The process of distilling Grappa is what makes it unmistakably unique, as it derives directly from a solid raw material: pomace. Pomace is the solid part of grapes remaining after wine production: skins and seeds. The skin is what covers the grape flesh and contains most of the aromatic substances Master Distiller will extract during distillation.
The types of pomace that give rise to Grappa are the one obtained after wine fermentation, crucial is the residual alcohol. During wine fermentation pomaces’ sugars are transformed into alcohol by yeasts.
Pomaces from the production of red and rosé wines are already fermented and semi-fermented, respectively, and ready for distillation. On the other hand, white wine pomaces are called “virgin,” because they are not fermented and therefore Master Distillers will ferment them before starting the distillation process.
The qualities of different grapes and the processes employed create unique Grappas with strong personality and many nuances of bouquet and aroma.
Distillation is a thermal process: by accurately heating fermented pomaces and either water or steam in alembics, Master Distillers vaporize and separate the various components, while by lowering temperature they recover them in liquid form. Distillation of the pomace may be continuous or non-continuous, each of the two processes providing a distillate with different characteristics, but only the art of Master Distillers allows to obtain Grappa: the precious spirit of the Italian tradition.
Non-continuous-cycle artisan distillation
Non-continuous alembics can be:
- Alembics with flowing steam fueled boilers
- Bain-marie alembics
- Direct fire alembics
The entire process is controlled by the Master Distiller who has perfect knowledge of both the raw material (pomace) and the working tool (alembic).
The alembic’s boiler is filled with fermented pomace and water or steam, the Master Distiller will follow all the distillation process selecting only the “heart” of the distillate avoiding head and tails to remove undesired substances.
Then the process will continue with Rectification process to better select the good substances.
The distillation process is complex because identifying each step requires a skill possessed only by the most experienced distiller.
It allows distillation of large quantities of products without interrupting distillation. Basically, the distillery consists of two columns. The first column is called “analyzer” the second “rectifier”. The column called analyzer has the function of concentrating the distillate products, while the column called rectifier has the function of separating the various components, i.e. the head, heart and tail.
Master Distiller will regulate temperatures all over the process to discard the head and the tails but select the best part of it: the “heart” this is the only part elected to become Grappa.
From distillation to bottling
Lowering alcohol content is essential to give the distillate a balanced taste and aroma. This process implies diluting the distillate with high quality pure water until the desired alcohol content is reached. Last but not least, filtration at low temperature (between 5°F and 24,8°F) will contribute to Grappa’s crystal clear color and smooth fruits fragrances taste.
Two more choices: bottled to be “Grappa Giovane”; or poured in oak barrels to become “Grappa Invecchiata”.
Grappa’s Production Regulation
I’m Italian… My story
Grappa is a G.I. Geographical Indication protected by European Regulation 110/2008 and Regulation 787/2019 originating in Italy, the territory that gives Grappa its unique characteristics.
According to my production regulations, Grappa must be produced 100% within the Italian territory from grapes exclusively growing in Italy. It is a century-old story, since alchemists started distilling grapes. From the 1900s on, there has been a great enhancement in the quality of distillation and of raw materials, and nowadays a strict production method shall be complied with. Grappa is a perfect example of circular economy production providing substantial CO2 savings.