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The grappa or in Italian "grappe" is derived from the word "grappolo", which translated means grape. It is made from alcoholic and fermented grape marc, which is a by-product of the winemaking process. Grappa must have an alcohol content of 37.5% to 70% by volume.
The history of grappa
The first crusades not only brought much suffering, but also the distillation technique with which grappa was later distilled. Necessity is the mother of invention, and so since the Middle Ages grappa has been produced from the residual products of winemaking (marc, grape marc). Northern Italy is mentioned as the region of origin and the production is still reserved to certain countries, such as Italy and the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Around the 15th century a grappa market had already established itself and this far beyond the Italian borders. The strict regulations of origin allowed, among other things, farmers to distil wine marc brandy for their own use. The one or the other farmer probably exaggerated here, which noticeably damaged the reputation of grappa - which at that time was also pejoratively called farmer's brandy.
As a result, the traditional production methods were further developed and the quality of grappa increased. A more careful selection of the grape marc resulted in a grappa with a clearer and higher quality taste, which is appreciated by connoisseurs today.
The raw materials for this can come from white or red grapes. In the production of grappa, a direct distillation process, which is very demanding, is prescribed. This ensures that the highest quality requirements are met.
There is a further distinction between discontinuous and continuous distillation methods, in the latter case the marc is distilled without interruption. With the discontinuous method, the equipment is cleaned after each individual distillation process.
Depending on the type of grape, there are already differences in production in the initial phase: the mashing time of grape skins and must is decisive. Since this should be done as soon as possible in white wine production, additional yeast is needed for the fermentation process. This is in contrast to red wine, where this process takes longer and the fermented marc can be used immediately for further processing into grappa. Then it is possible to start with the multiple distillation. Through specific temperature changes, undesirable by-products can be separated/separated from the high-quality grappa.
To produce about 10 liters of grappa, no less than 100 kilograms of moist and fresh marc are needed!
In one year, only five distilleries from South Tyrol produce an incredible 100,000 bottles of grape marc brandy (even including the seal of approval).
Classification of Grappa
As with many other spirits, grappa can be bottled directly or matured in wooden barrels. Aging in wooden barrels produces full, sweet aromas with a special finesse. Aging in cherry wood barrels is characterized by its exceptional sweetness compared to oak wood barrels.
Italian Grappa is divided into the following categories:
- Young Grappa (Giovane): The grape variety, the fermentation and distillation method are the main factors in the taste of this grappa. Afterwards it is stored in stainless steel tanks with a neutral taste. The length of storage has nothing to do with the designation.
- Young, aromatic grappa: These are "young" grappas made from particularly aromatic/aromatic grape varieties such as Traminer, Muscatel or Sauvignon. Characteristic for this is the taste-intensive aroma and flavor.
- Grappa matured in wooden barrels: This includes grappa matured in wooden barrels for a maximum of 12 months. They have a characteristic light golden to golden color with faint wood nuances in taste.
- Grappa matured and flavored in wooden barrels: are grappas matured in wooden barrels made of aromatic grape varieties, with their typical flavor.
- Aged Grappa: require a maturation period of 12-18 months in wooden barrels. From 18 months on, a grappa can be called "Riserva" or "Stravecchia".
- Flavored Grappa: The variety of flavors is optimally influenced by the addition of various fruits or herbs, such as blueberries, rue or Swiss stone pine.
For the perfect grappa pleasure it is recommended to take tulip-shaped grappa glasses and to taste the good Italian drop at about 10 degrees. The older the grappa, the warmer it may be when drinking it. After pouring the grappa should be given some time to rest. This allows the full taste potential to accumulate and unfold.