Grappa is a clear distilled Italian alcoholic drink made from what is left over after the wine-making process, that is the skins, pulp, seeds and sometimes, though not always, the stems. It is similar to the French Marc de Bourgogne. It is a testimony to the resourcefulness of winemakers that they can turn what would otherwise be waste into something special.
Grappa is aged in wood barrels – the wood can vary from cherry to ash to oak to robina for example, each giving a different quality and personality to the finished grappa. Lighter woods give the grappa a clear colour whereas yellow-hued grappas may have been aged in darker woods, like oak casks. So the colour of grappa often gives you a clue to how it has been aged, in what kind of wood and whether it will be rich or mellow.
Grappa is an acquired taste for some – it is a strong drink, like a brandy, and it can be quite bitter and alcoholic and that’s probably why it is often taken as a post-prandial after a meal as an aid to digestion. It is a much maligned drink with lower quality grappa sometimes being offered as a gesture after meals in Italian restaurants which can turn people off it, but it is worth revisiting the higher quality versions.
Grappa can vary hugely from producer to producer – some of the reliable names to look for when buying it include the family-owned Jacopo Poli from Veneto – they also have a Poli Grappa Museum showing the history of Grappa (https://www.poligrappa.com) and Bepi Tosolini https://www.bepitosolini.it.
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