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Perth Pisco Party

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by Newt (subscribe)
Freelance writer, PR person, loving the Perth lifestyle of fabulous food and wine, great weather and wide open spaces.
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Pisco party to get started at City Wine
Margaret River winery Harmans Estate is to launch Australia's first and only Pisco.

The drink, which traditionally comes from Chile and Peru, will be launched at City Wine at Perth's Urban Orchard on June and 9 and 10, will continue with at least a dozen bars around Perth participating in a cocktail making competition featuring Pisco. People visiting participating bars will be asked to vote for their favourite cocktail.

Pisco, Pisco Sour, City Wine, Urban Orchard, Harmans
Harmans winemaker Greg Garnish and senior winemaker Bernie Stanlake with the Pisco still. Picture supplied

Pisco, traditionally made with distilled fermented grape juice, features in a number of popular cocktails, perhaps the most famous of which is Pisco Sour. Others include Pisco Thyme, Pisco Chilcano and Pisco Punch, described by author Rudyard Kipling as "compounded of the shavings of cherub's wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset".

Harmans Estate winemaker Greg Garnish said the drink is also great neat. He said Harmans was able to use the Pisco name because the two South American countries which produce it, Chile and Peru, are in dispute about the origins of the drink. At least until that dispute is resolved Harmans will be able to use the Pisco name. After that, he said Harmans would have to react according to the circumstances.

A growing interest in Pisco in Australia and a shortage of the spirit coming into the country has Greg hopeful that the launch at City Wine will be successful and that Perth consumers will embrace the drink.

The decision to start making Pisco was only made late last year when Harmans started casting their eyes around for product other than wine. Greg said they were looking to create something different and since no other producers in Australia seemed to be making it, they took the next step and started experimenting.

Last October he went out and bought a 25-litre beer kettle with a copper pot and started putting 18 different grape varieties through the distilling process. Early results were good, producing what Greg said were aromatic and flavoursome results.Those early experiments helped whittle down the best varieties to just three white wines. Commercial production began with three varieties of Pisco being made under The Devil's Block label.

Harmans, Pisco, Greg Garnish, Chile, Peru, Group 13
The Pisco Acholado label. Picture supplied

Devils Block comes from an assisted migration scheme in the 1920s called Group 13 'Devil's Own', which provided agricultural workers for the Margaret River region. Harmans takes up part of that site and it's where the grapes for its Pisco are grown.

With a 38 per cent alcohol content, The Devil's Block Acholado, has a recommended retail price of $80 for a 700ml bottle. It's a traditional 'acholado' style of Pisco that uses a blend of several varieties of grapes and is fermented with natural yeast and which goes through a double distillation process to keep the spirit pure.

Greg described the Acholado as having floral notes of citrus, jasmine flowers and orange peel. It can be used in cocktails, but also has a great warmth, without being harsh, which makes it enjoyable drunk straight

Pisco, Harmans, Devil's Block, Puro
The Pisco Puro label. Picture supplied

He said the Devil's Block Puro was an elegant, refined. 'puro' style of Pisco with a single variety and vintage coming from a single vineyard. It's also single distilled with 50 per cent alcohol and a recommended retail price of $100 for a 700ml bottle. It has a spicy, peppery flavour, which Greg said is more like a traditional Pisco.

While Harmans current batches of Pisco haven't had a lot of time to age, Greg said that in Peru, Pisco benefited from ageing in amphoras, which softened the alcohol flavour. Even in the four months since Harmans started making its Pisco Greg said the benefits of even a short amount of ageing could be seen in the taste, where even a day or two could improve the taste.

Pisco Liqueur, with a 25 per cent alcohol content, is blended with a barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc liqueur and has a recommended retail price of $50 for a 700ml bottle. While the other Piscos Harmans make are clear, the liqueur has a pink blush and a taste that Greg said offered a hint of fairy floss and candied strawberries, but still with the punch of Pisco. He said it was enjoyable as a mixed drink with lemonade and lime.

Visitors to City Wine will be able to sample the Pisco at the Urban Orchard from Friday, June 9 at 4pm until 9pm and on Saturday, June 10 from 2pm to 9pm. They will be exhibiting along with 34 boutique wineries, spirit, beer and cider producers and tapas style food producers.

The entry price of $28 for pre-purchase through or $33 at the gate includes a souvenir glass, wine tasting, live music with tapas styled meals available to purchase, sales by the glass and take home wine sales.
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Why? A first taste of Margaret River winery Harmans new Pisco spirit.
When: Friday, June 9, 4pm to 9pm; Saturday, June 10, 2pm to 9pm
Where: Urban Orchard, Perth Cultural Centre, James St, Perth WA
Cost: $28 pre-purchase, $33 at the gate
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