Grappa is the perfect ending to yet another delicious Italian meal! This venerable digestive has been produced and enjoyed in Italy for centuries; it was mentioned in 14th Century documents and by the end of the 15th Century it was already licensed, taxed and exported – yes, even way back then the Tax Man was quick to recognise the potential and grab his share! Although Grappa had humble origins – it was widely produced in home stills by just about every wine farmer and grape producer in the North of Italy – it has come a long way since it’s rather rough-and-ready high potency origins and today Grappa is enjoyed all over the world and some of the better Grappa can be a most sophisticated ending to an enjoyable meal.
What is Grappa?
Grappa is made from pomace, the left-over skins, seeds, and stems that remain after grapes have been crushed for wine. Sometimes fruit or other aromatics such as fresh herbs and spices are added to this raw material before it is distilled using either the old fashioned direct-fired stills or more modern methods utilizing steam heating. The distillate is a clear liquid with a hefty alcohol content of around 37% to 40% (and often higher, especially home-made varieties that are not subject to control). A similar product is also produced in France, called Marc, but the name “Grappa” may only be used for those spirits originating in Italy, and there are various regulations controlling the alcohol content (it cannot be less than 40%), distillation process and the grapes used. The resulting distillate is crystal clear and completely colourless.
The big players in the grappa business.
Today there are several enterprising Italian producers, among them some big names like Nardini (Bassano del Grappa) and Nonino in the Friuli Region, who have started to promote and refine the end product. Instead of using whatever grapes are available, (traditionally the old Grappa was made from a mixture of wine-grape remnants) they have started to produce single variety Grappa (cru monovitigno) and Grappa made from the grapes of particular denominated areas. In addition, some producers are aging the distillate in oak, ash or chestnut barrels, which imparts subtle flavours of vanilla, tobacco and sweet spices as well as changing the colour to anything from a light straw to a deeper amber hue. Most of the larger wineries now have their own “house brand” grappa specially distilled for them to sell alongside their wine.
Further innovations to improve the image and desirability of Grappa include the wide-spread use of beautiful hand-blown glass bottles, some embellished with beautiful stoppers, a variety of seals, gold caps, ribbons and lace reminiscent of the more gracious Renaissance era.
How to enjoy grappa.
The best way to enjoy Grappa in the traditional way is to serve it in a small tulip-shaped glass which will enhance the aroma. Young Grappa should be served cool (around 9 – 13C) while older Grappa would best be enjoyed at room temperature (17C). Many Italians enjoy sipping a Grappa alongside their Espresso, or even combining the two.
In the last decade there has been a big increase in the popularity of Grappa, leading it to become quite fashionable. A “Grappa Movement” – (i Grappisti) has been formed to promote the drink and there have been competitions where “mixologists” compete to produce the best cocktail containing Grappa as the primary ingredient. For your own modern take on Grappa try this suggestion from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as the finale to your next dinner party: Put a bottle of Grappa and 2-3 bunches of grapes in the freezer for about 2-3 hours. Serve the chilled grapes and Grappa on a large platter with a few bars of good black chocolate – superb!
Emilia Delizia would be very happy to organise tours for those interested in the process of making this famous Italian Spirit. Typically produced in the North West of Italy, the producers are easily reached from Venice, Verona, Bologna and Milan. Our company can organise transport, visits and lunches. A minimum of 10 people is required.
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I visited the Food Tours with my wife, we were looking forward to this some time ago and I can state that this tour bring to us very interesting time and experience in spite of the fact that we departed from Milano by morning train at 5,50 am. Our guide was young man and we enjoyed all morning together talking not only about the parmazan, balsamic and parma ham. I really appreciate it. He was very communicate, his driving was safety, very polite. Parmazan farm - amazing, balsamic farm -
My boyfriend and I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Tour, which included stops at producers of cheese, balsamic vinegar and cured meat. Paolo was an amazing tour guide – he's extremely knowledgeable, kind and a great communicator. We learned so much! It was really nice to be in a smaller group and most of the producers we visited were small so we were able to get a close up view of the processes. We'd highly recommend Emilia Delizia as this tour was truly authentic and a highlight of our trip!
thank you for the kind review
The tour of the Parmesan Reggiano cheese dairy, Balsamic Vinegar farm, the Parma ham and lunch at the organic vineyard was thoroughly enjoyed by our family of 4. Paolo was a gracious and knowledgeable host for the day and provided us with insights to the production of the cheese and balsamic vinegar which was enhanced due to his chemistry background. We would thoroughly recommend this tour to those interested in the specialities produced in the Modena region.
We had a wonderful tour, best part about visiting the Modena region!
The tour was perfect. I think Paolo would be a splendid ambassador for Italy in the EU. He knows how excellent Italian food and eating together can solve many major problems, and can stop aggressive behavior. Not the hunt for more money, but the well being of family and friends counts. Paolo shows us the products of ages of civilization and he did this like an artist. So after the tour we really love Italia more and we'll come back. We will call you Paolo, Thanks!
Following two tours with your guides this week I would like to express my thanks for some wonderful experiences.
Monday we did the tour of cheese making, balsamic and Salami which was very good and the guide Paolo was very knowledgeable.
The truffle hunt tour today was absolutely amazing, the guide Stefano is pure gold and the tour was built with much thought. Our best experience so far, by far.
Looking forward to more tours and fun next time we are in Italy.
The group (and me) was VERY satisfied. We really enjoyed the Parmegiano Regiano which was interesting and we got to buy some delicate and cheap cheese, the same with the balsamico. The Ferrari driving was off course an experience for life. The Winery lunch felt very genuine and the people there was really welcoming and nice people. The genuine feeling there was however the big plus for us.
Paolo was excellent as our guide. He also felt very genuine. He did not talk just for the sake of talking, but when he had something to say he did it in a respectful and nice way. Everyone in the group really liked him.
I wanted to let you know what a great day we had this past Friday on our tour with Jacamo. (Probably not spelling it right) He was very nice and explained everything to us. It sure gives you a new appreciation when you are slicing cheese. 🙂 Our tour ended with him taking us to the vineyard for a tour and lunch and there, Paolo, the owner could not have been more nicer. It was a perfect ending.
Please let Jacamo know what a great job he did and how much we really appreciated it and his knowledge
The website is well structured and we received a prompt answer to all questions. Gabriele supported us with all information we needed and the organization before the trip was excellent.
We had an air conditioned van, which was very relaxing through the whole tour. The first stop was the parmigiano production, which was very impressive and interesting. We could learn and especially see all the different steps and even taste the various aged parmigiano. The second step was the balsamic vinegar tasting. Finally the meat part was interesting in the museum but we hoped that we also could see more about the production and their work, but the tasting was delicious. In overall we had a very informative and well accommodated half day with our guide
It was great experience! We visited Parmesan cheese production, Balsamic vinegar farm, Ham museum and Farmer's lunch. Our guide gave us a detailed explanation, we were very satisfied. An excellent tour for a reasonable price, highly recommended.