Pairing a wine with the complex cuisine of Peru is no mean feat. The spices, the aromatics, the citrus, the sweetness, the umami… These combinations are not always a wine’s best friend. Which is perhaps why beer and pisco sour seem to be imbibed more often at the dinner table. So is there a Peruvian food wine pairing that works?
There are some combinations that work very well, especially when it comes to one of Peru’s most iconic dishes – ceviche. Fresh fish marinated in citrus juice with fresh onion, coriander, chilli and corn provides a fresh, aromatic concoction which works nicely with some of the bright and fruity Sauvignon Blanc being produced in Ica. The other combination that Lima-based sommelier Gregory Smith recommends is a dry German Riesling. Although his go-to pairing is still a classic Pisco Sour.
Greg is the Wine Director for the renowned Central restaurant in Lima, and he has found that while there are plenty of decent wines being made in Peru, the struggle has been finding something unique that speaks of its terroir: “The only Peruvian wine we include on our tasting menu is Quebrada de Ihuanco (made from Quebranta). It is quite an interesting wine because it has a flavour and aroma profile that is completely different and distinct to anything else in the world. The overall distinct fruit flavour is sour cherry and a note of pecan that is typical in this wine, and it has a slightly oxidative aroma too.”
While Greg admits that Peru wasn’t even on his radar before he arrived in Lima nine years ago, he says that tourists are very keen to try the local juice. On his wine list he recommends wines from Tacama, Intipalka and Pepe Moquillaza. However on the street, he says it is a different sort of wine that is the most popular pour still: “Peru has a very long history of viticulture. However, Peruvians like things that are very sweet. Their desserts are very sweet, and so the typical Peruvian likes very sweet wine. The typical wine is called ‘Borgogna’ which is made from a hybrid American grape, Isabella, that makes a very sweet, super fruity wine. It isn’t a wine you can take very seriously but it is quite quaffable!”