Grappa is pure Italian heritage. It is the result of an alchemical journey where grape skin and pulp are transformed, drop by drop, into Grappa. Only a handful of producers have mastered exceptional, eloquent and mind-blowing grappas. The process used to make this incredible product is called distillation. The product used, is the leftover fermented grape skin from wine making.
You cannot make grappa without someone first making wine, because it is the wine making leftovers that make Grappa. It is the aromas locked inside the skin of the grape that the distiller wants.
How Grappa is made
When the time comes, grapes are harvested and sent to the winery. Here they are destemmed then crushed, to then end up in tanks to allow the magic to happen. Yes, fermentation! That fascinating process where yeasts convert the natural sugar in the grapes into alcohol.
Once this process is over, the liquid and the solid part take different paths: Wine continues to do what it needs to do to become that amazing nectar that we all love.
The left over crushed grapes – vinaccia (marc) take on another very interesting and unique path that will turn it into Grappa.
The marc sent to the distillery has to be very very fresh and it can be of 2 types:
- Fermented, if it comes from red grapes that have undergone maceration.
- non-fermented (virgin) if it comes from white wine making. In this case the marc has to be fermented because distillation needs alcohol.
There are 2 different types of distillation processes:
The discontinuous-cycle used to make the good quality artisan production.
The continuous-cycle which is used for industrial mass production of grappa.
We are interested in the discontinuous-cycle, which is the technique used to make the good stuff!
The fermented marc is placed is copper stills. This still is sealed and then heated from the bottom using direct fire, bain-marie or steam. According to their different boiling points, the volatile parts of the marc separate, extracting the alcohol and aromatic substances.
The vapours are then cooled back down in their liquid state. The head, the first part of the distilled liquid, has to be eliminated because it would give Grappa a terribly unpleasant taste, besides the fact that is contains methyl alcohol which is toxic. All the good substances, called the heart, arrive later on as they have a lower evaporation point. That is where all the wonderful aromas are nestled. Then there is the tail, which is a concentrate of fat and oily substances. That too has to be eliminated as it would ruin the final product.
The Master Distiller is the magician that knows how to recognise and establish which is which. He is like a director directing vapours and aromas into becoming that unique harmonious product that is Grappa. And he does all this manually!
There is still another procedure before the distilled liquid can be drinkable Grappa. After the distillation process, the grappa-to-be has between 65 and 85% alc/vol, definitely a bit to much to call it a pleasant drink! This will be reduced by adding distilled or mineralised water. The final alcohol content has to, by law, range between 37,5 and 60% alc/vol and it is up to the producer to decide the strength according to the Grappa he wants to produce.
All you need to do now is enjoy the final product of this magical and unique process. Our 90-Minute Grappa Tasting tour is good place to start. And our moscato journey will leave you speechless!