Grappa is the only distillate from a solid part, the marc, which is the residue from the pressing of the grape wine.
Grappa probably owes its name to the grape stalk, used as raw material for its production, with the skins. The term grappa appear officially until the end of 1800. In the same century are codified procedures for its production.
Brandy for a long time it was a typical product of northern Italy, rooted in Piedmont, Trentino, Veneto, Lombardy and Friuli, but also in Sardinia.
An important testimony the birth of the distillation in Italy, originates from a document dated 1443 of customs duty of the Savoy region, proving the payment of a tax on a spirit of wine origin, defined in the document Branda of Barbera and Moscato. In some areas of Piedmont still resists the name Branda.
The distillation process
Today the marcs are stored with modern principles of conservation. The secret to a good brandy remains to have a good fresh marc, so less time passes from storage to distillation it is better for the distillate, which will be more rich in primary aromas.
From the wine alcohol it is extracted through the delicate passage of water vapor, in small boilers perforated, getting "flemma". The water vapor passes slowly, with a very low pressure. The water vapor is then condensed and distilled to separate it by alcohol.
After the distillation, grappa is placed into stainless steel tanks. Grappa rest and lose its vehemence, waiting for the distiller performs the required paperwork. The ducts alembics goes directly inside the tanks and there is no way to access it for the distiller.
In fact, the tanks are sealed with the seals of the Superintendent and can not be opened as long as this does not make his inspection visit, within the three weeks following the notification by the distiller.
Appointees of the Superintendence take a sample for analysis of ritual, for the conferment of the typical of grappa and the quantity produced, to proceed to its taxation.
Because of this, the tasting of the new grappa is only possible during the distillation and some through the valves fitted on the pipes of the alembics.
The marc for the production of grappa are classified according to their presence or not of alcohol. Therefore, based on this, we have the virgin marc, half-fermented and fermented marc. The first comes from the cellars immediately after destemming of the bunches of white grape varieties.
The first comes from the cellars immediately after destemming of the bunches of white grape varieties.
The marc must still be moist and full of juice. More marc have been squeezed in the cellar to make wine, the less will be the aromatic taste in grappa, which will result of poor quality.
The organoleptic characteristics of the grappa provide, by law, a presence of aromatic elements equal to 140 grams per liter. The average is now about 250, 300 grams but in some grappas you also get 450 grams for liter. The reference to certain spirits, such as vodka is ridiculous, if we think that the majority of them do not get to 1 gram per liter.
The quality of the marc has greatly improved in recent years, as the wine cellars now stop at the first pressing to get grape must, because they make quality and long-lasting wine.
The distillation campaign begins in late September, when ends racking Delvino, and traditionally ends on the day of St. Joseph, March 19.
The choice of continuous or discontinuous distillation is one of discriminating the quality of grappa and depends on the will to create products rich in perfumes or commercial products with a smaller range of aromas.
High quality grappa
The high quality products or aging using distillation alembic with steam or water bath, where the distillate comes out to a lower alcohol content between 60 and 72 degrees, with a greater aromatic complexity.
The optimum gradation of grappa is about 75 degrees but lowest alcholic gradation allows to better preserve the primary aromas of the grape.
The use of marc from single grape has its own importance. The marc from single grape did make a dramatic leap in quality grappa, first seen as poor indistinct product.
Some marc from single grape varieties, suitably aged, give great quality results and many experts, who have despised for too long time grappa, have changed their minds.
The loss of alcohol occurs naturally with aging due to leakage from the barrels, the rate of 2% per annum, while the grappa taste become softens and rounds, thanks to oxidation. Depending on humidity and temperature of the cellar it is realizing also a natural evaporation of water, keeping fairly unchanged alcohol gradation.
Aging can be a minimum of six months while the maximum age can reach 20 years or more, at the discretion of the manufacturer who decides on the quality of the distillate.
By italian law grappa it can not be sold with an alcohol content of 60 percent alcohol maximum, while the minimum is 37,5.
The terms on the label, to define the aging are:
Grappa aged for 6 months in stainless steel tanks, time to defuse its impetuosity, it is cooled and filtered by precipitation.
Aged grappa in wood
Grappa rest 6 to 12 months in barrels from 79 hl, in tonneau of 500 liters or in barrels from 225. Some manufacturers indicate on the label the use of carats of French origin.
Grappa ages for 12 months or more, in casks or barrels, softens its character, rather edgy when young, with aromas of wood. The distillate loses typical edgy aroma in favor of a greater aromatic complexity made of sweet spices.
Carlo Cambi gave the best definition of the grappa, in according with a sentence of famous writer, Mario Soldati:
If the wine is the poetry of the earth, grappa is its soul.