Category Archives: Grappa

CASALE DEL GIGLIO WINERY: Bellone, Cesanese, Petit Manseng, Viognier and More

Casale del Giglio was the last winery on my recent tour of three wineries south of Rome. I was familiar with this winery because when I was the wine director for I Trulli restaurant in NYC we carried their wines.

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Elise

When John Curtas, a journalist from Las Vegas, and I arrived at the winery Elise Rialland gave us some background information. I had met Elise from the export office the night before in Rome. I had a nice time talking to her and her husband.

Dr. Berardino Santarelli, from the Appenine hill town of Amatrice, founded Casale del Giglio in 1967. The estate is between the town of Aprilia and Latina in the Agro Pontino valley about 50 miles from Rome. The winemaker is Paolo Tiefenthaler who also consults for other wineries and makes a methode classico spumante in Trento where he lives.

Paolo took us to the roof of the winery where we could see the vineyards. He said the area did not have much of a winemaking tradition and 60 different grape varieties were planted to determine see which ones would do best.

They converted the 180 hectares of vineyards to the cordon training system, planting the grapes which adapt well to the territory and produce quality wines such as: Syrah, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Tempranijo, plus other international and local varieties.

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Paolo

They have 22 products, seven white wines, one rosé, seven reds, one late harvest, three grappas and an extra virgin olive oil.

We then went with Paolo to the cellars were he showed us a 225 liter demo barrel that is used to explain how wine develops in the barrel and its effects on the wine.img_2164

At lunchtime, we had one of the best meals that I have had at any winery in a very long time. They served two of my favorite pastas: Mezze Maniche alla Griciaimg_2168

and Amatriciana and they were as good, if not better, than any I have eaten in Rome! For the lunch I have thank to Linda Siddera, the Int. Events and Hospitality Coordinator for the winery.

Linda  with Elisa did the wine tasting for us

The Winesimg_2150

Bellone Lazio Bianco DOC Knowing my interest in the Bellone grape, Elise said the variety is cited by Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD). Today the grape is cultivated from Rome to the Lepini hills around the costal town of Anzio where the warm sandy soils tempered by a relentless sea breeze provide the ideal microclimate. The grape is vigorous and resistant to drought, a guarantee of wine quality and balance. The grapes are plump, golden yellow, thick skinned and hang in elongated cone shaped bunches. The constant sea breeze contributes to the over ripeness of the grapes and a high concentration of sugar and acidity lead to early maturation and the wines’ mineral notes. Harvest takes place at the end of September. Vinification: maceration is on the skins followed by a soft pressing and spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeast for about 10 to 12 days at 18 -20C. This is a balanced wine with tropical fruit aromas and flavors, hints of mango, floral and spice notes, good acidity and a long finish. The wine can age! img_2148

Satrico Lazio Bianco IGT made from 40% Chardonnay, 40% Sauvignon and 30% Trebbiano Giallo. Only the best bunches are selected and after a soft pressing the first run juice is separated from the skins. The different varieties are vinified separately.   A slow, temperature controlled continuous fermentation takes place for 7 or 8 days. After racking the wine matures in stainless steel tanks before it is bottled at the beginning of the following years. This is a fruity, crisp, lightly aromatic wine with hints of citrus fruit. The wine is named after the ancient pre-Roman town of Satricum.img_2156

Albiola Lazio Rosato IGT made from 85% Syrah and 15% Sangiovese, depending on the vintage. The dark skinned red grapes are lightly crushed and left in stainless steel tanks for several hours. After this initial period of cold maceration on the skins at 8 to 10°C some of the juice is “bled,” drained off from the tanks and fermented separately, a process known as saignéé from the French saigner to bleed. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats at about 18C for 8 to 10 days. The wine if floral and fruity with aromas and flavors of woodland berries dominated by strawberries and raspberries.img_2157

