How to Drink Grappa

What is Grappa? How to Drink It? A Practical Guide to Italy’s Celebrated Spirit

What is grappa? Grappa is a unique Italian drink made from the leftover bits of grapes used in winemaking. They take those grape leftovers, distill them, and turn them into a spirit.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this special drink, covering:

Key Takeaways

  • Grappa isn’t just any drink—it has a deep history that goes back hundreds of years, making it a part of Italy’s cultural legacy.
  • Every bottle of grappa is made with care and skill, using traditional methods that turn leftover grape bits into a flavorful spirit.
  • Grappa isn’t just for sipping—it can also be used in cooking and making cocktails, adding exciting flavors to various dishes and drinks.

What is Grappa?

Discover the distilled magic of Grappa
Elevate your evening with a taste of tradition. Cheers to Grappa!
Source: sommtv

Grappa used to be a strong drink with a rough taste, but it’s now gaining attention for its interesting flavors and fancy complexity.

Grappa is an Italian drink made from the leftovers of wine production, such as grape skins, seeds, and stems. It really captures the taste of grapes in a bottle.

Usually, people have grappa after dinner. It warms you up and smells nice, helping with digestion (as a digestif) and making the end of the meal feel special. Some people even like mixing grappa with other drinks to create new flavors.

Brief History of Grappa

Grappa got its start in the 1600s in Northern Italy, especially in Lombardy.

Despite what some stories say, the old distillation methods from ancient Rome weren’t really good enough to make grappa, so that tale about a Roman soldier making it in Bassano del Grappa isn’t true.

A big moment in grappa’s history happened in 1779 when the Nardini Distillery was founded. They were the first to make grappa in a formal way and set the standard for how others would make it in the future.

Grappa’s Legal Protection

Grappa is protected by the European Union, which means it has a special status called Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

This ensures that every bottle of grappa meets certain quality standards and is genuinely Italian. To get the PGI label, grappa has to be:

  1. Made in Italy using Italian-grown grapes.
  2. Produced without adding water to the leftover grape bits (called pomace), so the grappa stays pure and keeps its real taste.

Italian law adds even more protection by making winemakers sell their leftover grape bits only to grappa makers. This helps control the amount of methanol in grappa, which is important for safety.

Plus, only grappa made in Italy, San Marino, and some Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland can be called “Italian grappa.” This helps keep its cultural and geographic identity intact.

How is Grappa Made – From Pomace to Spirit

How is Grappa Made
A toast to heritage and craftsmanship. Grappa: the spirit of Italian excellence

Grappa turns leftover grape bits, called pomace, into a nice-smelling drink.

First, good pomace is gathered from making wine, and that really affects how the final grappa tastes. Grappa improved over time because of improved cooling during distillation, especially around the 14th century.

Choosing the Right Grape Pomace

Picking the right grape bits, or pomace, is super important for making top-notch grappa. To keep it fresh and good, they must store the pomace right after making wine, using special methods like adding alcohol or keeping it cold.

How they handle the pomace matters a lot, too. They need to ensure it doesn’t have too much bad stuff like methanol when distilling it, which is more common in low-quality pomace.

They’re picky about which grapes they use, even red ones. And they’re super careful about picking them, so the pomace, which includes the skins, has the best flavors and smells. This pomace comes from just the juice of the grapes, making the grappa extra pure.

Distillation Methods

Making grappa is like an art, and there are different ways to do it, like continuous or non-continuous cycles, using different equipment like steam-injected alembics or old-school direct fire.

They have to be careful not to burn the grape bits and keep the quality of the drink high, so they often use gentle methods like bain-marie or steam distillation.

These methods help the drink achieve the perfect balance of flavors and aromas, so every sip of grappa tastes like the grapes it came from.

About Grappa Varieties

Grappa Varieties
Discover the distilled magic of Grappa. Pure, potent, perfect.

