LIMA – According to documents discovered by Peruvian researcher Guillermo Toro-Lira, Peru’s capital, Lima, was the birthplace of South America’s first wine and vineyard, planted between 1539-1541 by Spanish Capt. Hernando de Montenegro with the help of the local population.
“Montenegro was mayor of Lima two times. The evidence that corroborates the existence of this vineyard is included in a document of merits and services written in Lima in 1556,” Toro-Lira told EFE.
The researcher is publishing the evidence in the book “The vineyards of Lima: the beginnings of South American viticulture, 1539-1551.”
After searching in Peruvian archives, in the Provincial Historical Archive of Valladolid and in the General Archive of the Indies of Seville, Toro-Lira found a set of documents that the captain incorporated in a trial to demonstrate “all of his loyal contributions to the crown.”
In one of those 16th century documents, witnesses are asked “if they know who was the first person to plant vineyards in the kingdom of Peru, which were later taken to Huamanga, Cusco and Arequipa, and as far as Chile.”
One of those witnesses was Alonso Martin de Don Benito, mayor of Lima in 1551, who said “it is true that he (Montenegro) was the first to plant a vineyard in this city. He planted it at his home and it provided the vineyards of Huamanga, Arequipa, Cusco and Chile.”
Another witness was Nicolas de Ribera, who served as the first mayor of Lima in 1535 and who corroborated that Montenegro “was the first person to plant vineyards in this city, from where they expanded to the rest of the kingdom.”
Toro-Lira’s findings allowed him to determine that Montenegro’s first vineyard was located in a field where Peru’s National University of Engineering now stands, and where an old pre-Hispanic road toward Trujillo used to pass.
The researcher also found that the first South American wine was produced in Lima in 1551, and that the silver mines of Potosi, located in present Bolivia, “represented the first important market for Lima’s wine.”
“Starting in 1551, a trading route connecting Lima and Potosi was created, through which wine was transported to Potosi, coming back converted into silver,” Toro-Lira said.