Ica is located in southern Peru and is a popular destination spot for tourists due to its plentiful wineries, pisco distilleries, and sandboarding. After enjoying my fair share of pisco sours in Lima, I was curious to learn more about how the national liquor of Peru, pisco, was made. While there are many tour companies (and even taxi drivers) offering wine and pisco tours, my friend and I chose to go with Huacachina Hostel and Tours due to their comprehensive package which included pick-up and drop-off at our Airbnb.
Wine and Pisco Tour in Ica
Vista Alegre is one of the largest and oldest wineries in Peru. It actually used to be a Jesuit hacienda until the late 18th century and then in 1857 it was converted to a winery by the Picasso brothers. The winery itself is beautiful and it’s easy to see how you could spend a lazy summer afternoon sipping wine outside.
At the winery, they offer tours in both English and Spanish, so no worries if you only speak “un poco” Spanish like me. On our tour, the guide provided the information in Spanish first and then in English. If you’re an English speaker trying to learn Spanish or vice versa, it could be a good way to test how much you understand!
During the tour, we learned interesting pieces of information, such as Peruvians prefer sweet wines. Because of this, the winery no longer produces dry wine due to poor sales. When asked why sweet wine is so heavily preferred, an expat explained that it’s because Peruvian food is typically sweet. Any Peruvians out there who can back this claim?
As we moved on from the vineyards, we had a chance to learn about the different machines used in wine and pisco production. We also learned the difference between good and bad whiskey, which forever changed the way I think of Johnny Walker Blue Label.
After learning about how wine/pisco manufacturing and production, I was excited to taste! We sat inside the tasting room with some new friends from the States and Peru and tried the different wines and piscos. Remember how the tour guide said the Peruvians prefer sweet wines? He wasn’t kidding. Several of the wines tasted more like dessert wines, but one of the drier red wines was amazing. I also realized that I’m not the biggest fan of pisco straight, to me it tastes much better in a pisco sour 😀
After visiting Vista Alegre, the next stop on our winery tour was El Catador, where we received an in-depth tour on how pisco is made. In a cool turn of events, we learned that our tour guide, Lucy, was from the Bay Area too! Touring El Catador with her was a different experience from Vista Alegre. It was definitely more laid-back and conversational, which might have been due to her Bay roots 😛
During the tour, she explained the fermentation process for the grape-based pisco in these clay jars above.
She also further explained that once the distillation process is over in March, some people will come to the distillery with water jugs and drink pisco straight from the spigot above. Lucy also taught us about the origin of the popular pisco sour. After seeing it at pretty much every bar that we visited in Peru, I was pretty convinced that it was created by a Peruvian. To my surprise, I learned that it was created by an American bartender, Victor Vaughen Morris, and first served at a bar in Lima called Morris’ Bar in the early 1920’s.
We wrapped up the end of the tour by doing what else, tasting pisco! In the above picture is our awesome guide Lucy, myself, and my friend Christine. We tried about 4 different piscos with newfound respect after learning more about the manufacturing process. There is also a restaurant attached to the bar that we would have loved to try, but unfortunately it was closed that day. It’s supposed to be delicious though, so it could be worth checking out if you’re visiting!
For more information on reserving your own winery tour, you can check out Huacachina Hostel and Tours here. The tour lasts for about 3 hours and costs USD 14!
- Bring sunscreen on the tour! You’ll be walking outside for most of the tour and you don’t want to get burned. Bottled water to stay hydrated isn’t a bad idea either.
- To get to Ica, you can take the bus from major cities like Lima. We booked a bus through Cruz del Sur, which is one of the most highly recommended/highly reviewed bus companies in Peru.
- While you’re in Ica, definitely check out sandboarding in Huacachina, which is located about 15 minutes away from Ica. Going sandboarding was one the most fun activities I did while in Peru and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting.
Sometimes, the best way to get a feel for a place is to see it with your own eyes. If you’re considering visiting Peru and/or just want to see what it would look like, you can watch my vlog (but you don’t have to). Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to share any comments or ask questions below!
*Thank you to Huacachina Hostel and Tours for sponsoring this activity. As always, all opinions are my own.