History of Grappa

Grappa: Italy's Elixir

Grappa is a uniquely Italian drink. Traditionally, made from pomace, the discarded grape seeds, stalks, and stems that are a by-product of the winemaking process, Grappa has been around since the Middle Ages. For generations, Italians have sipped this "firewater" after meals and even added a little to their morning espresso, to "correct" it. Once considered an acquired taste, popular only in Italy, Grappa, today, is making itself known around the world. Distilleries from Australia to Oregon, as well as Italy, are trying their hand at making Grappa, with surprisingly good results.

History of Grappa

Grappa was originally made in Bassano del Grappa, a town of around 40,000 residents in Italy's northern Veneto region. It is from this town that Grappa gets its name. Grappa started as a by-product of the Italian winemaking trade, a rough drink made with what was available, potent enough to get the farmers through the cold winter months. It was good at warming you up, but not particularly tasty, similar to the grain alcohols of the Midwestern United States. Grappa, largely, remained a drink of the poor workmen and farmers until the 1960s.

Making Grappa

Grappa glass

Similar to France's brandies and Cognac, and Portugal's Sherry, Grappa is a distilled beverage. That means the mixture of grape pieces and alcohol is heated gently, allowing much of the mixture to evaporate, and leaving a potent concentration. Today's Grappa is about 40 to 45 percent alcohol. That's 80 to 90 proof. After distillation, Grappa is usually stored in glass bottles for about six months before it is distributed. The flavor profile of Grappa depends on the grape varietal used, and, generally, Grappa is potent and dry. Occasionally, a producer will add a little syrup to sweeten the lot. This sweeter Grappa is particularly popular in the American market.

The character of Grappa changed in the 1960s, thanks, largely to the efforts of one woman - Giannola Nonino. Her Nonino distillery, in Percoto Italy, has been producing Grappa since 1897. In the early 1970s, she began making Grappa from a single grape, as opposed to the customary mélange of grape leftovers. She sought to make a quality drink, one to rival the great eaux-de-vie of France. It was an uphill battle. She sold very little of her first, 1973, production. Undaunted, she offered her Grappa free to journalists, restaurateurs, and asked that it be served at important commercial and government dinners. She poured the drink herself and told her story as she filled the glasses. Slowly, in this way, the charismatic Ms. Nonino created a following.

The Nonino Distillery's first single grape Grappa was crafted from the Picolit grape. Today, over a dozen different grapes are used for single grape Grappas, called "monovitigno" Grappas, a term Ms. Nonino coined herself. In 1984, the same Nonino distillery gained government approval and began producing a higher quality Grappa made from whole fruit. They began with grapes and in

the following years, produced products using cherries, pear, apricot, peach, and raspberry, among other fruits. Seeking a way to show off their new products, Nonino is also responsible for the stylish glass bottles in which Grappa today is sold, a dramatic change from the old medicinal-style bottles.

Grappa's popularity has spread all around the globe. Once unknown outside of Italy, today Grappa is being produced all over the world, from Oregon to South Africa. These outposts use the indigenous grapes of their regions, such as Oregon's Pinot Noir, creating unique and tasty variations on the Italian theme.

Buying Grappa

Like wine, Grappa comes in all varieties and qualities, with the flavor based on the grape or fruit used. Grappa is available in wine stores and premium liqueur retailers throughout the United States. Expect to pay from $10 for a simple bottle to over $100 per bottle for a single fruit variety. Although you will often see the decorative Grappa bottles lined up behind bars and at restaurants, Grappas are actually best stored in a cool, dark place. Out of light and heat, they can last several years, though they will lose some of their fragrance as they age.

Drinking Grappa

Traditionally, Grappa is served chilled in small glasses and served after the meal, as the Italians believe that it aids digestion. Correctly, Grappa should be swirled gently in the glass and then brought to your nose, before tasting. It is then tasted in small sips. In Italy, Grappa is also added to espresso to make a "Café Corretto," a popular after-dinner concoction. In the United States, you'll find Grappa at higher-end Italian restaurants and retailers. If you've never tried Grappa, you're in for a treat. It's a fiery, but tasty beverage, just the thing for a cold winter's night.

By Sandy Mitchell

Average: 2.5 (2 votes)


Wednesday, August 10TH, 2011 by Guest

Some of the  information is not 100% accurate. 
Sherry is the name of the "fortified wine"  "Jerez" which is located in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Grappa is not traditionally served chilled, it depends on the type of grappa but it should range between 9-13 for a young grappa, 15  -18 Celsius for the aged grappas
What  makes grappa such a unique distilled  liquor is that it is mainly made from the skins.
 “unicamente l’acquavite di vinaccia prodotta in Italia"

Monday, September 26TH, 2011 by Guest

Grappa is not similar to sherry; no connection whatsoever (except that both originate from grapes).
 It may be compared to brandy (and cognac) inasmuch as it is produced by distilling grape products. Brandy (and cognac) are made by distilling wine. Grappa is made by refermenting and distilling the "pressings" of the grapes (the material left over in the press after the wine is pressed out, being the skins, stems and seeds of the grapes after crushing and being fermented). This imparts the particular flavor.
Personal preference determines whether the grappa is served at room temperature, chilled or iced. Some people (myself included) keep the bottle of grappa in the freezer and serve it at -20 C!
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 12TH, 2011 by Guest

Thanks, Npe71. Ilived in Italy for more than 17 years. It is traditionally served chilled. I always have it at room temperature, and it is just perfect.

Wednesday, October 12TH, 2011 by Guest

Sorry! I meant to say that it is NOT traditionally served chilled.

Saturday, November 19TH, 2011 by Guest


Saturday, December 10TH, 2011 by Guest

I tried it in Latina after drinking three glasses of red wine, and one shut was enough to be drunk. :))))

Sunday, December 11TH, 2011 by Guest

I have an old bottle of Old Dry Creek Vineyard Grappa. I have just one bottle left... I wonder how long it will last. 

Friday, March 23TH, 2012 by Guest

it is very usfull notesthank you for giving 

Saturday, April 14TH, 2012 by Guest

I'm Italian, I never seen in my life serving grappa at temperature lower than room temp. I'm talking about "fresh" or aged grappas (usually 12, 18, 36, 60 months). One exception could be the aromathized grappas, they are grappas with natural flavors , kept in infusion with liquorice or mint or honey or various kinds of alpin herbs, most of these grappas have sugar added and are usually drunk by women. Especially in north Italy people add grappa to the espresso coffe, (approximately one or two tablespoons) making the so called "caffe' corretto" (adjusted coffe or corrected coffe) .. Peace

Monday, April 30TH, 2012 by Guest

When I was a kid, and lived in Italy for four years.  My father being in the Air Force, and us stationed at Aviano, It.  I lived in Budoia which was 30 km from the base.  I had opportunity to help in the harvest of grapes, and the pressing of them.  The leftovers were used to make Grappa.  It was everything opposite of what wine was.  Normal wine is stored in oak barrels, to take the toxicity out of wine, during aging.  This Grappa had all the toxic properties of the grape.  It made me blind for two days, when I took a glass of it, at five years of age.  Apparently, this drink is responsible for all the widows, that were running around, Budoia, when I was there in '68.  I was told this was a man's drink, and it would grow hair on your chest.  Now, the stuff is tame.  But, I remember the old ways!