t is a Wednesday a
ernoon in November1965, and three Italians from the samenorthern village are using an extremely cheap,
ery spirit for very di
erent reasons. Amother pours out a shot of the wet
re from anunassuming metal jar—a ubiquitous containerseen in every single home in the area. She cradlesthe drink in hands lovingly and makes her seven-year-old boy consume it before he begins his coldmorning walk to school.Next door, a grimacing farmer pours hugeamounts of the liquid all over his freshly woundedleg. As the boy walks on he waves to a shopowner sipping a copita of the spirit along withhis morning co
ee. Sometime a
er 1970, thatsame humble, commonplace elixir began a rapid journey. Straight into an alcohol stratosphere of high-end crystal bottles and price appreciations torival any tulip or internet bubble. In 2007, one cannow shell out 100 quid or more for a single bottle.
is is the story of Grappa.Grappa and its cousins are made from thedistillation of le
overs. Pomace, the startingmaterial, is a general term for the solid remainsof olives, grapes or other fruit a
er pressing—usually done to produce oil or juice. If onetakes 100 kilos of grapes and presses them forwine, about 25 kilos of solid gunk remains.
is pomace, or “vinaccie” in Italian, is mainly
Cinderella to Queen
By Keith B. Ho
collecting any of that sin swill. Next comes out the“heart”, a clear run that is condensed into the
er the heart, the distiller must againbe sure to not collect the
nal run, the “tail”, fullof bad tasting oils and associated impurities.Some modern-day variants no longer use justthe pomace, but venture a tad far from traditionby using whole grapes.
e best of the currentGrappas only use, in single-malt Scotch and
ne-wine fashion, selected pomace from a single-grape varietal, terroir,
rst pressing, etc. GiannolaNonino apparently invented the modern-day
comprised of the grape skins, seeds, le
over pulp,must, and perhaps a few stems.
ese remnantshave been traditionally used for fertiliser, animalfeed and spirit production. Once properly distilled, and optionally aged in barrels like
neScotch, the end product is called: Grappa (Italy),Marc (France), Orujo (Spain), Raki (Turkey),etc. Grappa di
ers from things like Cognac andBrandy by the fact that the latter two are producedwhen normal winemaking processes are taken thefurther steps of distillation and wood aging.
e distillation process has two main types:continuous (used for industrial quantities,automated), and discontinuous (constantmonitoring and tinkering employed by masters).Perhaps surprisingly, Grappa is made, by law, without the addition of water during itsdistillation process.
erefore, the pomace mustbe heated as a solid to extract the alcohols. Howdo they do that? Steam. In the “discontinuous”process, a distiller must make the very importantdistinction between the varied runs of liquidbelting out of the steam inferno.
rst tocome, the “head” contains highly volatile, ando
en poisonous compounds such as methanol,esters and acids. Extreme care is required to avoid