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The history of Italian grappa, a Made in Italy excellence

There is no drink like Italian grappa that better represents the concept of Made in Italy. That is because grappa is a completely Italian product: the European regulation regarding the protection of geographic details of alcoholic drinks indicates grappa as grape pomace brandy distilled exclusively in Italy. This means that the grape used for its production must cultivated and vinified on Italian soil, only in this case can the product be referred to as “grappa”.

How do you obtain Italian grappa?

Italian grappa is a distillate obtained from pomace fermentation, that is the skins and the seeds of the grape previously used for wine production. The history of grappa goes back to ancient times and it is connected to the world of medical formulations and alchemy. The invention of the distillation process is attributed to a doctor from Padoa, Michele Savonarola, who described every step of it in a treatise he wrote in the 1400 called “De Conficienda Aqua Vitae”; it was about the search for a cure against infectious disorders.  

grappa italiana-italiantraditions
Sportello Agricoltura

Italian grappa as a drink has its roots in a poor scenario: the rich used to drink wine leaving the scraps to ordinary people, those scraps were the pomace. Thus grappa came to be as a result of the approach that poor people had, which was to use literally every resource: pomaces started to be distilled for the production of brandy which today is very popular all around the world. At a grassroots level, grappa consumption became quite popular in the late middle ages, but the liquor’s taste was still very harsh and strong. Starting from the 1700s, by perfecting the distillation column, the fermentation process is optimized so as to have a smoother taste, very similar to that of modern day grappa. In the period just before World War I, Italian grappa was mainly known in Northern Italy: it was the soldiers who brought it all over the peninsula as they often used this hard liquour just before going into a battle, to gain some courage.  

How does distillation of Italian grappa work?

Grappa Poli

Distillation consists in separating the components from a liquid mixture by using selective boiling or condensation; in the past this used to happen through double boiler stills or with direct flame. It was the Nardini distillery that introduced the method of steam distillation which led to the smoother and finer taste that we know today. Italian grappa is usually drunk at the end of a meal and there are many kinds: young, aromatic, aged, stravecchie, monovarietal, polivitigni, and flavoured.  

Barricade grappas are very refined and they belong to the aged type because they are left to rest in wooden barrels where they take on the characteristic aromas. Currenly in the Italian territory there are 131 distilleries and the regions which are active Sono molto ricercate le “grappe barricate” che appartengono alla categoria delle invecchiate perché vengono lasciate a riposare all’interno di fusti di legno dove si arricchiscono degli aromi caratteristici. Attualmente sul territorio italiano vi sono ben 131 distillerie e le regioni attive nella produzione di acquavite di vinaccia sono: Piemonte, Lombardia, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia e Sicilia.

Distilleria Nardini

Molte di queste distillerie offrono tour guidati e degustazioni per scoprire al meglio il pregiato liquore. Tra le più famose spiccano: la sopraccitata Distilleria Nardini, fondata nel 1779 a Bassano del Grappa, in Veneto. Il nome del paese è in realtà solo una coincidenza, in quanto la denominazione, avrebbe origine semplicemente da “grappolo” d’uva. Sempre in Veneto, Poli Distillerie è in attività dal 1898 ed è anche sede del Poli Museo della Grappa che offre tour per scoprirne la storia e vanta una collezione di duemila bottiglie di grappe storiche. La friulana Distilleria Nonino è stata premiata nel 2020 come miglior distilleria al mondo ed è il primo produttore di grappa italiana a ricevere l’onorificenza, a sottolineare l’apprezzamento sempre maggiore per la grappa italiana su scala globale.

Featured Image: Pravis

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