What is Grappa?


Grappa is a unique, ancient traditional Italian drink made from pomace (the solid remains of grapes, after pressing for juice. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit), the by-products of the wine-making process. The discarded products such as grape seeds, stalks and stems are taken through a distillation process in the hopes of removing the last remnants of flavours in the by-products before they are finally discarded. The end-product, Grappa is normally taken after meals.

History of Grappa

Historically, Grappa comes from Italy’s northern Veneto region, Bassano del Grappa, the town where it also gets its name from. Initially, Grappa was referred to as a ‘poor man’s drink’ and it remained that way into the 1960s. Grappa, which has been in existence since the Middle Ages is taken after meals. It is believed to aid in digestion hence being consumed after meals. It was initially distilled by direct flame, but later steam distillation or baine marie was utilised.
Today, Grappa has spread its wings beyond Italy. It is being produced and drunk in different parts of the world.


D istillers used to move with mobile stills from vineyard to vineyard in search of the pomace. The pomace was stored in silos and covered in a bid to retain its moisture and reduce oxidation. Larger stalls and wood were then removed from the pomace before being transferred to the stills. Two types of stills are utilized in the production of Grappa; continuous distillation and discontinuous distillation. The distillation process helps extract the alcohol from the pomace. It also helps concentrate the alcohol. Continuous distillation is utilized in the industrial production of Grappa. Discontinuous distillation or batch distillation on the other hand makes use of double-boiler ‘bain-marie’ stills, flowing steam pots stills or direct fire stills and is used in the artisan production of Grappa.
The type and quality of grapes used will determine the flavour of the drink. Typically, it is clear in colour, however, Grappa that is let to mature in oak barrels tends to attain a light brown colour.
Traditionally, Grappa in Italy is made through the direct distillation process. This process depends on the type of pomace used. Grappa can either be made through the fermentation process or the non-fermentation process. With the fermentation process, the pomace is fermented together with the must or grape juice and contains alcohol. It is also reddish in colour. The non-fermentation process on the other hand requires the removal of the pomace from the must and the end product is almost always white in colour.

Grappa styles

Grappa is classified according to its age, grape variety and the area in which it hails from.
A look at the different Grappa style available:
Giovani (young) which is Grappa that is derived from the vine and fermentation and remains in stainless steel tanks until it has to be bottled.
 Aromatica(romatic) which is obtained from aromatic or semi-aromatic vine varieties such as Malvasia, Muscat and Traminer.
 Affinata(Refined) which is bottled after aging for less than a year in wooden barrels.
 Invecchiata or Vecchia(aged or old) which is Grappa that had been aged in the wooden barrels for at least 12 months.
 Stravecchia or Riserva (Reserve or Very Old) which is Grappa that has been aged in the wood for at least 18 months.
 Polivitigno (Poly-Variety) which is Grappa that is obtained from a cuvee of single grape varieties which belong to the same family but with different ripening periods, clones, harvest times or provenance.
 Single Variety which is Grappa made from a specific variety of grapes
 Aromatizzatta(flavoured) which is Grappa that has been flavoured with plant flavours such as Liquorice, Blueberry or Rue herb.

Photo source Carsten Tolkmit

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • invinoveritas July 13, 2015, 4:26 am

    There are some restaurants and cafes (mostly in Italy, but I’ve seen a few in the US too, especially places which have a large wine and spirits list) which serve a shot of grappa mixed with espresso. I think they call it “caffe corretto” which essentially translates to “corrected coffee.” It sounds kind of strange, you would think the espresso would be too bitter to mix well with the grappa, but the alcohol kind of gives the coffee an extra kick! It’s really nice! I’ve also seen places offer it with sambuca and that actually does turn out way too bitter for my tastes.

    It can burn a little — especially some of the cheap stuff — but it clears the palate really nicely. Which is especially nice if you don’t like the taste of coffee or heavy foods still in your mouth after dinner.

    I don’t actually drink it on its own too much because there’s a lot of mediocre grappa out there, especially in the U.S. where people don’t know as much about it and there aren’t any regulations. If a winery produces it as an afterthought the pomace can spoil before it’s completed, and it gives you this sort of oily taste/feel….

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