Category Archives: Hello Grappa

Tasting and Learning about Grappa at the Distilleria Marzadro

The Marzadro Distilleria in Trentino was one of the distilleries Michele and I visited on the Hello Grappa Tour in May..  I had met Alessandro Marzadro in NYC a few years ago when he was giving a seminar on his family’s distillery. I was very impressed by his knowledge and his grappa and was looking forward to meeting him again at the distillery.  His aunt, Sabrina Marzadro,  founded the distillery in 1949 and Alessandro is the third generation to work in this family run distillery. The distillery is located in Trentino

Alessandro told us that at one time, grappa was only drunk by farm workers especially 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 grappa has achieved 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.

Producing Grappa

Up until about 20 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.  In many cases the wood flavor has taken over.

Alessandro said that grappa made from white grapes has more aromas and is easier to drink than grappa made from red grapes, although 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.  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.

In 2005 they built a new distillery which is organized in such a way that it makes it easier to understand how grappa is made.

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 (a solid raw material-grape skins) are enhanced to their maximum. In order to keep everything uniform, the whole system is computerized.

The pomace waiting to be made into grappa

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 different sizes ranging from 225 liter barriques to 1,500 liter barrels, and even larger.  Alessandro pointed out two of the biggest barrels I have ever seen in any winery or distillery.

The barrels are made different types of toasted wood, including oak, acacia, cherry and ash. Alessandro said they use wood from all over the world.  Some new barrels are from a barrel maker who also produces barrels used for balsamic vinegar. They also have barrels that were used to age port.

The Grappa

Grappa Anfora Grappa aged in Terracotta.

Amphorae made from a blend of different types of clay from the Tuscan towns of Montelupo and Impruneta are also used for aging some of the grappa. This type of aging achieves the micro-oxygenation which is twice what you would find using barrels.

This type of grappa ages 10 months in 300 liter amphorae.  Alessandro said it enriches the Grappa’s elegance and softness, giving the characteristics of aging with out the classic flavor of wood. It is made from a blend of the pomace from grapes indigenous to the Trentino region: 80% Marzemino and Merlot and 20% Chardonnay, Müller Thurgau and Moscato.

Grappa Moscato in Purezza 100% Moscato. Carefully selected marc from Moscato grapes from the areas of Vallagarina in the municipalities of Calliano and Besenello. Distillation is carried out in a bagnomaria, bain marie or steam pot still, typical of Trentino. This is a full soft, elegant and aromatic grappa with notes of the Moscato grape.

Grappa Invecchiata Morbido Barrique “La Trentina” made from the marc of the Moscato, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer grapes. It is aged for several months in barrels previously used for aging Le Ciciotto Luna Stravecchia Grappa.   Alessandro described this grappa as aromatic, gentle, soft, delicate and captivating.

Gewurztraimer “Giare” 100% Gewurztraminer. The mark is distilled in a bagnomaria still. Aging is for 36 months in 1000 liter oak barrels. This grappa has a very light tinge of color from the barrel aging. It is very aromatic, intense and delicate at the same time with all the aromas of the Gewurztraminer grape.

Le Diciotto Lune Riserva Botte Porto   Alessandro said that this was a second special edition of the Grappa Stravecchia. Riserva Botte Porto comes from an additional aging period of 18 months, in a limited number of selected barrels previously used to age Port wine. This extra refinement highlights the sharper Grappa-wood contrasts and the Port barrels add a fruity scent. It is aged for 36 months: 18 in small barrels made of different woods and 18 months in Port barrels. Made from the skins of 70% Marzemino, Teroldego, and Merlot and 30% Chardonnay and Muscat. There is some controversy among the producers over putting the word Porto on the label. This an intense and fruity grappa.

Espressioni Aromatica Alessandro said the barrel aging is part of a continuous effort to enhance the results achieved by careful distillation. Espression by Andrea Marzadro, the master distiller,ly contains the best results achieved in the aging room for the year. It is crafted by individually distilling the marc from Gewürztraminer and Müller Thurgau in a bagnomaria and blending them before aging. It ages for 4 years in 500 liter oak barrels. The grappa is aromatic, fruity and smooth with a hint of wood.

