In Italy, good food is as important as the drink that accompanies it. In the transalpine country, a family reunion starts with excellent food and inevitably ends with a glass of grappa, a spirit that carries a great tradition.
Grappa is obtained through the distillation of pomace, the name given to the residues—skins, pulp and seeds— that remain after pressing the grapes for juice extraction in the winemaking process. The liquor is named after Bassano del Grappa, a town of 40,000 inhabitants in the region of Veneto in northern Italy, where it is said to have originally developed. In Italy, grappas are differentiated according to their origin, the most famous come from Lombardy, Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Trentino, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Sardinia.
These are three of the best grappas available in the market today.
Grappa Riserva del Fondatore Paolo Berta
Berta Distillerie, one of the most recognized grappa producers in all Italy was created in 1866 in the town of Asti, in Piedmont. The company has among its wide range some truly exceptional spirits, as Riserva del Fondatore Paolo Berta, which is aged for 20 years. The brothers Gianfranco and Enrico Berta put their best skills and knowledge into honoring the memory of their father, Paolo, who was responsible for the high esteem Berta Distillerie Berta enjoys today. This Grappa Riserva is the result of the distillation in copper stills of grapes from the barbera and nebbiolo variety. See Barolo del Piamonte. It shows an amber color and a complex aroma, round and with a great personality. This admirable combination brings back memories of ripe fruit, cherries, snuff, cocoa and vanilla with a temperamental flavor that invades the mouth producing sensations similar to those of a good aged French cognac. It is the perfect drink to enjoy with a good cigar.
Nonino Grappa Riserva
In 1897, Orazio Nonino founded his distillery in Ronchi di Pavia, in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Since then, all the generations that came after him have devoted much energy to creating a grappa as select and unique as the Nonino Grappa Riserva, a prodigious mixture of spirits extracted from cabernet, merlot and schioppetino grapes, aged between 3-20 years in old oak barrels that previously contained sherry. With a luminous amber color, Nonino Grappa Riserva has an aroma that brings to mind spices, French pastries, oranges and candied fruits. In the mouth, it is pure warmth and persistence, highlighting fruity notes of apricot, vanilla and bitter almond. It is a superb accompaniment for foie gras and desserts with hot chocolate sauces.
In Montù Beccaria, in Lombardy, the Il Montù distillery produces a grappa based on moscato grapes, which after being distilled remains at least seven years in small barrels of Slovenian oak. All the richness and aroma of the moscato grapes concentrate as they become grappa, offering clean aromas of sage and cilantro and an intense sensation of delight to those who savor it. The Millesimata Grappa is refined and extremely pleasing. ■