity in Huacachina later that day, less than 5km from Ica´s city center, yet surrounded by sand dunes, I´m reminded how absurd this whole situation is. Ica shouldn´t even exist as a city if it were not for the fact that a lagoon 120 km away is getting pumped dry fo irrigate its water-hungry industries.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT HERE IN ICA, THOSE WHO SERVE THEMSELVES FIRST ARE THE LARGE INDUSTRIAL GROUPS WITH HUGE ORCHARDS. THIS YEAR, WE GOT LUCKY, IT RAINED MORE THAN USUAL. BUT WHO KNOWS HOW NEXT YEAR WILL BE."
Later that day, I went sandboarding. I was completely surrounded by the desert of sand dunes, yet only 5km from
Ica´s city center, highlighting the fact that Ica is, in fact, located in the middle of a desert.
Ismael was showing something to his uncle Fabio, who´s managed the agricultural production and family vineyards for 15 years, while we were out in the vineyards. I just liked the look of that scene, so I captured it.