As a lover of grapes, especially in liquid form, I’m always excited to try new ones. Whether it’s new grapes, still, sparkling, or fortified, I’m interested. So on a recent trip to Friuli, I would be remiss if I didn’t indulge in the local digestif, Grappa. Grappa is a fortified wine made from the grape skins (also known as must or pomace) that are removed from the juice before fermentation. So the grapes are crushed and pressed, then they remove the skins to let the juice ferment. The pomace then goes through a distillation process in order to create the pomace-brandy, Grappa.
Grappa is now a protected name just like Champagne or Cognac. To be called grappa, the brandy must be produced in Italy, produced from pomace, and all fermentation and distillation occurs on the pomace without the addition of water. These rules/regulations were put into place in order to produce a higher-quality spirit, maintain the integrity of the spirit and to guard against rogue moonshine operations.
Grappa is served primarily after dinner as a digestive. The reason being it is to aid in the digestion of heavy meals. They’re usually clear or very light in color and extremely aromatic. A few have started aging grappas in oak which lends to more pale golden colors and caramel and vanilla flavors. The younger ones, the good ones, will have a smooth flavor with hints of citrus or berry fruit. Then the finish will bring the heat! Not spicy heat, think like vodka heat as while this is made from grapes, it is distilled which turns it into a spirit. Sip slowly and in moderation.
At every winery visited in Friuli, at the end of the tasting the group would look at each other, look at the producer, and then one person in the group would speak up and say, “Do you guys have any Grappa for sampling?” The winemaker would go in the back and bring us several grappas to sample. We bought a bottle every time! Only 2 bottles of grappa actually made it home with me, one Livio Felluga and the other from Zorzettig. I will be on the lookout for more at my local wine & spirits shop.