Cesanese Lazio Rosso IGT 100% Cesanese. The grape comes from the Latium Province of Frosinone around the hill towns of Affile and Piglio. It is a low yield late ripening variety, which lends itself to late harvest. The clusters are small, sparse and elongated, the berries oval and medium sized. Harvest does not take place until late October as the vineyards are situated on high, hilly slopes. Paolo said late ripening varieties normally make for a long lasting wine. The more days between flowering and maturity, the more suitable the wine will be for long aging. There is submerged, spontaneous fermentation at 18-20°C for about 20 days followed by a further 10/12 days of maceration on the skins to extract the very last traces of the tannins in which the skins and seeds of the Cesanese grape are particularly rich. The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry and violets and a touch of spice.img_2158

 Shiraz IGT Lazio made from 100% Syrah. Only the ripest and healthiest grapes are selected for vinification. Two days of cold maceration at about 10C takes place. Vinification continues with the punching down of the floating cap 3 or 4 times a day. The fermenting must is racked and returned (délestage) several times during the initial stages of the 10 to 12 day fermentation process at 28°C. The new wine is carefully drawn off into stainless steel vats for malolactic fermentation, the color, tannins and aroma still present in the fermented skins are extracted in the soft press to which they are gently persuaded to slide by force of natural gravity alone. The wine is aged in barriques for 8 to 12 months and for 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, blueberry, cherry, black pepper and a touch of violets.img_2299

Mater Matuta Lazio Rosso IGT. Made from 85% Syrah and 15 % Petit Verdot (proportions may vary slightly depending on the vintage.) The grapes are harvested when fully ripe and the Syrah may be slightly shriveled, and vinified in different ways. Submerged cap is used for the Syrah, which ferments on native yeasts for 18 to 20 days. During the first few days délestage takes place several times. Punching down is used for the Petit Verdot for the extraction of the grape’s tannins and polyphenolic compounds. The full-bodied Petit Verdot gives the wine its long aging potential, and the Syrah gives complexity of character. Each new wine goes into new barriques. Color, tannins and aromas still present in the fermented skins are extracted in the soft presses to which they slide by gravity. After 22 to 24 months in oak the wines are blended and left in the bottle for another 10 to 12 months. This is a big complex wine with hints of black cherry, spice, cinnamon and violets. It has a long finish and very pleasing after taste. This is their flagship wine. The name comes from the ancient Italic goddess of the dawn.

Chardonnay Lazio IGT– a wine that does not undergo malolatic fermentation and is aged for 3 to 4 months in stainless steel so the true varietal character comes through.

Sauvignon Blanc Lazio IGT (vinification and aging is like the Chardonnay) It is a very balanced wine with good acidity and a hint of grass.img_2153

Viognier Lazio Bianco IGT produced from fully ripe and over ripe grapes. The wine is stored on its lees in stainless steel tanks to prevent malolactic fermentation. It is a true expression of the Viognier grape.

Biancolella di Ponza IGT Bianco LazioFaro Della Guarda” in Lazio the wine made from the Biancolella can only be produced on the Island of Ponza which is off the southwest coast of Lazio. The grape is a native of Campania and came to Ponza from Ischia. However we did not get to taste this wine.img_2170

Aphrodisium-late harvest dessert wine made from Petit Mansegn, Viognier, Greco and Fiano, proportions depending on the vintage. These white grapes are harvested at different times. The Petit Manseng at the end of October when the clusters are well shriveled by the sea breeze. The sugar level is 30 to 32 Bobo(Brix in English) degrees (potential of about 18% alcohol.) The grapes are pressed whole to extract just the highly concentrated juice. No yeast is added. The solid parts of the grape are left behind and the ratio of must extracted to grapes pressed is no more than 30%. Fermentation occurs spontaneously in stainless steel vats at about 18°C. This wine has hints of citrus fruit, peach and honey with a refreshing mineral crispness, a long finish and a very pleasant after taste.img_2172

After the excellent lunch, John and I were offered grappa. The grappa is from the newly fermented skins from Casale del Giglio’s grapes but it is distilled at the Pilzer Distillery in Faver, Trento (it is illegal to have a distillery and winery on the same property in Italy.)

