MW trip to Peru and Bolivia, Day 3 – Big Day

Driving back from Santiago Queriolo Resort, our driver made a fatal mistake by driving into Ica to get back to the main highway to Lima. The previous day we had skirted around the northern edge of town, but instead we ended up in a chaotic rush hour traffic jam. Ica itself is a sprawling, shambolic, dusty city, where nobody seems to follow the rules of the road. Tuk tuks everywhere, five rows of cars at one point in a narrow city street designed for one lane each way, a van broken down and some bemused police who seemed to have no idea how to fix the situation. These people need to go to Rome and teach people there how to weave through traffic snarl ups.

And why is there a massive sandhill smack in the middle of the city?

On the way back to Lima we took a detour and drove inland to Pachamac, which is where Santiago Quierolo have their main production facility. When we arrived there was a line of trucks laden with plastic bins of grapes, waiting to unload the harvest. We only had time for a very cursory tour, taste some unfermented juice and to have a quick look at the Pisco stills.

When we got back on the main road into the city, our driver decided to go around the downtown area and head for the coast.

Lima is built alongside a group of cliffs overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean. We passed several really good surf beaches – and there were plenty of surfers in the water catching a few waves.

Eventually we turned inland and up one of those cliffs to the upmarket neighbourhood of Miraflores and our destination, El Mercado.

Santiago Quierolo had invited a couple of members of the local media to join in with our farewell lunch, as well as the winemaking team.

This is an absolute must do if you ever go to Lima. The place was buzzing when we arrived, a completely different experience from the restraint and quiet solemnity of Astrid y Gaston.

El Mercado is a large bistro – though “casual” is the way most people dress in Peru, everyone here was dressed sharply, it is clearly the place to be.

You start off with complimentary homemade corn chips and dips when you sit down.

What followed was basically a run through the entire Mercado lunch menu, including desserts. My phone died halfway through, so I am relying on others for visual evidence of the gourmet delights and all washed down with Intapalka wines and Don Santiago Pisco with the sweet courses.

You know you are in the right restaurant when even the locals are taking photos of the dishes. Outstanding.

When we finally managed to drag ourselves away from El Mercado it was off to a Gran Pisco tasting at the stately Lima Country Club, with our hosts Cona Pisco, the National Pisco Commission of Peru.

Carlos de Pierola is a Peruvian wine writer and an expert on Pisco. He judges at both local competitions as well as overseas spirits shows. He gave us a short introduction to Pisco history, production and regulations and then led us through eighteen examples from recent vintages. It was an incredible experience and I will be writing a story about Pisco shortly, but certainly I feel I understand what is special about Peruvian Pisco and why there is such a lot of interest in this category at present.

Carlo has his own website called Barricas though it appears to be in Spanish only. Full notes on the tasting to follow shortly.

Peru was playing Iceland in a World Cup warm up match at the stadium downtown, so the streets were relatively quiet (for Lima) when we left the country club to head to the airport for our flight to Bolivia. However as we got closer to Lima Airport the traffic began building up again

Our flight to Bolivia was scheduled for a 10.00pm departure, so there was a little time to look around the duty free store inside the airport. On the way into Lima a couple of days earlier I had stopped at the duty free store downstairs in the arrivals area and they apologised that they had no Pisco there for sale, just lots of the usual whiskies and cognacs you see everywhere else in the world. But here, on the way out, there is an amazing array of Piscos on offer (not so much Peruvian wine) and plenty of staff eager to pounce on you when you set foot in the store.

But I was already lugging way too much stuff – and thanks to Planet Wine in Auckland, we can now buy Tabernero in New Zealand.

To complicate matters – Bolivia is in a different time zone from Peru, it is actually one hour ahead. So our plane was really leaving at 11 Bolivian time, which meant that we would not be landing in Santa Cruz until after 2am. And getting through immigration in Bolivia, as I now fully appreciate, can be a slog…

This was certainly a “Big Day”.

“Miles of golden beaches
Excellent wines and features
Mister – take a week off in gay Peru
Penitent monks to stare at
Colonial Dons in old straw hats
Everyone’s there in gay Peru”

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