In the world of grappa, you’ll find many different types, each with its special flavor. This comes from the type of grape they use and how they make it. Here are a few examples:

  1. Mono-varietal grappas: These focus on just one type of grape, bringing out its unique flavors.
  2. Grappas with fresh, green fruit and white floral notes: These have a light, fruity taste with hints of flowers.
  3. Grappas with richer tones of hazelnut and dark chocolate: These are more intense, with nutty and chocolaty flavors.

Grappa comes in all sorts of flavors, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Unaged vs. Aged Grappas

The aging process makes different types of grappa, with unaged grappa called Grappa Giovane. It looks clear and tastes fresh and light.

On the other hand, aged grappas like Grappa Invecchiata and Grappa Barricata spend time in wooden barrels, getting more complex flavors and deeper colors.

Aged grappas might have hints of spices, vanilla, and tobacco. The longer they age, the more they cost because some alcohol evaporates during aging, known as the ‘angel’s share.’

People drink aged grappa slowly, enjoying its rich, evolved taste and warmth. They often sip it neat to appreciate its depth fully.

Aromatic Grappas

Aromatic grappas are a real treat, made from grapes that are naturally full of fragrance, like Moscato, Malvasia, or Gewürztraminer.

Some distilleries get creative, using special yeast and fermentation methods to produce even more flavors and smells in the grape bits.

For instance, unaged grappas from white grapes might have lovely floral scents and feel smooth on the tongue, thanks to a bit of glycerol.

And if they take out the seeds from the grape bits, the grappa can be even smoother and more aromatic. The stuff left in the seeds (polyphenols) might be useful in other industries.

Serving and Enjoying Grappa

Serving grappa in a glass
Bold, smooth, and unmistakably Italian. Enjoy Grappa responsibly.

Enjoying grappa is something personal, and it varies from person to person. Whether you like it at room temperature or chilled, it’s best to drink grappa neat in small glasses shaped like tulips. That way, you can smell and taste all its flavors.

But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try using grappa in cocktails to give them a unique twist. It adds its particular taste to traditional recipes.

And for those who love to cook, a little grappa can add a lot of flavor to dishes. It goes incredibly well with sweet things like bitter chocolate desserts or savory dishes with dried fruit.

Drinking Grappa Neat

To truly enjoy grappa neat, you’ll want to use a small tulip-shaped glass, only filled about a quarter of the way. This shape lets the aroma of the grappa come through with each sip.

The temperature you serve it at makes a difference, too:

young grappas taste best when they’re a bit chilled, around 47-48°F, while aged grappas are better slightly warmer, at 61-62°F. This helps bring out all the different flavors.

Some people even like to rub a bit of grappa between their hands and then smell the evaporated vapors before taking a sip. It’s a way to fully immerse yourself in the aroma of the spirit before you taste it.

Grappa Cocktails and Coffee Pairings

Grappa’s versatility stands out in cocktails, where it adds a complex twist to drinks. Here are a few examples:

  1. This one has a citrusy flavor.
  2. Grappa Semifreddo: It’s creamy and smooth.
  3. Espresso Martini: This one’s robust, with espresso and grappa.
  4. Caffè Corretto: It’s a classic mix of espresso and a splash of grappa, giving it a nice kick.

Moscato grappa, in particular, with its floral and fruity notes, works excellent in sweet and spirited cocktails alike.

Cooking with Grappa

Using grappa in cooking is creative and adds a lot of flavor. For example, adding a splash of grappa to traditional sweet recipes like Panettone can really make the flavors pop and add a touch of luxury.

And when you pair grappa with bitter chocolate or dried fruits, it brings out even more flavors, adding an extra layer of complexity to dishes that excite the taste buds.

