Food, Wine & Pisco
09.04.2009 - 09.04.2009 24 °C
Thurs 09.04.09 Lunahuana
Holy week got into fifth gear today – people came to the town in the hundreds and all day and at night a festival vibe pulsated through the town. It was great to have arrived the night before to appreciate the change, as now there were hundreds of people who filled the main plaza, drinking even in the early hours of the morning! The place was going nuts and so were we with the bloody car alarms. The Peruvian infatuation with horns and alarms was so frustrating. All morning, we’re trying to sleep in and every thirty seconds a car alarm starts going off just outside the window. Furthermore, they loved the sound so much that many people personalized their car horn with one which sounded more like an alarm. We figured the personalization was the only way they could figure out who’s tooting who. The air was just saturated with noise, people trying to get our attention, warning us of impeding danger, whatever – it was all around.
We hired some mountain bikes to visit some of the wineries and other sights up the valley from the town. We rode up the steady incline for about half an hour, passing the wineries we were to visit later before reaching our first stop – a suspension bridge where Limenos (People from Lima) were lining up for horse rides up to an apiary. It was nice enough, but generally unimpressive so we got back on our bikes, crusing down the hill to our first winery, or as it turned out to be, a Pisco distillery. It was a very honest and simple sort of operation and the amicable owner spent a good half an hour showing us around their facilities, explaining the process in Spanish and us doing our best to put together the pieces. The process for Pisco is exactly like wine up until its distilled. The grapes are hand picked and carried in wicker baskets up to their small crusher/de-stemmer which is over a concrete open-top fermenter (like a small pool). The grapes are plunged daily and spend two weeks on the skins, producing a very fruity sort of wine which is just let out of the fermenters by gravity into large plastic drums. When the vintage is fully ready, the wine is then siphoned off into the copper distiller, heated by a wood fire where the alcohol is boiled off and the clear liquid stored in old barrels until bottling. After this tour, the owner took us up to his bar/tasting room for us to sample his three different types. We were both surprised at how smooth Pisco is for a 40% spirit, making the task of finishing the massive tasting serves that he poured us rather pleasurable. They did make a wine this year too – a white one which he told me was their first time and after tasting it, through our tightened jaw we smiled at him and said, “Not too bad”. More than slightly emboldened by the Pisco, we tore down the road and had lunch at an outdoor roadside restaurant that looked busy enough to be safe. Andrew had the local specialty which was a kind of muddy freshwater crayfish bisque whilst most of those around us tucked in to the other Peruvian specialty, Cuy, or roasted guinea pig. We stopped in at another winery after lunch near the town and tasted around 6 wines, only one of which was any good at all.
We returned our mountain bikes and had a disco/pisco nap, waking up in the darkness with the buzz outside having grown into a frenzy. Being a carnival, restaurants were packed, so dinner was going to be from the local street food. We tried beef skewers, yuka (a cross between a yam and a potato), temales (steamed cornmeal parcel filled with spiced onion and meat) and local corn (with kernels twice the size of ours, served up with Greek feta).
We also tried a few Pisco sours from one of 20 or so outdoor bars which had sprung out of nowhere in the main square. Pisco sour is a mix of 3parts pisco, 2 parts lemon juice and 1 part sugar syrup, shaken with a tablespoon of egg white. They’re extremely delicious but dangerously potent, and it seemed that everyone was enjoying themselves on a warm clear night in the square. Meanwhile, a religious procession circled the town square and the neighboring streets, consisting of three statues standing on a table carried on the shoulders of four men each. The three statues were of Jesus, Mary and the Pope, all adorned in elaborate robes and flowers. A band followed the procession around, providing a fairly solemn sort of march music for literally hours. Every 10 minutes or so a bell would sound and the procession stopped to rest. The statues were put down and the band was silent, along with the following crowd until the bell rang again and the process repeated. No need to rush to Peru for Holy Week people.
With perhaps half a Pisco Sour too many, we retired to bed comfortable with our choice to leave Lunahuana early and head to the desert oasis of Huacachina.