All About Grappa
This firewater is actually a powerful ‘digestivo’ that complements bitter chocolate and coffee.
The history of grappa is as murky as most people’s heads after a few glasses (especially if you’re prone to entering unsuitable drinking games with your equally unsuitable friends).
It derives from Bassano del Grappa, a medieval town at the foothills of Mount Grappa, north of Venice, and is believed to have been produced from the 1400s; it was certainly being exported by the late 15th century.
Grappa is essentially a strong wine (made from pomace grapes, skins and the stems of the grape) and it came about as a way of using up the leftovers that were usually discarded in the winemaking business.
It’s a libation of extremeS: it’s abv can be between 38-80%, and the quality of the product depends on the quality of the grape, and the distillation process. Unaged grappa is clear – and the most common – although yellow-tinged aged grappas are becoming en vogue among young Italians.
Expect to taste a more sophisticated tipple from established brands like Nardini (pictured) – Italy’s best-selling premium grappa brand has been made by the same family since 1779 and has used the same bottles and labels for 150 years.
However, if holidaying in Italy you’re just as likely to come across a regional version, of which there are many – and of which many are moonshine.
If you want to do as the Italians do, drink grappa as a ‘digestivo’ or after-dinner drink. Like all digestives, it’s main purpose is to help your stomach digest a rich meal. Italians often opt for a caffe corretto – grappa added to an espresso – or a similar, local version of this.
A final word for the budding connoisseur – grappas outside of Italy that are derived from whole grapes are not grappas, they’re ‘acquavite d’uva’