“…Piscos, which is the name of birds…”
Pedro Cieza de Leon, General Chronicle of Peru, 1550.
“There are some small birds… called Pichiu…”
Garcilaso de la Vega, Royal Commentaries, 1609.
“Pisco could more than a Peruvian word, native that generally means bird for the name of the Port that exports it, a made famous Brandy”
Juande Arona, Diccionario de Peruanisimos, 1884
In Quechua, the language spoken by the Incas, “Pisku”, “Pisccu”, “Phishgo” or “Pichiu” means birds. These birds are known to fly the clear blue skies of the coastal area of Ica, a Province in the south of Peru.
Prior to the Conquistadores arrival in the Americas, there were different Inca civilizations such as the Yungas, the Paracas, the Nascas and the Piskos inhabiting the coastal area of Ica. During the 1400s the Piskos were known as great potters. One of the unique products made by the Piskos, were recipients made of clay, which they utilized to store liquid, particularly Chicha, the fermented maize drink the Incas used as alcohol. These clay recipients were called “piskos”. When the Spaniards arrived and brought grapes to the new world, they used the piskos to store their grape spirit and with time the spirit took the name of the recipient. This became a tradition in the Departments of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and in the Valleys of Tacna. It starts in La Vendemia where every February and March the grapes are at their best, juicy and sweet, then handpicked and taken in reed baskets to the lagar, a stonework platform, where the grapes are pressed.
Traditionally in celebration of a long and productive harvest, the grape juice is extracted with bare feet by the rhythm of music, dancing and singing, helping avoid breaking the seeds containing tannin that would render the juice bitter. Nowadays there are special presses to obtain the grapes nectar. Regardless, the celebration should follow the long-standing tradition.