Grappa is an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant grape-based pomace brandy of between 35% and 60% alcohol by volume (70 to 120 US proof) of Italian origin, similar to Spanish orujo liquor, French marc, German Weintrester, Bulgarian Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Turkish rakia/rakı, Georgian chacha 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 It was originally made to prevent waste by using leftovers at the end of the wine season.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 whole must. The flavour 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. 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.
Among the best-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.
Best served ice cold (preferably frozen in a block of ice).
Professional tasters distinguish the following four categories of grappa: young grappas, cask-conditioned grappas, aromatic grappas, aromatized grappas.
Grappa tastings invariably begin with "young grappas," then continue with cask-conditioned and aromatic grappas before finishing with aromatized grappas.
When the tasting involves more than one grappa from the same category, the examination begins with the grappa that has the lowest alcohol content and concludes with the product richest in alcohol. In the case of the two grappas with the same alcohol content, the tasting begins with the smoother and less markedly flavoured product, which the organizer of the tasting will have selected beforehand.
After each tasting, and before sampling another glass, some tasters recommended drinking half a glass of milk to refresh the taste receptors on the tongue.
Another way to "taste" grappa is by rubbing a small amount on the back of the hand and sniffing. If the aroma is pleasant, the grappa is well made. Impurities in grappa come out in the vapor and can be easily distinguished in this way.
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History of Grappa, www.lifeinitaly.com