The Secret of Grappa Wine

The Secret of Grappa Wine

Grappa is a traditional Italian drink, made from the leftover skins and seeds of grapes used for wine. This is called the “Pomacy” or “Pomace”. The Pomace is fermented and distilled in its natural state. The result is around 90 proof and clear in color.  Grappa is also known by other names. It is called Marc in France, Aguardiente in Spain and Portugal, and in Germany, it’s known as Tresterschnapps.

The grappa is dry and high in alcohol, with the flavors ranging from floral to earthy. It can have highlights of oak or juniper berries as well. Grappa is typically consumed after dinner. It should be served in a small glass at a cool temperature, 57F or so.  Grappa is a fragrant grape-based pomace brandy of between 37.5% and 60% alcohol by volume (75 to 120 US proof), of Italian origin, similar to Spanish orujo liquor, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin lozovača or komovica or the Chacha Republic of Georgia and Portuguese aguardente. Literally “grape stalk”, most grappa is made by distilling pomace and grape residue (mainly the skins, but also stems and seeds) left over from winemaking after pressing.  

It was originally made to prevent waste by using leftovers at the end of the wine season. A similar drink, known as acquavite d’uva, is made by distilling the whole must. The flavor of grappa, like that of wine, depends on the type and quality of the grape used as well as the specifics of the distillation process.

Grappa is now a protected name in the EU, just like Barolo wine and Parmigiano cheese. To be called grappa, the following criteria must be met:

(1) Produced in Italy.

(2) Produced from pomace.

(3) The fermentation and distillation must occur on the pomace. No water can be added.Criterion 2 rules out the direct use of fermentation of pure grape juice, which is the method used to produce brandy. Criterion 3 has two important implications. First, the distillation must occur on solids. Thus it is carried out not with a direct flame but using bain-marie or steam distillation; otherwise, the pomace may burn. Second, the woody parts of the grapes such as stems and seeds are co-fermented with the sugar-rich juice, producing wood alcohol which is toxic. This part must be removed first during distillation and it requires care and skills. In fact, this is why now there is an Italian law requiring winemakers to sell their pomace to grappa makers; even if moonshine operations will never completely disappear, they are now very rare.

The legend tells that a Roman soldier first distilled Grappa in the northern Italian town of Bassano del Grappa using a distilling equipment was stolen in Egypt (“Crisiopea di Cleopatra” 2nd century AD), however, this equipment cannot produce grappa and this is probably a legend. However, distillation useful for producing beverages was not discovered until the eighth century, and it likely took about two more centuries for the technology to travel from its home in the Levant and Persia to Italy (likely by route of the Crusades). It was only around 1300-1400 AD however that the introduction of water as a coolant in the distilling equipment made it possible to produce substantial bigger amount of distilled wine and to distill pomace. Around 1600 AD the Jesuits in Spain, Italy, and Germany studied and codified the techniques used to produce brandy or grappa and their methods were used until recent times.

In Italy, grappa is primarily served as a “digestivo” or after-dinner drink. Its main purpose was to aid in the digestion of heavy meals. Grappa may also be added to espresso coffee to create a caffè corretto meaning corrected coffee. Another variation of this is the “ammazzacaffè” (literally, “coffee-killer”): the espresso is drunk first, followed by a few ounces of grappa served in its own glass. In the Veneto, there is resentin: after finishing a cup of espresso with sugar, a few drops of grappa are poured into the nearly empty cup, swirled and drunk down in one sip.

POLI GRAPPA MIELE – Varietal:  – Region:

Founded in 1898, Poli has been crafting artisanal grappa for over a century. Widely regarded as the foremost producer of this spirit, Poli continues to employ the copper still, a medium used in the demanding “discontinuous distillation” process, which requires the Grappa Maker to exercise vigilance in the monitoring of the grappa by making continual adjustments to the style of distillation.

Poli has also authored the Policromia, an aroma/flavor chart that represents the spectrum of flavors delivered by grappa. The Poli Miele has deeper shades of yellow and orange, with an emphasis on both orange blossom and mandarin orange.

Among the most well-known producers of grappa are Nonino, Berta, Sibona, Nardini, Jacopo Poli, Brotto, Domenis and Bepi Tosolini. While these grappas are produced in significant quantities and exported, there are many thousands of smaller local and regional grappas, all with distinct character.

Most grappa is clear, indicating that it is an un-aged distillate, though some may retain very faint pigments from their original fruit pomace. Lately, aged grappas have become more common, and these take on a yellow, or red-brown hue from the barrels in which they are stored.


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