Spirited - Grappa
Franz Scheurer looks at the Italian Favourite
If you have Italian friends, chances are you’ve tasted Grappa. If you’re lucky, they didn’t serve you the ‘homemade’ variety which generally displays the subtlety of cheap paint stripper, but the real thing, hand-crafted by master distillers in Italy. This traditional Italian spirit is made from the pressed skins and seeds left over after winemaking (also called must or pomace), which is left to ferment naturally without the addition of sugar or alcohol and then distilled (traditionally in an Alembic copper pot still), resulting in a clear, potent spirit. The name Grappa is protected and can only be applied to a spirit made in Italy from wine must. Grappa has been produced for almost 1,500 years and the name is derived from the Latin word ‘rappe’ (grape).
Here are three of the best:
Il Moscato di Nonino Grappa
The Nonino Distillery was built in 1897 by Orazio Nonio in Ronchi di Pavia in the Friuli region and sources the majority of its fruit locally, some of it from their own vineyards outside the town of Percoto. Operated today by Benito Nonino, his wife Giannola and their three daughters, the distillery is known for superb craftsmanship and uncompromising quality. No doubt the Moscato is one of their most elegant Grappas. With a nose of fresh hay and Muscat grapes, it is soft and caressing on the palate with intense grape flavours intermingled with hints of roses, vanilla and sage and a long, lingering finish ending in notes of fresh mace.
Grappa di Turriga
Touriga (as it’s spelt in Portuguese) is the most revered grape variety for producing Port, but it also thrives in Sardinia where it produces a terrific, dry red wine. In Italy, where there’s wine there’s Grappa, and the Argiolas family produce a terrific one with a dry, herbaceous aroma with hints of ripe quinces. On the palate it is surprisingly austere and grassy with underlying bitter notes, not unlike raw asparagus. It is mouth filling, finishing with arnica root bass notes, long, soft and lingering.
The Poli family have been distilling Grappa in Schiavon in the Veneto region of Italy since 1896 and the original copper pot stills are still in operation. They also run a Grappa Museum and apart from single grape variety Grappa they also produce the Tagliatella, a Grappa liqueur. This spirit is only 28% a/v and consists of Grappa infused with the bark of the Chincona Calisaya tree, a South American tree that is the source of quinine. The Calisaya brings a reddish brown colour and bittersweet element to the marriage and the resulting liquor is akin to an Italian amaro. Although quite sweet, but not cloying, at first, it is the bitter flavour that persists on the palate. The finish is short and cleansing, perfect for a digestive.
Lo Spirito Dei Poeti
Pour 2 nips of Tagliatella Grappa into a tall glass, add ice than top up with Sanpellegrino Mandarino soft drink and garnish with a slice of mandarin.