I selected the grappa made from Petit Manseng skins, which is a clear grappa. John selected the Petit Verdot, which is distilled the same way but is aged in wood and takes on a light brown color. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful lunch and visit.

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Filed under Bellone Grape, Casale del Giglio, Cesanese, Grappa, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lazio, Shiraz, Viognier

Drinking Bellone and Nero Buono at the Cincinnato Winery

Kim Sayid, who is working with a winery in Lazio, wrote me this text: “Would you like to go to Rome and visit 3 wineries in Lazio near the town of Cori? You have to leave in two weeks and you would be based in Rome for 3 days.”

Rome, wineries — it was an offer I could not refuse.

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Cori

The other journalist on the trip was John Curtas from Las Vegas. We had never met before but his presence added to my enjoyment of the trip.

Cori is located 28 miles (45 klm) southeast of Rome.

The first winery we visited was Cincinnato where Giovanna Trisorio, the marketing director, welcomed us. We had met her the night before at a dinner in Rome.img_2078

She told us that the winery was named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus a 5th century BC Roman politician who was named consul and won the war against the Argui. After the victory, Cincinnatus gave up all power and went back to his farm in Cori. The company’s logo shows him working on the farm plowing the soil with his ox.

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On the right Giovanna Trisorio

The winery is located in the hills of Cori, an ancient village south of Rome. The climate is protected by the mountains and pleasantly mitigated by the sea. Cincinnato is a co-op founded in 1947 with 200 members and 400 hectors of vineyards. It is a very modern winery constructed using local products and workman.img_2093

We tasted the wines with lunch, which was made with all local products from Cori including their excellent extra virgin olive oil, Dioscuri, made from 100%“Itrana Cultivar”.

The winery is also an agriturismo and hosts guests in several comfortable rooms.img_2089

Castore 2015 IGT Lazio made from 100% Bellone. The vineyards are located on the lava hills around Cori at 200 to 250 meters and the soil is volcanic-clayey. A row training system is used and there are 3,000 to 4,000 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place September 10th-15th. Soft pressing and destemming takes places followed by static decantation for 24 hours and subsequent fermentation at a cold temperature 15C for 10 days. The wine remains on the lees for 2 months and malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 6 months and in bottle for 6 months before release.

The wine has delicate fruity aromas with hints of yellow peach and hawthorn.

Giovanna said that the Bellone grape’s ancestor is believed to be uva Pantastica, described by Pliny the Elder (d.79AD) in his Natural History. Giovanna said that the name Castore is from the mythical Dioscuri to whom the temple of Castor and Pollux is dedicated and the archeological remains are part of Cori’s heritage.img_2095

Pozzodorico 2014 IGT Lazio 100% Bellone the vineyards are at 250 meters and there are 4,000 plants per hectare, harvest is from September 10th to 20th. There is a soft pressing and destemming and fermentation takes place in 500 liter barrels for 12 days. Malolactic fermentation takes the wine remains on the lees for 12 months. The wine is aged in big barrels and for 6 months in bottle before release. Giovanna said this process makes a complex, full bodied and elegant wine and she is right. It has hints of exotic fruit, lemon and hazelnuts with nice minerality.

They also make a dessert wine from 100% Bellone called Solina IGT Lazio

Giovanna said the Bellone grape is an indigenous variety of ancient origin, cultivated in the area around Cori. It is known for its thin and delicate skin. It has good acidity.