Here’s a list of foods that can benefit from adding grappa:

  1. Panettone: Adding grappa to this traditional sweet bread can elevate its flavors and add a luxurious touch, enhancing the overall taste experience.
  2. Bitter Chocolate Desserts: Grappa pairs exceptionally well with bitter chocolate, adding depth and complexity to desserts like chocolate mousse, truffles, or flourless chocolate cake.
  3. Dried Fruit Compotes: Incorporating grappa into dried fruit compotes or sauces can infuse them with an extra layer of flavor, balancing sweetness with a hint of complexity from the grappa.
  4. Sauces for Meat: Grappa can be used in sauces for meats like pork or game, adding depth of flavor and a subtle hint of sweetness that complements the savory elements of the dish.
  5. Fruit Sorbets or Granitas: Adding a splash of grappa to fruit sorbets or granitas can enhance their fruitiness and provide a pleasant contrast to the sweetness, creating a refreshing and sophisticated dessert.
  6. Marinades for Grilled Fruits: Using grappa in marinades for grilled fruits like peaches or pineapple can add a unique flavor dimension, enhancing the natural sweetness of the fruits with a touch of warmth and complexity.

Finding Your Perfect Grappa

Finding the perfect grappa is like going on a taste adventure. There are options for beginners that ease you into the world of grappa, and then there are fancier ones that let you dive deep into all the different flavors grappa offers. No matter what kind of flavors you like, a grappa exists for you.

As you try different kinds, think about what you like best. Maybe you’ll enjoy the bright, fresh taste of a young grappa, or perhaps you’ll prefer the complex flavors of an aged one.

Grappa for Beginners

If you’re just starting to explore this drink, it’s a good idea to begin with Grappa brands known for their smooth and balanced flavors.

For beginners, I recommend trying Poli Grappa di Moscato, which has a sweet floral smell and a smooth, creamy taste. Another good option is Poli Sarpa di Poli Grappa, which harmoniously blends floral and fruity flavors.

These grappas are easy to enjoy traditionally, appreciating their simple yet inviting flavors. You can find them online if you’re eager to start your grappa adventure.

Premium Grappas for Connoisseurs

For those who appreciate fine flavors, some premium grappas are worth trying. Here are a few:

  1. Marolo Grappa di Barolo: This one’s aged for 12 years, giving it a mix of woody and peppery smells, along with hints of fruit and tobacco.
  2. Nardini Selection Riserva 7 Anni: Aged in special barrels, it has its unique aromas and a complex taste.
  3. Poli Barrique Solera di Famiglia: Also aged in special barrels, this grappa has a one-of-a-kind smell and taste.

Each of these special grappas makes every sip feel like a luxurious treat.


So, what is Grappa?” Grappa is like an Italian cousin to wine, made from leftover grape bits after making wine. It’s not just a drink—you can enjoy it neat or use it to spice up your cooking or cocktails.

There are different kinds, from easy-to-drink ones for beginners to fancy-aged ones for experts. Whether sipping a smooth one or trying a complex aged version, grappa takes you on a flavor adventure.

It’s been around for ages and is a big part of Italian culture, showing off its skill in making tasty drinks and giving your taste buds a real treat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is grappa similar to wine since it’s made from grapes?

No, grappa is not similar to wine because it is a distilled spirit with a higher alcohol content and a different flavor profile, crafted through distillation rather than fermentation.

Can I use any glass to drink grappa?

Yes, you can technically use any glass, but it is recommended to use a small tulip-shaped glass to appreciate grappa’s aroma and flavor fully. This design helps concentrate the bouquet for a better tasting experience.

What does the term ‘Grappa Giovane’ mean?

‘Grappa Giovane’ refers to unaged grappa, which has a clear appearance and a fresher taste than its aged counterparts. This makes it a great starting point for those new to grappa.

How long can I store an opened bottle of grappa?

You can store an opened bottle of grappa for several years if kept in a cool, dark place, allowing it to maintain its flavor.

Is grappa only produced in Italy?

Yes, authentic grappa is only produced in Italy, and its production is protected under European Union law. However, products labeled’ Italian grappa’ can also come from some specific regions, including San Marino and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland.


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