An Introduction to Italian Grappa

by Marta Correale

All you need to know about Italian grappa: best Italian grappa brands, facts and grappa serving etiquette to impress your guests

Grappa (in Italian: grappa) is a typical Italian liquor with high alcoholic content (usually 35 degrees+).

It is usually served after dinner as a digestif and is best presented in special grappa glasses with a small stem (tulip glasses), perfect for liquor tasting and slow sipping.

Grappa is produced using the skins of grapes used for wine making (pomace) and it typical especially of the North of Italy.

The regions of Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige in particular, among the most important wine regions in Italy, have a long gappa-making history and produce some of the best in the country, also now exported abroad.

The world of grappa is a vast and interesting: today we only tap into this world, sharing essential info about Italian Grappa, demystifying labeling with a quick grappa glossary and giving quick tips for serving Italian grappa at home.

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Essential Grappa Glossary

Grappa comes in several types. Whenever you are buying grappa or picking from a menu, these are terms you need to know.

Giovane (= young): Grappa is considered ‘young’ when exclusively stored in glass or steel containers that do not influence its taste. This type of grappa is transparent and usually has a dry, delicate aroma of pomace.

Aromatica (aromatic): aromatic grappa is made from aromatic grape varieties such as Moscato, Malvasia or Traminer. This type of grappa, not to be confused with flavoured grappa (see below), maintains some of the taste of the grape variety it is made of and can be a great type to start with, if you have a grape of choice.

Invecchiata and barricata (aged and barriqued): grappa is considered ‘aged ‘after it has been in wood containers for a minimum of 12 months and ‘very aged’ when resting over 18 months.

A special type of aged grappa is called grappa barricata: this name comes from ‘barrique’ the French term of French oak barrels containing 225 litres and it is only applied to grappa that aged in these specific storage conditions.

Grappa barricata is subject to strict labelling rules and it is often considered one of the best ones to get.

Flavored grappa: very popular especially with new drinkers are the flavored varieties: very common and appreciated one are grappa al mirtillo (blueberry), alla pera (pear) and grappa alle erbe  (with herbs)

Grappa can also be categorized as monovitigno (coming from one type of grapes only) or plurivitigno (when skins of grapes or different varieties is used). This mirrors the origin of the grappa as a way to reuse and make the most of the left overs of wine production.

Great Italian Grappa and Italian Grappa brands you need to know

  • Mazzetti d’Altavilla – Piedmont Grappa, several highly praised varieties
  • Distillerie Berta – Piedmont Distillery, several highly praised varieties including the excellent label Elisi
  • Carlo Bocchino Distillery grappa – several varieties from the area of Langhe Monferrano, in Piedmont
  • Grappa Nonino – one of the best known brands of Italian grappa, from the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
  • Poli Grappa Distillery – established grappa makers from Veneto
  • Bonollo – grappa producer from Veneto, known for delicious Amarone barrique grappa

How to serve grappa

Grappa is usually served after dinner and, more precisely, after coffee, if serving.

Grappa should be served at 15-18 degrees so you do not need to freeze glasses or the bottle itself before serving and it is enough to store it away from light and excessive heat.

The best grappa glass has the shape of a small tulip and requires a stem, a larger bottom and a slightly narrower top, to allow the grappa to develop its flavour at best.

When pouring, make sure you only fill half the glass and then take your time to properly taste your grappa.

Examing you grappa. Grappa must always be clear and without any suspension. However, the color can vary. Young grappas are colourless, clear and crystalline, aged grappas are pale yellow to amber and flavored grappa tend to take the color of whatever is used as an infusion.

Smell its aroma to try identify its components and layers of flavour (this is really hard unless you take a grappa tasting session, which is actually really fun!).

Taste: grappa must be sipped slowly so you can take in the layers of taste

Can you make cocktails with grappa?

It is not traditional to make cocktails with grappa however, some combination can work well: try it with coffee, coffee and amaretto, maraschino, tonic water, prosecco or dark rum for a surprising and unusual combination.

Learn more about our favourite Italian drinks here

Mama Loves A Drink advocates quality over quantity. Always drink responsibly!

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