I first tasted wine made from the Bellone grape a number of years ago in Rome and have been drinking it ever since.img_2088

Brut Spumante made from 100% Bellone  The grapes are picked in September when the acidity is high. Fermentation for about 10 days at 15C and malolactic fermentation does not take place. Charmat (tank) process for about 2 months and the wine remains in the bottle for 4 months before release. The wine has tiny bubbles, is slightly aromatic with hints of acacia and white peach.img_2090

Illirio Cori Bianco DOC Cori made from 50% Bellone, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, and 20% Greco from the Colle Illirio area at 200 to 250 meters. The soil is volcanic and clayey. The training system is row, there are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest is September 10th to 20th. There is soft pressing and destemming, followed by cold maceration with the skins for 24 hours. Fermentation at 15C – for 10 days, malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 6 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a fruity fragrant wine with hints of lemon and good minerality.img_2092

Pantaleo 2015 IGT Lazio made from 100% Greco. Soft pressing and destemming followed by static decantation for 24 hours and subsequent fermentation at a cold temperature 15C for 12 days. The wine remains on the lees for 2 months and malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine in aged for 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with personality. It had delicate fruity aromas with hits of citrus fruit and a touch of smoke. Giovanna said it should be drunk young to taste its characteristics at their best. She said this ancient variety, widespread in central Italy, has small grapes with thick dark skin and produces soft but full bodied wine.
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Polluce IGT Lazio made from 100% Nero Buono Giovanna said that this red grape is native to Cori, which was saved by the winery. The grapes are round and medium sized. The vines are guyot pruned, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest is from September 25th to October 5th. Soft pressing and destemming takes place. Malolactic fermentation. Fermentation is with the skins for about 10 days at 24°C. Aging in stainless steel tanks for 12 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of red and black fruit with a touch of raspberry and blackberry.img_2097

Raverosse Cori Rosso DOC made from Nero Buono 50%, Montepulciano 30%, Cesanese 20%. Vineyards are in the Raverosso area at 150 to 200 meters with 4,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is from September 25th to October 10th. There is a soft pressing and destemming followed by fermentation with skin contact for about 10 days at 24°C, followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in new barriques for 5 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. This is an intense wine with red and black fruit flavors and aromas and hints of dried berries.img_2098

Arcatura IGT Lazio made from 100% Cesanese, an ancient grape variety native to Lazio. This red grape has medium sized close–knit bunches of small grapes. The vineyard is at 200 to 250 meters. There are 4,000 grapes per hectare and the row training system uses spurred cordon pruning. Perfectly ripe grapes are soft pressed and destemmed. Fermentation with the skins for about 8 days, malolactic fermentation takes place. Aging in barriques for 8 months and half in stainless steel tanks for a year. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a fruity wine with aromas and flavors of red and black berries with a hint of blueberry and currants.img_2103

They also produce a grappa riserva called Arciprete from different grapes.

 

 

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Filed under Bellone Grape, Cesanese, Cincinnato winery, Grappa, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lazio, Nero Buono, Spumante

Dinner with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow

 

It is always a pleasure to be invited to dinner at the home of Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. Tom is a well-known wine writer and both he http://www.ubriaco.wordpress.com and Diane http://www.dianescookbooks.wordpress.com have their own blogs. Together they have written a number of books on Italian food.
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Tom always starts with something sparkling. This time it was Prosecco Brut “Rustico” NV Nino Franco (Veneto) 100% Glera from the classic production area, hillside vineyards situated at medium altitude. Pressing, destemming, then cooling of the must and fermentation is in steel tanks at controlled temperature. The second fermentation is in cuvee close (autoclave). The wine has nice bubbles, and it is fruity and flowery with a hint of pear.img_1120

It was a perfect combination with open faced smoked salmon sandwiches on dark bread, topped with either pickled ginger. capers and ginger.img_1121

Greco di Tufo 2014 Ag Agr Benito Ferrara (Campania) 100% Greco from a 4.65 hectare vineyard planted in 1940, 1959, 1960 and 2000. The soil is calcareous and clayey, rich in minerals. The exposure is east and it is at 500 meters. The training system is guyot. Grass is left in the aisles between the vines. Harvest takes place the second week of September. There is a soft pressing of the clusters in stainless steel vats with temperature control. The wine matures in steel vats for 7 months and remains in the bottle for 1 /2 months before release.

Tom had visited the winery when he was in Campania. He said that the Greco vineyards are next to abandoned sulfur mines and sulfur rocks can be found in the vineyard. This gives the wine its mineral notes.

