Circling Back to Spirits of Old: Peruvian Winemaking With Sweet Tubers (Potato Wine)

Header Peruvian Farmland

Figure 1 Header Peruvian Farmland in the Andes Mountains Source: Shutterstock

While many consider wine a beverage solely crafted from various grape varietals, some groups throughout the world create their wine using other produce. For example, wines can be crafted from cranberries, honey (also known as mead), and even potato wine. Creating wine and spirits from alternative produce is not a new concept, as it has existed for centuries in places such as Ireland, Poland, and South America.

So, while potato wine is not a new concept, a potato farmer and winemaker is revolutionizing the potato wine industry: Manuel Choqque. A fourth-generation farmer, Choqque studied potatoes for multiple years before launching his own wine company using sweet tubers.

This article examines how wine has shifted from using available produce to grapes and is circling back again with Manuel Choqque’s potato winemaking. A nod to wine and spirit-making history, Choqque is making quite a stir in the industry.

Using Produce to Create Wine and Spirits

National Geographic notes that wine has been produced for about 6000 years in Georgia, perhaps the first production location of wine. While the exact location and period of the invention of wine is a hot debate topic, what’s undebatable is the history of creating wine from various produce. In many countries, wine and spirits were created with various fruits, vegetables, and grains, depending on what was available. [1]

As only two main components are required for wine and spirit making (carbs and yeast), the primary ingredient can be a large variety of items. Thus, in China, beer was initially created from rice, sugarcane, and rice were the primary ingredients in the spirits made in the East Indies, etc. Once cultures were taught how to create spirits (or after learning by observation), they quickly found sources for the newfound libation. This experimentation led to wine and other alcoholic beverages made from ingredients that are not as commonly seen today. [2]

Discovery of Potatoes in Peru

Over 10,000 years ago, potatoes were discovered in the Andes Mountains alongside Lake Titicaca. These potatoes were native to the area and grew in wild bunches around the Lake. It is said that they were first discovered and domesticated by the Incans. This initial phase led to potatoes becoming an important crop that sustained the Incan people and became a staple in their diet.

These potatoes were revered for their medicinal abilities, spiritual usages (such as weather predictions), and the ability to nourish and feed cities and armies. Additionally, the versatility of the cooking method for these potatoes put them at the forefront of the Incan diet. [3]

By curating wine from Peruvian potatoes, Manuel Choqque can give a nod to his culture and a Peruvian food staple simultaneously.

Peruvian Vendor

Figure 2 Peruvian Vendor in Traditional Outfit Holding Potatoes Source: Shutterstock

Who Is Manuel Choqque?

Potatoes have long been embedded in Choqque’s life, from his family cultivating them for multiple generations to consuming purple potatoes on father-son trips as a child. Thus, taking over the family business of growing ocas and mashuas (local potato varieties) was an easy choice.

Manuel Choqque grew up in the Andes Mountains in Peru, learning to farm various Peruvian potato plants from his father. He spent his college years studying agricultural farming in Cusco at the Universidad San Antonio Abad. After a stint at the International Potato Center, Choqque traveled back to Huatata, his hometown, to take over the family business. [4]

On the side, he collected and examined ancient potato varieties. This led him to cultivate an additional 90 potato types. Now, Choqque has 380 potato varieties which are cross-pollinated via manual methods. By manually pollinating the potatoes, he controls the color, nutrition, textures, flavors, and other aspects of the potatoes that would otherwise be randomly created by a natural pollination source (such as bees).

Delving into Potato Research

As Choqque was delving into his hobby of examining potatoes which had yet to be in circulation since the Incan and pre-Incan times, he discovered that ocas were an excellent source of natural sugar. As mentioned, that is one important component in wine and spirit making. As potatoes are also starches, they provide the perfect ingredient for curating wines.[5] When cultivated in ideal conditions, ocas can make wine that ranges from 11%-12% ABV. This ABV percentage lies within the moderate alcohol category, under which most types of wine fall.

Choqque took two years to fully research and investigate ocas as a suitable component of winemaking. After thoroughly exploring these sweet tubers, he created his own wine company Miskioca. The name originates from the Quechuan word “miski,” meaning sweet. Over the years, he has curated four varieties of wine from oca, including a red wine, a sweet white wine, a dry white wine, and a rosé.

What Are Oca Potatoes?

These potatoes are grown in the Sacred Valley of Peru at about 1200 feet above sea level. While many crops could not survive in the harsh terrain and weather in the Andes Mountains, these “uqa” potatoes thrive under Choqque’s watch. This has led to many referring to him as the “potato whisperer.” [6]

Did you know? The word oca comes from the Quechuan word oqa, which refers to the oca plant.[7]

These oca potatoes come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and even colors, with some featuring yellow interiors and others offering swirls of purple. While it was initially a staple for the Incans, it continues to be used in various dishes, from potato chip snacks to stews and desserts. Now, multiple farmers, including Choqque, are using it to create a unique wine drink, “vino de oca.” [8]

Harvesting Oca for Wine

While it’s a completely different plant, oca shares similarities with wine grapes in a few aspects. For one, oca is only harvested once per year, as with many wine grapes. The process for creating potato wine is similar to that of curating a grape-based wine. As with wines, different types of oca are used to create various wines. For example, yellow oca creates white wines, offering a finished product that resembles standard white wine options.

