One evening after a filling dinner, I searched my liquor cabinet for a ”digestivo”. Amaro or Grappa – a difficult choice but I selected “Il Merlot di Nonino” Grappa. I drink Grappa occasionally and never have loved it, but on this night, the aroma and taste were “spettacolare” (spectacular). I was intrigued with this different experience so I searched for an explanation – does Grappa improve with age?
I was introduced to Grappa as a young adult when I would visit my grandpa, Ottavio Rossi. Every season he made barrels of old-world, strong red wine (petrol-like flavor) in his Long Island basement. After wine-making, he would fire-up a home-made still to cook leftover grape skins, seeds and stems into transparent firewater (papa’s “grappa”). I suspect that Papa never sipped his grappa straight; it was an additive to his morning espresso.
Grappa is made by distilling the pomace (left-over stuff from wine-making), adding some water and the resulting clear liquid “brandy” has strong aromas which capture the essence of the varietal (ie Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo). The minimum alcohol strength is 37.5% (same as ethyl alcohol) though many Grappas clock-in at 40% or more.
There are two types of Grappa:
· YOUNG GRAPPA is clear in color, aged less than 6 months, stored in steel or glass (not wood), fruity aroma and taste derived from grape varietal used in wine-making.
· AGED GRAPPA is yellow-hue color, aged for minimum of 12 months in wooden casks, smoother on the palate, aroma and taste derived from wood container.
Notable producers of Grappa exported to USA are Jacopo Poli, Nardini, and Nonino. Many grappas are produced in northern Italy’s wine-making regions such as Veneto, Piemonte, Trentino and the flavor profile varies based on the grape blend used.
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Joe Vena said:
Bob, Great presentation of Grappa. I never developed a taste for it, except for a fig one made by a renowned cardiologist, (Dr. Criscito) at one of Gianni Venturi’s , Revello parties.
However, for a terrific Digestivo, try Amaro Lucano, produced by my grandfather’s cousin’s family in Pisticci, Italy, since 1894. As you know, Nick carries it at our favorite wine and spirits retailer,
Sunrise Cellars , Shoprite Liquors, Caldwell.
Thanks for all of your wind tips.
Joe, Amaro Lucano is a good one. Everyone at that dinner we did in the “pre-pandemic” era liked it.
Anthony Branca said:
Very well said
Grappa may not be an everyday beverage
But it does have a place at the table
Tony, thanks for the assist with testing the different grappa.
È stato divertente!
Roberta Carney said:
Thanks Bob for bringing back some great memories. Yes, Papa left lots of memories of his wine & grappa making. Did you know the Italian Consulate was closed when WW2 started?. All employees that had not become American Citizens were deported. Papa had become an American Citizen by taking the test earlier. At first he stayed at home making wine and grappa and some neighbor reported him to the FBI saying he had a still in the basement !!!!! Yes, the FBI came and went through the house but agreed he wasn’t in trouble!!!! Then Papa went to the Brooklyn Navy yard with my brother Albert. Albert was looking for a job – – – he didn’t get one and joined the Navy – – – Papa got a job and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard until the war was over and the Italian Consulate opened back up !!!! OK enough reminiscing for today xoxo Roberta
Hi Roberta, there are so many great memories of our family.
gordon stenz said:
I first tasted grappa fifty years ago in what was Yugoslavia. it was the worst thing I ever had! but, back then I had no pallet for any type of wine. your description of the grappa was excellent but I still think its going to be like drinking rocket fuel 🙂
Gordon, even today there is “rocket fuel” grappa that is best used in the “jungle juice” we drank in college! I wasn’t a believer until recently – isn’t it worth another try with a GOOD grappa?