Tom was very enthusiastic about the wine and I had to agree with him. It is wonderful expression of Greco, rich, and balanced with hints of white fruit, white flowers, bitter almonds and nice minerality. It had a very long finish and a very pleasing after taste.img_1122

With the wine, Diane served crispy mozzarella in carrozza with a creamy anchovy sauce.img_1123

Chianti Classico 1998 Castello de Fonterutoli (Tuscany)  Made from 100% Sangiovese, from grapes grown in vineyards with extremely different characteristics. The vineyard Fonterutoli is at 450 meters with a west- southwest exposure, Badiola is at 450 meters with a west-southwest exposure and Belvedere is at 300 meters with southeastern-southwestern exposure. The training system is freestanding spur. Fermentation is at a controlled temperature and maceration for 16 days. The wine was bottled at the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000. This wine was showing no signs of age. It is a concentrated wine with red berry aromas and flavors and with hints of blackberries and blueberries.img_1124

In honor of the earthquake victims in Italy, Diane made pasta all’Amatriciana.img_1130

Barolo 1998 Bartolo Mascarello (Piedmont) 100% Nebbiolo. The vineyards, in the commune of Barolo, are San Lorenzo, Rue, and Canubbi. In La Morra commune, Rocche di Annunziata. The average age of the vineyards is 25 years, ranging from 60/70 years in San Lorenzo to newly replanted plots in Cannubi. Chemical pesticides or fertilizers are not used.

The four-vineyard production is co-fermented in 3 to 4 large concrete tanks. The tanks do not have an internal temperature control system but fermentation temperatures are monitored daily and the must is cooled with a cold water heat exchange if it exceeds 31C. The grapes are mixed together when they arrive at the cantina. They do not make a single-vineyard “cru’ Barolo. Fermentation occurs from indigenous yeast but yeast will be added if necessary. Pumping over twice a day. Fermentation lastsfor 15 to18 days, and then the wine is left to macerate on the skins (submerged cap) for a few additional weeks. Maceration and fermentation together last for 30 to 50 days depending on the vintage. A gentle hydraulic basket press is used.

The wine is stored in large casks (botti) of Slavonian oak for about 30 months in a natural aging cellar. The botti range in size from 25 to 50 HL and average 10 to 12 years of age. The wine is racked once each year, then bottled in late July three years after the vintage. Malolactic fermentation is not forced and occurs in the bottle. The bottles are held for an additional year until the following September when the wine is released in the fourth year of the vintage. This is traditional classic Barolo at its best and a pleasure to drink!img_1125

With the Barolo we had a tender lamb stewimg_1126

served with giambotta, a slow cooked melange of seasonal vegetables.img_1132

We finished the Barolo with a selection of Italian cheeses.img_1129

Lastly, there were amaretti stuffed peaches and grappa.img_1134

Another wonderful evening at Casa Maresca Darrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Barolo- Bartolo Mascarello, Benito Ferrara winery, Castello Fonterutoli, Grappa, Greco di Tufo, Nino Franco, Prosecco, Rustico, Uncategorized

Grappa at its Best

I have been a grappa drinker since the first time I went to Italy in 1970. I generally enjoy grappa after meals, but I also like it in espresso (caffé corretto), drizzled on Italian ices, in a fruit salad, with chocolate, etc.

Grappa and Chocolate

Grappa and Chocolate

Grappa tastings don’t typically include dinner so I was intrigued to receive an invitation to a grappa tasting dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant to meet the host, Michele Dolzan, General Director of the Villa de Varda Distillery, I found him seated at a table covered with grappa bottles.IMG_8947

Located in the small town of Mezzolombardo in the region of Trentino, the Villa de Varda Distillery is situated on the Piana Rotallana, a wide, highly fertile, well drained alluvial plain crossed by the Adige River and the Noce Stream at the foot of the Alps.

Michele said that it is a family owned distillery and they grow their own grapes (except for the Amarone grappa). The vines are cultivated using the pergola system.