The process of cultivating the oca for wines begins with methodically planting 10 hectares of potato seeds. These plants will later be used to create the vino de oca. Each year, Choqque’s team plants oca seeds in November. Then, the potatoes are harvested in the summertime, with the exact month varying annually based on the weather.

Processing Miskioca Wine

Once the tubers have been harvested, they are fermented, clarified, aged, and poured into 200ml bottles. They’re decorated with a Miskioca wine label, noting the year and location for each variety. Miskioca dry white wine requires the shortest fermentation time, as it’s ready after four months. In comparison, the other three wine varietals require an eight-month fermentation. After fermentation, the wine bottles sit for 60 days before they are sold.

Miskioca Wine Flavors

As with any wine, the flavor notes vary from the rosé to the red and white oca wines. The rosé is crafted from black oca, a tuber variety known for producing a fruity flavor that mimics the taste of berries. His red oca wine is crafted from Mashua Negra, which is said to produce wine reminiscent of malbec. Yellow oca is used for the sweet and dry white wines Choqque produces. Both white wine varieties feature flavor notes of apples, peaches, and other similar fruits.

Where to Find Miskioca Wine

Multiple methods allow you to personally enjoy Miskioca wine, as Choqque has partnered with a few local restaurants (Centro Restaurant and Mil Centro). They exclusively list his wine on their menu as vino de oca. As expected, they pair well with authentic Peruvian food, served alongside a glass of the available varieties.

Additionally, visitors can tour Manuel Choqque’s oca farm via an excursion that concludes with a three-course meal and wine tastings. While the restaurants have their ideas for wine and food pairings, Choqque has his own pairing recommendations, according to Vinepair. [9] Below, you’ll find pairing suggestions from Choqque.

  • Cocoa powder or chocolate-based desserts work well with a white or oca rosé wine.
  • Meat such as poultry, seafood, and fish pair best with white oca wine
  • Red meats are an ideal match with rosé wine

Chef Carlos Pardo Figueroa (the chef who curates the excursions to Choqque’s farm) notes these oca wines work well with appetizers, fresh, sweet salads, light dishes, and desserts.

Summary of Creating Potato Wine From Sweet Tubers

While Manuel Choqque is not the first to consider using alternative ingredients in wine, he is certainly the first to specifically use oca. His efforts are not in vain, considering multiple restaurants offer his wine on their menus. His current sales include 1,500 bottles of vino. However, he remains optimistic and hopes the next year will be nearly 10x this amount.

If you have the chance to try vino de oca, you’ll find the taste similar to wine yet with a unique flair. While it may not be everyone’s glass of wine, it’s certainly an exciting contender in the wine industry, inspiring wine producers to pursue their creativity.

As you explore the world of wine, you can learn about wine slang, uncover the history of wine grapes, and more on the This Day In Wine History Blog.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Peruvian potato winemaking, Circling Back to Spirits of Old: Peruvian Winemaking With Sweet Tubers (Potato Wine)Peruvian potato winemaking, Circling Back to Spirits of Old: Peruvian Winemaking With Sweet Tubers (Potato Wine)


[1] Johnson, Nick. “The Peruvian Wine Made from Sugary Potatoes.” The Daily Meal, 12 Dec. 2022,

[2] T. Thomas, Alan. “Distilled Spirit | Definition, History, Production, Types, & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Dec. 2022,

[3] Birtles, Katie. “The Fascinating History behind Peru’s Humble Potato.” Real Word, 15 Mar. 2020,

[4] Martinez, Alona. “The Hidden Beauty of Peru’s Pigmented Potatoes.” Atlas Obscura, 4 Oct. 2018,

[5] “50 next – Manuel Choqque – Gamechanging Producers 2021.” UI – 50B – 50 NEXT,

[6] Magyarics, Kelly. “The Peruvian Farmer Crafting “Wine” from High-Altitude Heirloom Potatoes.” VinePair, 8 Nov. 2019,

[7] Trombley, Jeremy. “American Indian Health – Health.”,

[8] “Peruvian Farmer Crafting “Wine” from Heirloom Potatoes.”, 11 Nov. 2019,

[9] Magyarics, Kelly. “The Peruvian Farmer Crafting “Wine” from High-Altitude Heirloom Potatoes.” VinePair, 8 Nov. 2019,

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , By Published On: January 3, 2023

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