Words by: Simon Difford
Grappa is an Italian marc brandy made from the fermented skins, pips and stalks (known as pomace, marc or vinaccia in Italian) left after grapes have been pressed to extract juice for wine making. It may be bottled after distillation or matured in oak or other woods. Grappa originated in Italy and, in the E.U. to be termed a grappa, a brandy must be distilled in Italy from Italian grape pomace.
Unsurprisingly, given that it is made from the waste products of another drink, grappa used to have a reputation for being closer to rocket fuel than a subtle taste experience. While there remain many unremarkable grappas, thanks to better production practices, there are now some superb grappas. Many of the best of these are produced in relatively small quantities and are delicate rather than fiery. Modern grappas are also often made from a particular grape variety, the aromas and characteristics of which can still be detected in the finished product.
According to the European Union, grappa must be distilled in Italy and made from Italian marc but this doesn't prevent U.S. distillers from using the term grappa. There are further rules in place according to Italian decree that govern the raw materials and production of grappa. The Italians rightly believe that grape skins contain many aromatic substances that impart flavour to the grappa, hence the Italians rule that the skins must be present in the still.
There are presently some 130 grappa distillers in Italy compared to over 200,000 at the end of the 19th century. Additionally, there are around 500 bottlers who buy grappa from distillers to blend and bottle under their own labels, and these are also legally termed producers. There are also traders who simply own a trademark and sell grappa made by the producers. The term 'farm grappa' is applied to wine growers who have grappa distilled from their own grape marc by a third-party distiller for sale under the same brand as their wines. The pomace may be transported long distances from the winery to the contracted distiller so the name of a recognised and respected winemaker on a Grappa's label is not necessarily a guarantee of quality.
Matured in medium roast, first fill, 225 litre Allier French oak casks, this grappa is made from a blend Cabernet, Refosco, Merlot, Friulano and Moscato grape marc. Brown bread, toasty oak, toasted almond and pistachio with chocolate, apricot jam and delicate lavender.
Most da Uva Miste is made from a mix of Cabernet, Merlot, Tocai and Pinot Grigio de-stemmed grape pomace, fermented in ash wood vats and batch distilled in copper stills. Presented in an elegant hand blown glass bottle. Blackcurrant and raspberry with elderflower and mild white pepper.
This grappa by Bepi Tosolini is steam distilled in traditional copper stills from the pomace of a mixture of different Friulian grape varieties. Chalky minerality, white pepper spice and faint floral aromas.
This single varietal grappa from Bepi Tosolini is made with the pomace from Pinot Grigio grapes from Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli Venezia Giulia. Faint red berry jammy and Jammy Dodger biscuit aromas, white grapes and honeysuckle blossom.
A luxury aged grappa distilled from Toaci grappa pomace and aged in Castagno Barriques – barrels made from Chestnut wood. Presented in a decanter-style bottle and packaged in wooden presentation box. Crusty white bread, burnt balsawood, dried apricot and vanilla with faint floral aromas.
Made with Refosco, Cabernet and Merlot pomace from the Friuli region, Bepi Tosolini distil within 48 hours from pressing to preserve the intense aromas of the red marc. Black pepper spice, plump raisins and faint raspberry-like red grape notes. Water amplifies raisin aromas to become fruitcake-like.
Domus Grappa is distilled from 100% Ruché DOCG grape pomace, a rare red varietal grown in the hills of the seven villages around Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont in north-west Italy. Nutty and oily with brown bready aromas. White peach, aloe vera and very faint rose blossom and lemon zest.