Once Michele started talking about his grappa, I understood how knowledgeable and passionate about grappa he is and how very proud of the distillation method developed by his father Dr. Luigi Dolzan.

He explained in detail his father’s method, known as the de Varda Method, for the distillation for Italian grappa. There are four steps:  Selection of Raw Materials: carefully selected marc derived from the soft pressing of a single grape that has been picked from soft, fresh bunches still dripping with must.

Fermentation of the Must: conducted right after the marc arrives at the distillery. It takes place under controlled temperatures with select yeasts and enzymes.

Distillation: conducted slowly in exclusive discontinuous pot-stills where the “heads and tails” are eliminated, allowing the volatile components responsible for each grappa’s flavor to undergo evaporation and consequent condensation that enables the grappa to fully maintain the typical characteristics of the Trentino grapes.V

Maturation: the grappa remains in steel casks for at least 6 months. For a grappa to be considered Riserva Trentina it must spend more than two years in oak. Then the alcohol is reduced and the final spirit is refrigerated and filtered.

Villa de Varda GrappaIMG_8827

Grappa Pinot Grigio (I Monovitigni) 100% Pinot Grigio pomace. Michele referred to it as traditional grappa, because it is crystal clear. This is a fresh clean grappa, well balanced with nice fruit and aromas of ripe pears, peach and citrus notes. On the palate it is well rounded and it has certain smoothness but is unquestionably grappa! 373 ml $49.9IMG_8831

Grappa Moscato (I Monovitigni) 100% Moscato pomace Traditiona grappa. It has typical aromatic aromas of the Moscato grape with hints of orange blossom, apricot and a touch of pineapple. Michele Dolzan said that this may be the best grappa for “beginners” because it is so aromatic.” 375 ml $49.99IMG_8836

Triè Grappa Riserva made from Teroldego, Pinot Bianco and Muller Thurgau pomace. It is aged for a minimum of 36 months in medium toasted 225 liter French oak barrels, and then the lots are blended together. It has hints of dried fruits, plum, and wild flowers. 375ml $49.99IMG_8948

Grappa Amarone Riserva made from Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella from vineyards in Valpolicella. Mr. Dolzan said that the pomace for this grappa is from the dried grapes used to make Bertani Amarone. The grappa is aged for a minimum of 3 years in medium toasted 225-liter French oak barrels, and then the separate lots are blended together. It has hints of flowers and fruits with a touch of almond. 375ml $59.99IMG_8837

Grappa Amarone Stravecchia (Alta Selezione)  Michele said this is a special and limited selection 750ml in a fancy glass bottle with a wooden box. The skin/grapes are careful selected. This grappa is aged for 5 years in barrels that previously held Bertani Amarone. This is a very impressive grappa, smooth, well balanced with hints of almonds flowers, dried fruits and a touch of coffee.

Michele did not pour the grappa from the bottle but used a “wine thief” because he did not want to disturb the grappa. $249.99IMG_8855

All of the aged grappa had a golden yellow to amber color. Most aged grappa from other producers is darker in color and has a vanilla oaky component that makes it very unpleasant, in other words it does not taste like grappa. The aged grappa from Villa de Varda tastes like grappa and may be the best aged grappa I have ever tasted.

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GRAPPA !

I like grappa. I often drink it after a nice meal as a way to relax and to help me to digest. I put a few drops in my espresso, for what Italians call caffè corretto. I drizzle grappa on my lemon granita and other flavored ices and even have it with chocolate. A number of years ago Michele and I wrote and article for Gourmet Magazine called “Cooking with Grappa.” The beautiful grappa chocolate cake appeared on the cover of the magazine.

A friend invited me to a wine tasting. When I arrived, one of the wine reps told me that there was a grappa seminar starting in five minutes, would I like to attend. He knew me well enough to know that I would say yes.

Alessandro Marzadro

Alessandro Marzadro

The speaker was Alessandro Marzardo, third generation of the owners of the Marzardo Distillery that was founded in 1949. The distillery is in Bancolino di Nogaredo in the heart of Vallagarina in Trentino. In 2005 they built a new state-of-the-art distillery.