Affina- Riserva Ciliegio made from the must of Lagrein and Pinot Noir grapes, which are gently pressed and then distilled in a bagnomaria. The resulting grappa is aged for 10 years in small cherry barrels. The wood used to make the barrels (prunus cerasus) is aged for at least 26 months, while the curvature of the staves is achieved using the steam bending method combined with a light toasting. It is soft, elegant and complex.

As I was at our first meeting, I was once again very impressed with Alessandro Marzadro and with his grappa.

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Grappa Cocktails and Grappa Smoked

I like grappa. I often drink it after a meal as a way to relax and to help me to digest. Sometimes I put a little in my espresso, for what Italians call caffè corretto. I drizzle grappa on my lemon granita and other ices and pour it over fruit salad and cake.

Michele often cooks with grappa. A number of years ago Michele and I wrote an article for Gourmet Magazine called “Cooking with Grappa.” Grappa with chocolate is a great combination. The grappa chocolate cake appeared on the cover of the magazine along with a citrus fruit salad. She also included recipes for quails with grappa, pasta with shrimp and grappa, and so on.

Last year we were invited to participate in a choice of two grappa press trips organized by Hello Grappa. On tour A we would visit two distilleries and on tour B there were seven distilleries. Because of our schedule we could only go on tour A. We visited one distillery in Tuscany and one in Piedmont. It was a wonderful trip, very well organized, and we enjoyed tasting, drinking and learning about grappa. You can read more about it at Hello Grappa

This year we participated in Tour B and we visited 6 distilleries:

Umberto Bonollo – Conselve and Mestrino (Trento)     Bottega – Bibano di Godega (Veneto)

Bepi Tosolini – Udine (Friuli Venezia Giulia)                  Castagner -Treviso (Trento)

Marzadre – Nogaredo (Trento)                                             Bertagnolli – Mezzocorona (Trento)

These are all family run distilleries, some going back as far as 4 generations.  As part of an effort to introduce grappa to a new audience, the producers on this tour emphasized aged grappa and grappa cocktails.  In this article I will talk about the grappa cocktails that we sampled.

Grappa Cocktails

At lunch in Padua with Elvio Bonollo from the Bonollo distillery we tried a couple of aperitifs made with grappa Gra’it.

This is a clear grappa aged in large Slavonian oak casks with just a hint of the wood. It was especially made for mixed drinks and was a “lighter style grappa,” we were told. It is made from the skins of seven different grapes: Prosecco (Glera), Moscato d’Asti, Nebbiolo (Barolo), Nero d Avola, Corvina (Amarone), Sangiovese (Brunello) and Aglianco (Taurasi.

Elvio Bonollo said they chose the 7 best varieties to produce this grappa and unite them into one perfect blend.

GRA’IT & TONIC

30 ML/ 1 OZ Gra’it

90 ml/3 OZ Tonic Water

Garnish: fresh thyme

Method:

Fill the glass with ice. Add the Gra’it Grappa

and the tonic. Stir and garnish with fresh thyme before serving.

PINK PANTHER:

30 ML/ 1 OZ Gra’it

90 ml/3 OZ Pink Grapefruit Soda

Garnish: Pink Grapefruit Peel

Method:

Fill the glass with ice

Add the Gra’it Grappa followed by the

Pink Grapefruit Soda

Stir and garnish with grapefruit peels before serving

We enjoyed these before lunch on a warm day sitting outside in a picturesque square in Padua–Perfect!

At the Castagner distillery Giulia Castagner the daughter of the owner Roberto Castagner made us a cocktail to taste using their Casta Grappa. This grappa is made from 85% Glera grapes, which are white grapes used to make Prosecco, and it is 40 proof.  Giulia said the grappa is distilled 5 times to insure purity and is specially formulated for cocktails.

Giulia also said that the grappa they send to the US is much lighter and smoother than the ones they sell in Italy.

TWIST DI NEGRONI

1/3 Casta

1/3 sweet vermouth

1/3 Campari

twist of lemon peel

Method:

Combine the ingredients over ice and stir.

