Grappa is an alcoholic beverage obtained by the fermentation and the steam distillation of grape pomace which is successively mixed with water. The School of Salerno, renowned for providing its medical knowledge, by the year 1000 A.D. already dealt with pomace distillations which, from this moment on, started to spread all over Europe.
This characteristic “aguardiente“ is made by pomace of must or wine, separated during winemaking. While grape is ripening, its sugar content increases as a consequence of the synthesis occurring in this plant between groundwater and carbon dioxide existing in the air.
In the meanwhile, aromatic substances and dyes start gathering in grape skin, giving a particular character to the products in which it’s employed. Grappa is made from grape sink, which is the most aromatic portion of grape and is the main component of pomace.
A glass of grappa is the result of a long-lasting tradition which tried, and is still trying, to find the best way to preserve and gather these aromas. A wide variety of alembic models has been produced in order to achieve this goal. Alembic is an apparatus utilized in distillation but there are also other instruments employed in grappa making. The distillation master must show all his talent in order to preserve the essence of grape, its best aromas, and the resulting distillate.
According to the European Union Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89, Italy has exclusive usage of Grappa’s guarantee of origin. This law also fixes the alembic’s extracting limit to 86% alcohol by volume, so as to guarantee that the sensorial feature of distillate preserves the characteristics of the raw material from which it was extracted. The regulation also places some other limits about volatile compounds,140 mg/l pure alcohol, and that the methyl alcohol amount cannot be greater than 1 g/l alcohol.
Italian grappa obtained the authorized geographical guarantee of origin for: Barolo, Piedmont, Lombardia, Trentino, Alto Adige, Veneto, Sicilia, Marsala and Friuli. They are thinking of extending the guarantee to Tuscany and Valle D'Aosta as well.
The alcohol content of finished grappa may not be less than 35,5% vol, although majority of good quality grappas have about 40% and the maximum level of residual sugar can be 2%.