Grappa is an Italian, grape-based, fragrant pomace brandy that contains anywhere from 37.5% to 60% abv. While it may be similar to other liquors, such as Portuguese aguardente or Spanish orujo liquor, Grappa truly has a taste that is all its own.
The origins of Grappa arenít quite known. Although, there are some theories as to how the liquor first came into existence.
According to one legend, Grappa was first distilled in Bassano del Grappa by a Roman soldier who used equipment that he had stolen in Egypt. However, since it was found that the equipment the soldier used couldnít actually produce anything like grappa, this legend is probably just thatóa legend.
History shows that the Schola Medica Salernitana conceived wine distillation sometime in the X century AD. It wasnít until some years later, close to 1300 or 1400 AD, that water was introduced as a coolant, making the distilling equipment used also capable of creating not only larger amounts of distilled wine, but could also distill pomace. It was close to 1600 AD when the Jesuites in Italy, Germany, and Spain studied and conceived the techniques that once were and still are used to create grappa.
In order to be considered a true grappa by todayís standards, there are certain criteria that have to be met. The grappa must be produced in Italy, it must be produced from pomace, and the fermentation and distillation have to happen on the pomace with no added water.
Today, those among the most well-known producers of grappa include Berta, Nonino, Nardini, Sibona, etc. The grappas produced by these names are done so in mass quantity and are also exported, which makes them so easily recognizable. However, there are thousands of regional and local grappas that each offer its own distinct character and flavor.
Youíll find that most grappa is colorless, which shows that the distillate hasnít been aged. However, you will find some with a faint color from the original fruit pomaceís pigments. Aged grappas, which are becoming more and more common, often have a red-brown or yellow hue taken from the barrels that once housed the liquid.
In addition to being available in clear and hued varieties, grappas are also distinguished by four different categories. They are, and in the correct order, young grappas, cask-conditioned grappas, aromatic grappas, and aromatized grappas.
Should you decide to taste grappas as a professional would, it is recommended you taste them in the proper order, and, in between each grappa, cleanse your palate by drinking a half glass of milk, making sure to thoroughly swirl in it in your mouth before swallowing.
You can also taste grappa by not actually tasting it at all! Simply rub a small amount of the liquid on the back of your hand. Sniff it. If it has a pleasant aroma, then you can be assured that the grappa has been well made. It is easy to tell if the grappa contains impurities, because the aroma will tell you.