One evening before dinner we went to the town of Conlgliano to taste cocktails made with grappa at a popular wine bar called DRY made with Alexander Prosecco Grappa by Bottega, which also produces Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC.

MEDITERRANEO

90 ml Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC

90 ml Alexander Prosecco Grappa

4 orange slices

4 lemon slices

15 grams brown sugar

Basil Leaves

Ice cubes

Muddle brown sugar, 3 lemon and 3 orange slices and 4 basil leaves in a glass. Add the Alexander Prosecco Grappa and stir well.

Add ice and Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC and stir. Garnish with remaining lemon and orange slices and a sprig of basil.

GRAPPA SOUR

30 ml Alexander Prosecco Grappa

20 ml lemon juice

20 ml sugar syrup

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Alexander Grappa Prosecco is made from the skins of the Glera grape. The grappa is produced during three distillation phases with different temperatures in traditional copper alembics – bain-marie –with indirect heating. The grappa is remains is steel tanks for almost 6 months before it is bottled. This is a grappa that can be enjoyed by itself in small sips.

 ZEN

Created and prepared by bartender Paolo Baldan

In a glass, blend 10 drops of ginger tincture with 1,5 oz of Alexander Grappa di Prosecco. Top with Cordial Lime, stir and serve.

Which was my favorite? For me, the choice is easy. I like a simple Grappa and Orange Juice:

Combine fresh orange juice with 2 to 3 ounces of grappa in a tall glass. Do not add ice. Great way to start the day!

At the Bepi Tosolini we tasted “Grappa Smoked.”  Lisa Tosolini, granddaughter of the owner, told us that this grappa is distilled by the traditional method with bain marie pot still.  This grappa is made from Friulian red grape skins and then aged in French oak barriques. The oak casks have gone through  a toasting process  with Kentucky tobacco leaves. This is a dry and intense  smoked grappa which tasted like  an aged single malt whiskey. This was a first for me and another new twist to what is being done with grappa.

 

 

 

 

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HELLO GRAPPA

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, and in orange juice on cold winter mornings. Michele often cooks with grappa.

Two years ago I was invited to Rome to visit three wineries in Lazio. The organizer of the trip was Sylvia Anna Annavini and I had a great time. Sylvia contacted me when she came to NYC and Michele and I went to dinner with her. At one point she asked if we liked grappa and I said yes and so much so that we had written an article for Gourmet magazine on Cooking with Grappa. The grappa chocolate cake appeared on the cover of the magazine. Silva was doing a promotion for Grappa both in NYC and in Italy, called “Hello Grappa” and asked if we would like to take part.A few months later Silvia invited us to Italy for Hello Grappa to visit distilleries which produce Grappa.

We visited two distilleries: the Bonollo Distillery in Torrita di Siena in Tuscany and the Mazzetti Distillery in Altavilla, Piedmont.

Giulia Di Cosimo and Maria Carla Bonollo

At Bonollo we were greeted by Maria Carla Bonollo and her daughter Giulia Di Cosimo.

Bonollo is a very large operation and the Bonollo family own distilleries in other parts of Italy.  It Italy it is against the law to produce distilled spirits and wine on the same property. So Bonollo not only makes grappa under its own label but also  for some of the best  producers  in Tuscany such as Castello Banfi.

The producers will send their pomace to Bonollo and tell them what type of Grappa they want, traditional (clear), or aged (in barrels) and the alcohol content they want for their grappa.

In the past grappa was enjoyed mostly by farm workers in the cold weather to give them energy before they went into the fields to work. It was looked upon as something only the peasants drank because it was made from the discarded grape skins after the grapes were pressed. It was a morning drink taken between the hours of 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. Back then grappa was only made  in Northern Italy. Over the years the popularity of grappa grew and it became more expensive. 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. Grappa was first called acqua vita, water of life,

The pomace

There are 45 distilleries that produce grappa in Italy and wine producers send their pomace to one of these distilleries to be made into grappa. Pomace is the grape residue left after the first pressing when making wine.  There are over 4,000 grappa labels on the market today.

