Until recently, SpouseMouse and I have always disagreed about grappa.
SpouseMouse saw no point to it — ‘rough discards’ — whereas I had always heard great things about it.
In 2013, we were lucky enough to be invited to a wine and spirits tasting the evening before my birthday in the run-up to Christmas.
On offer was Nardini Grappa Bianca Classic. Oh, my. Oh, my. Oh, my. What a revelation.
(Photo credit: Nardini)
The Bianca Classic has strong chocolate overtones with a suggestion of licorice. I told the Frenchman running the tasting that it was worth sousing my chocolate Yule log with a spoonful or two of it. He was horrified. He couldn’t taste the chocolate, which surprised me.
SpouseMouse kindly bought me a bottle for my birthday. I finished it, somewhat late, on my birthday this year. Even then, after having had only one glass, I could still smell and taste chocolate the next day.
There are other fine grappas, but I think I’ll stick with this one for now. Fortunately, we have another bottle for another birthday!
The Italians are right to insist on enjoying grappa with coffee and after dinner chocolate. It provides a fantastic finish.
Rome File says:
Grappa is a wonderful way to end a meal, drunk either as a shot on its own or added to an espresso (in which case it’s known in Italy as a caffè coretto, or a “corrected coffee”). The Instituto Nazionale Grappa, the body that represents most of the grappa producers in Italy, recommends serving shots in small tulip-shaped glasses with open rims, rather than balloons or narrow glasses.
Many Italian households serve grappa straight from the freezer, giving it an icy, crisp taste, while the Instituto Nazionale Grappa recommends serving young grappa at between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius, and riserva at around 17 degrees. Freezing can affect the flavour of a good grappa, but it’s a perfectly acceptable way to enjoy the drink. As Nick Hopewell-Smith says, ‘you take something away when you chill it, but if it makes it more accessible to people and people are more likely to try it and enjoy it, then why not?’
I’ve not had it frozen. To me, the Bianca Classic is perfect at room temperature.
The Italians also believe that grappa is an excellent digestif, aiding the digestion process.
A few words of advice about grappa:
1/ Serve in a small liqueur or port glass if you do not have grappa glasses. Purists still prefer shot glasses.
2/ It is perfectly acceptable to sip and savour it, rather than downing it in one.
3/ One or two glasses will do. It has a high alcohol content.
4/ Outside of Italy, it is expensive — think tax. Treat yourself and those closest to you on high days and holidays — Christmas, New Year, Easter and birthdays. Once you open a bottle, finish it within a year to enjoy grappa at its best.
5/ Be discerning about whom you serve it to. This is a special drink which should provide beautiful gustatory memories months or years later.
Above all, avoid cheap grappa!
Grappa, Italy’s aquavit, is made from pomace — the grape skins, pulp, seeds, and stems left over from wine pressing. Grappa is the product of steam-distilled pomace with no added water. It can only be made in Italy, the tiny republic of San Marino and the Italian part of Switzerland.
Bortolo Nardini began making grappa in 1779, when he bought an inn near the wooden covered bridge, Bassano, on the Brenta River. The bridge features on Nardini labels.
Nardini’s inn and his grappa became popular with Venetians, travellers and businessmen. He served it in a shot glass.
Venice was Nardini’s first principal market. Over the centuries, the company continued to expand. Today, the firm also ships to China, Australia, Japan and the United States.
It is better to save up for a bottle of good grappa rather than to waste money on an inferior, rough product. Buy the best and you’ll have no regrets.
And if you’re looking for an unusual gift, a bottle of fine grappa is ideal. Of course, there are other grappa producers equal to Nardini. You might have a favourite of your own. If so, please share in the comments below, including details about the flavour profile.