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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 09:45 GMT
Peru and Chile quarrel over brandy drink
A young woman drinking Pisco sour
Pisco has been distilled in Peru for more than 400 years

A squabble has broken out between two South American nations over the rights to a popular brandy-like drink known as Pisco.

Both Peru and Chile are claiming the name and saying they have the evidence to prove it.

Peruvians say Pisco is to Peru as Champagne is to France and Port is to Portugal.

And, they argue, they have history, geography and literature to back them up, not to mention bird droppings.

Peru wins on history

"Pisco was born through history and wine-making in Peru," says Pedro Carlos Olaechea, whose company, Tacama, owns a vineyard that has made Pisco since 1540 - before the brandy was even called Pisco.

A Peruvian ad showing Chile as a barren stalk
"The place-name starts with an Inca word meaning bird, that's an area of birds.

"Afterwards the Spanish came and it was one the main places where they grew grapes and made wine.

"In the 17th Century, the King of Spain bans wine coming from the colony. So, with the biggest market lost, the surplus of grapes were made into brandy."

This brandy went down particularly well with seamen who flocked to the port of Pisco in the 19th century because of the trade in guano - a mineral originating from bird droppings.

Eventually, the spirit took the name of the port which has been on Peruvian maps since 1574.

Chile wins on quantity

Chile does not dispute any of these facts.

I think it would be much better if we formed a joint venture

Juan Pablo Lira, Chile's ambassador to Peru
Instead, it points out that it produces some 50 million litres of Pisco a year compared with Peru's 1.5 million litres.

It exports $600,000 (378,000) worth of Pisco annually - three times as much as Peru.

And each Chilean guzzles two litres of the stuff a year, 20 times as much their Peruvian neighbours.

On top of that, Chile also has a town containing the name of the brandy, Pisco Elqui, although until the 1930s it was known as Union.

In any event, say the Chileans, when Pisco was first made, both Peru and Chile were part of the same Spanish colony.

Sharing the name?

Despite what he believes to be a strong case, Chile's ambassador to Peru, Juan Pablo Lira, says there is a very easy way to nip this spat in the bud.

"I think it would be much better if we formed a joint venture. That way we'll conquer Asian, European and North American markets together and both of us win."

But a joint venture seems a long way off.

A Peruvian bottling plant
Peru produces less Pisco than Chile
Chile effectively banned Peruvian Pisco imports in 1961.

Peru followed suit thirty years later and is now considering its next Pisco move.

One option is to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation.

Last year the WTO found against Chile for putting tariffs of 65% on Scotch whisky imports to protect Pisco.

But it would be quicker and easier for the neighbours to get together over a drink and try to agree a solution.

That, of course, would start the whole argument again - because how would they decide which Pisco to serve?

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Elliott Gotkine
"One country will surely end up with sour grapes"
See also:

04 Nov 02 | Business
11 Dec 02 | Business
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