Monday, 28 June 2010

Cachaça & cachoeiras

Today I went on a tour in Paratay to visit a Cachaça distillery and to visit a few waterfalls (cachoeiras). The waterfalls where amazing, as were the plunge pools that we dived into.

The Cachaça distillery was pretty interesting, and the owner, Francisco, has made a good family business out of its production.

The process begins with the crushing of the raw ingredient, sugar cane, using a waterwheel to drive the machinery. This is the same handmade method which has not changed since colonial times. The resulting juice is left to ferment for 72 hours, sugar being converted into alcohol by the natural yeasts that occur on the plant. The base wine (around 12-14%) that is produced is then heated and condensed using a series of copper tubes, and this process takes around 3 hours.

The resultant Cachaça can then be sold as straight Cachaça pura, or aged for a minimum of 1 year in wooden casks such as the French oak cask shown. Alternatively you can buy flavoured Cachaça which has a variety of syrups added to it to provide extra flavour.

The owner explained that his Cachaça was completely organic and therefore produced no hangover (debateable) but nevertheless it’s very tasty when shaken with crushed ice, lime and a little (but not too much) sugar – known as a caipirinha.

He can produce 12000 litres per year and at the moment he just supplies Paratay and sells the remainer through the gift shop. When I asked him about scaling up he said its difficult to monitor the quality on a larger scale but that he is aiming to produce 30000 litres per year in 5 years time.

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