Pepe Moquillaza - Ica, Peru

Pepe Moquillaza - Ica, Peru

Don Pepe is well known in mixology circles, in Peru and beyond, as the producer of Inquebrantable. This super-refined Pisco, made in tiny quantities and aged for 10 years before bottling, is available in some of the world's swankiest bars and restaurants. Now he also makes natural wines using only criolla grape varieties. These are grapes which originated in Europe but which have adapted and evolved into something new in the Americas.

Pepe seeks out old vines of criolla grapes - quebranta, italia, albilla and negra criolla - around the traditional Pisco grape-growing area in the south of Peru. From his 'wine lab' in Quilloay, Ica (actually a semi-collapsed 18th-century colonial property with its own distillery, which is slowly being restored following Peru's disastrous 2007 earthquake) he has been making wines from these grapes. 

As well as collaborating with me, he has a range of wines called MiMo that he makes with the Argentinian winemaker Matias Michelini. Made without SO2, these are macerated with skins for anything from 60 days up to 300 days. He also collaborates with Keith Diaz, a viticulturist-winemaker-Pisco producer from Caravelí. Together they make a negra criolla in a tinaja dating from 1777. 

Pepe’s self-given mission is as follows:

- to help to define Peru's different terroirs and soil types by making wines across the desert and coastal regions of Peru in discrete categories (desert wines, marine/salt wines, stone wines);
- to revive Peru's wine heritage (NB: the Spanish first brought wine grapes to Peru in the 1530s) by finding and preserving old vines across the country's south;
- to establish quebranta - a natural crossing of negra criolla and mollar unique to Peru - as the national wine grape variety of his homeland.

Oh yes, one other thing: combining his expertise with both Pisco and wine, he intends to develop a Port-style wine fortified with his own mistela, which he's dubbed the 'Port of the Pacific'. Just another example of him pushing boundaries and pioneering delicious liquid stories that represents the country he's proud of. 

The signs are that Pepe is on his way to becoming a star of the natural wine world. Already he is known as the don of Pisco for his Inquebrantable, but increasingly he is gaining a reputation for his wines. He will soon have a global profile. In fact, by the time you read this, he probably already has.

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