History, Ingredients, And Information: What Is Grappa?

Want to know more about the Italian spirt, Grappa? Here is all you need to know about its origins and its production.

As the seasons come and go, different wines and liqueurs spring forward as the trendy alcoholic beverage of the moment. One of the more recent wines to do just that has been grappa. Surprisingly, few people have heard of grappa, despite its recent popularity. Depending on where you are in the world, grappa is referred to by several different names. The French call it Marc. The Spanish refer to it as Aguardiente, and the Germans have named it Tresterschnapps. Production of grappa has taken place in Italy for many years, but what exactly is it?

Grappa can be considered a spirit drink, distillate or pomace brandy. When grapes are used to make wine, there is usually skin and seeds that are left behind after the wine has been produced. This is commonly referred to as pomace or pomacy. These "wine scraps" are what grappa is made from. The skin and seeds are allowed to ferment and distill and the end product is the clear grappa which is usually 90 proof. This dry drink is often saved for a post-dinner treat and can have a wide range of flavors.

Although there is some speculation as to its exact origin date, most say it has been around for over fifteen hundred years. Wine historians give the Italians credit for creating this spirt. The story goes that laborers in the northern regions of Italy came up with the concept of grappa so as not to let the seeds and skins left over from the wine production go to waste. In the spirit of the working class, grappa was often drunk to unwind after a long day of hard manual labor, as well as to keep warm in the cold winter months. In Italy, grappa has made a resurgence in the past few decades.

In Italy, almost every winery creates its own special form of grappa, thus, there are literally thousands of grappa variations to choose from. While the origins of grappa may have been catered to the manual laborer, grappa has grown to become a drink of the upper class, as well. Wineries have made an extra effort to market grappa in beautiful bottles that are geared towards luring in wine drinkers with exquisite tastes.

Surprisingly, producing grappa is not an inexpensive task, given the end products that go into its production. Thus, Italian wineries do not usually make huge quantities of grappa. While some wines often require years of aging, grappa usually on requires half a year of aging in a barrel. Many wineries will often add various herbs and fruits to their grappa like cinnamon and peach to give their grappa a distinct taste. Flavors can range from flowery to a natural earthy taste.

Many people who purchase plain grappa often create their own variations of fruit or herb flavored grappa, which is quite easy to do. For example, if you would like to create your own cherry-flavored grappa, simply buy approximately one and a half to two pounds of fresh cherries. Leave a small part of the stem on each cherry and pour the cherries into a quart glass jar. Add one third of a cup of sugar. Pour in the plain grappa so that it just covers the cherries. Put the jar in direct sunlight leaving the cover slightly ajar for about one week. This cherry grappa concoction can be left sealed shut for three months in a cool and dark spot.

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