Alessandro said that at one time, grappa was only drunk by farm workers in the cold weather to give them energy before they went into the fields to work. It was a morning drink taken between the hours of 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. He made the point that grappa was only made by the farmers in Northern Italy. Southern Italy does not have a tradition of grappa because it is too warm. It is only recently with the popularity and often high prices for grappa that wineries in Southern Italy have their grape pomace (vinaccia in Italian) turned into grappa. He said the grappa was first called acqua vita, water of life, and the people of Trentino have always embraced the art of distillation.

There are 45 distilleries that produce grappa in Italy. An Italian wine producer will send his pomace to one of these distilleries to be made into grappa. Pomace is the grape residue left after the first pressing when making wine. It is against the law for a winery to have a distillery on its property. There are over 4,000 grappa labels on the market today.

Up until about 15 years ago all grappa was what Alessandro referred to as traditional grappa, that is, made without being aged in wood. It was clear in color and the flavor reflected the grapes that it was made from. Now many grappas are aged in new barriques and for the most part they are dark in color and in many cases the wood flavor has taken over.

He said the grappa made from white grapes has more aromas and is easier to drink than grappa made from red grapes, though grappa made from red grapes has more taste. If you are going to introduce grappa to someone for the first time it is better to chose a grappa made from white grapes as it is easier to drink.IMG_6103

The Marzardo distrillery produces many different distilled sprits and Alessandro said that you must start with the best raw material. Trentino makes great wines so this is not a problem. Knowledge and experience are also needed to produce a great product.

Alessandro said that in the distillery there are 100 days of work, 24/7 from September to December. The freshest selected pomace is distilled each day. The distillation takes place in alembics using the traditional discontinuous bain marie system (steam distillation), which is part of the Trentino culture. He said that the first part of the production called the “head” tastes bad because it contains too much methane (he said it tastes like nail polish) and is therefore discarded. The last part is called the “tail” and contains too many impurities and is also discarded. The discontinuous method produces small amounts of high quality grappa.

The alembics are handmade out of copper and are excellent conductors of heat. Therefore the particular fragrances and aromas of the pomace are enhanced to their maximum. In order to keep everything uniform, the whole system is computerized.

Alessandro pointed out that the continuous process of grappa production in giant stills produces large amounts of grappa. He said that this type of production, which he does not use, produces commercial grappa that is not of a very good quality.

After distillation the traditional grappa is left alone. The grappa that is to be aged is placed in barrels of 225 liter barriques to 1,500 liter barrels made from four types of roasted wood, including oak, acacia, cherry and ash, for two years. Alessandro said they use wood from all over the world but do not use any from America. The new barrels are from a barrel maker who makes barrels for producers of balsamic vinegar. We tasted two different lines of grappa, three in each line.IMG_6104

The first grappa was the Le Diciotto Lune Grappa Stravecchio. Italian law requires a minimum of 18 months of aging before a grappa can be labeled stravecchio (old). Alessandro said that this is an aged, high quality Grappa, which is emblematic of the culture, care and art of distilling. It is produced from the best pomace of Trent, from selected vines, and distilled in the typical still. The Grappa is left to refine for 20 months in small cherry, ash, oak and ash casks, each of which lends its characteristic perfume, aroma, color and flavor, to the grappa.IMG_6105

La Trentina “Tradizional” – Grappa Giovane – This is traditional grappa at its best. I really liked this grappa.

La Trentina “Morbida” Grappa Barrique Morbida means soft or smooth in Italian. This grappa reflected the wood having vanilla aromas and flavors.

These last 3 spend 36 months in barriques and are labeled ” Grappa Affinata” IMG_6108

Giare “Gewûrztraminer” This was the most aromatic of the grappas- there was no mistaking which grape this was made from.

Giare “Chardonnay” This was a grappa with hints of oak and vanilla.

Giare “ Amarone” This grappa had the most taste with just a slight hint of oak.

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