Grappa is a traditional Italian spirit made from the pressed seeds and skins of grapes after the must (grape juice) is used in winemaking. Grappa is made all over Italy, from Tuscany to Naples, to the Veneto. The process is simple: the leftover grapeseeds and skins are fermented without added sugar or alcohol, as the skins are naturally high in residual sugars. After fermentation the Grappa is distilled and it becomes adry, intense, and complex liquor. Grappa is very strong, between 80 and 90 proof. It is served as a digestive after heavy meals. It functions perfectly as a digestive or “Digestivo”, at the end of the meal.
According to Italian liquor laws the grape pomace fermentation can be done directly with water vapor or by simply adding water to the mixture. The laws also allow a certain percentage of lees (dead yeasts) to be used. The techniques have expanded and quality has become a large concern. Techniques have been added, by leaving a higher content of moisture to keep some of particular grape flavors resembling brandy or a fruit based liquor and create higher quality stock. Italian laws require six months of aging. Through these new techniques the varieties of grappa have expounded. Grappa’s popularity has grown in the recent years but was originally known as the poor man’s drink. Now it revered as a quality after dinner drink, such as whisky or cognac. As a digestive after meals, Grappa is meant to be sipped. In Italy however, it can also be mixed with coffee, or even as a cooking ingredient.
Grappa comes in flavored varieties, which are made by adding natural herbal extracts and fruits that create a surprising array of flavors from cinnamon to strawberry. Distilleria Marzadro is a good example of flavored grappa with Blueberry-Peach, Banana-Fig or Raspberry-Liquorice flavored grappas. Other well known Grappa Producers are Nardini, Brunello, Mangillo and Stock. As the history of grappa and its origins are hotly debated, it is known as a creative use for the leftover remnants from wine making, and due to its high alcohol levels it became an escape from the hard work and cold temperatures. It has become a product of quality and is no longer given this stigma of the common man’s drink. Through the new production technologies and the competition that has been created, Grappa has become quite trendy and stylish, in regards to the many flavors and very creative packaging.
There are many different kinds of “Grappa Like” liquors, made from the remains of grapes after they have been pressed. Anise flavored liquors include Pastis (the typical digestif in Marseille), Ouzo (the Greek equivalent), and Arak (common in the Middle East). Annisette is a French liquor flavored with anise seeds. It is lower in alcohol than the others but has an interesting sweet flavor. Arak is quite a harsh liquor, flavored with various herbs and spices. It is very strong and served as an aperitif. Herbsaint is made in New Orleans and was intended as a substitute for absinthe. It contains a narcotic and is outlawed for US consumption. Ouzo is a very potent Greek liquor, that is usually mixed with water turning it a cream color. Pastis is a French liquor, also served with water. It is one of the highest in alcohol levels and has licorice flavors. Sambuca is a semi-dry traditional Italian liquor that is flavored with anise, berries, herbs, and spices and usually drunk with three coffee beans floating on top. (which are set alight to release the essential oils of the coffee bean into the spirit, creating a delicious falvor).
Some Top Grappa Producers,