Producing Grappa

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).  Grappa is very difficult to produce because pomace is a solid ingredient.

The first part of the production called the “head” tastes bad because it contains too much methane (tastes like nail polish) and is 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.

There is also the continuous process of grappa production in giant stills, which produces large amounts of grappa. This grappa is more commercial and does not cost as such as the grappa produced by the discontinuous method.

At Bonollo they mostly use the discontinuous method but do make some grappa using the continuous method.

Grappa made from white grapes (especially aromatic grapes like Moscato)  have 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.

Until about 20 years ago all grappa was made without being aged in wood and this is now referred to as traditional grappa. This grappa was clear in color and the aroma and the flavor reflected the pomace that it was made from.

Today many grappa’s are aged in barriques, mostly new and are dark in color and in many cases the wood flavors dominate.  Grappa aged in wood is considered good as an entry-level grappa because the wood mellows the grappa. Both at Bonollo and Mazzetti the aged grappa we tasted was light in color, retained the aroma and flavor of the pomace  because they used large barrels to age the grappa. 

In Italy the government comes in and puts “locks” on the grappa that is still in the distillery and has not been bottled so that nothing can be added to the grappa.

At Bonollo we tasted three grappas:

Grappa Moscato–tasting this, one can understand why this would be a good entry-level grappa. It is distinctly Moscato, with floral aromas and a hint of honey.

Con senso–Grappa Chianti Classico is a typical traditional grappa and I really liked it.

Consenso Grappa riserva aged in legno di rovere(oak), acacia, frassino(ash and ciliego(cherry).  The grappa was light in color for one aged in wood. It had a certain smoothness to it but was still grappa.

The Mazzetti Distillery founded in 1846 is in the town of Altavilla in Piedmont. We were welcomed  by Elisa Belvedere Mazzetti and we went with her to the their grappa store and tasting room. You can visit here and have a cafe, perhaps a cafe corretto and purchase many different types of grappa.

After she took us on a tour of the distillery and explained how they make grappa,

They only use the discontinuous method for making grappa  because, she said, this produces the best grappa.  Then she said they also distill the tail again, getting rid of all the impurities and   making a different line of grappa.

Claudio

Claudio Galletto of Mazzetti led us in a grappa tasting and discussed the idea of entry-level grappa. Both here and at Bonollo they believe in the idea of entry-level grappa to introduce the younger generation to grappa.

Collezione line Grappa di Moscato — it is easy to identify grappa di Moscato by its distinctive aroma.

Grappa IN Incontro — Barbaresco and Barolo — an aged grappa light in color made from pomace of the Nebbiolo grape

7.0 Grappa Di Ruche 100% Cru– this is produced as an “entry level grappa” and it is aged in barriques. The 7 stands for the 7 generations of distillers at Mazzetti and the 0 for the zero kilometers it takes for the pomace to reach the distillery. It is a very soft grappa.

Riserva Gaia Mazzetti Grappa Cuvée Extra Aged Moscato and Cortese. This was a little darker in color and had much less of the Moscato characteristics.

At Mazzetti they used different style classes for the traditional and aged grappa.


Segni Grappa Riserva– aged for 5 years in barrels made from 6 different woods. oak, chestnut, ash, cherry, mulberry and juniper.

It is aged the shortest period of time in the juniper barrel because it has the strongest flavor. The juniper barrel is the last and smallest barrel in size since some of the grappa has evaporated over the years. This is one of the best-aged grappas that I have ever tasted. I liked it so much that I purchased a bottle because it in not available in the United States. The bottle is being held for me in Rome and I will pick to up next month,

Collezione Line:

All were traditional grappas and very good. We drank wine with lunch and just has a small taste of the grappa

Grappa with Lunch

Grappa di Arneis, Grappa di Barbera, Grappa di Barolo, Grappa di Ruche

At  Bonollo we tasted the grappa after lunch with dessert.  At Mazzetti we tasted grappa alone, and accompanied by dark chocolate and hazelnuts, which was sensational.  Then we had lunch, with each of several courses paired with a different grappa.  It was a unique experience.

 

 

 

 

 

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