A detour into distilling pays dividends as Harmans Estate launches Margaret River’s first ever pisco brandy. By Lizzy Pepper. Images by Elements Margaret River.
Harmans Estate has established a great reputation for its single estate wines and the warm hospitality at their cellar door. Now there’s even more reason to visit, as they launch Australia’s first ever pisco made from Margaret River grapes.
Since opening in 1999, Harmans Estate has produced gold medal wines, liqueurs and spirits.
After plenty of experimentation and refining, they’re excited to unveil a range of three piscos. Hailing from Peru and Chile, pisco is a clear spirit made by distilling wine. It’s the spirit in a pisco sour – a tangy cocktail invented in Lima, capital city of Peru.
Like a single malt Scotch, pisco must be distilled in a copper still, and there’s strict government controls in Peru and Chile around which wine varieties are distilled into pisco. Yet the Peruvian and Chilean rules diverge on the topic of whether to dilute before bottling.
Most countries around the world distil wine to create a spirit of some sort. Oddly, no one in Australia has made a pisco until now, let alone in Margaret River.
But there’s always a winemaker willing to try something new. Meet Greg Garnish, winemaker and partner in the cooperative winery of Harmans Estate.
“Around October 2016 I started a trial distillation of a really good batch of white wine, to make brandy. I was blown away by how good it was; aromatic, fruity and with a sweet bouquet.”
So what’s different about the Harman Estate pisco? Quality ingredients always leads to a fantastic product, and as you can guess, the Margaret River wine going into this pisco is top notch. Greg’s also refined the flavours, bringing out the luscious aromas of the wine; “Pisco can be quite raw and earthy. As a winemaker, I’m chasing floral notes of jasmine and orange blossom.”
The resulting liqueur is aromatic and fruity with a luscious sweet bouquet.
Greg spent the next six months distilling 18 different wine varieties – the entire Harmans Estate range plus some of the wines they make under contract for other wineries in the Margaret River region.
“I narrowed it down to three wines that perform best – they’re all flavoursome with a floral and fruity aroma.”
The result is three types of pisco, and each is available to taste and buy at the cellar door. Pisco Original is a blend of three varieties of fruit, in the Peruvian ‘acholado’ style. Pisco Puro is distilled from a single premium Harmans Estate wine, to match the flavours and characters of the varietal. At 80% ABV, it packs a punch. Their third release, Pisco Liqueur, bears a pink blush as it’s a pisco blended with a sauvignon blanc port-style liqueur.
When quizzed about which wines go into the pisco, Greg remains tight-lipped. “It’s top secret – it’s our intellectual property,” he says with a chuckle. But he reveals that it’s a wine you’ll taste at the cellar door, so your challenge is to see if you can recognise the pisco’s aromatics and flavours as you taste the wine range.
Apart from a pisco sour, how does Greg recommend we drink pisco? “Ours can be drunk straight on ice. It’s also delicious with ginger beer or tonic water. And Pisco Liqueur – our pisco liqueur blend – is great with lemonade or soda.”
It’s fantastic to taste the fruits of Greg’s experimentation and innovation – and gosh it tastes delicious.
Want to try pisco for yourself? Visit Harmans Estate, 5 Harmans Mill Road, Wilyabrup. Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.
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