Grappa is a distillate from Italy made from the pomace of grapes. The Grappa production is legally prescribed, and the term legally protected in the EU.
The name Grappa is derived from the Italian grappolo, which means grape. The exact origins of the spirit are unclear; but the first written record of the word Grappa is from 1451 in the last will of a guy in the Piedmont region. Being an Italian word, the correct plural would be Grappe.
The name Grappa is protected under EU law, which imposes the following three criteria on Grappa production:
- Must be made in Italy (or the Ticino region of Switzerland)
- Must be produced from pomace. The pomace is what is left of the grapes after the first pressing, i. e. the skin, pulp, seeds and stems. If it’s produced from whole grapes, it is called aquavita d’uva.
While the pomace may come from different kinds of grapes, it is becoming more common to use genuine pomace (meaning coming from only one kind of grape).
- Distillation must occur on the pomace; no water may be added. That means, that the distillation occurs on solids and that if the distillation is carried out on open flame, the pomace may burn. Therefore, it is sometimes done in a bain-marie or with steam. Fun fact: From 95 kilograms grapes, you get 12 kilograms of pomace, which in turn will yield about 1 litre of Grappa.
After distillation, the Grappa must rest for at least 6 months. Furthermore, the final product must contain at least 37.5 % abv.
Grappe distinguished on the basis of three criteria:
- Most Grappe are not aged in wooden casks, and it is not necessarily a sign of quality. If a Grappa has been stored for at least 6 months in wooden casks, and another 12 in steel tanks, it may be called invecchiata, stravecchia or riserva.
- If they are made from an aromatic kind of grape (like Moscato, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau or Riesling) – or not.
- Aromatised using spices, berries etc. Nardini, for example, recently released a Juniper Grappa, which is absolutely spectacular in Negronis.
Grappe are usually served as an after-dinner drink (digestivo). Young ones are best drunk at a temperature between 8° and 10° C, older ones at 18° C. The caffè corretto, an espresso with a shot of Grappa, is also very popular both in Switzerland as in Italy.