What is grappa and how is it made?
A better question is: What isn’t grappa? Except for open-minded Italians, who call the place it was invented home, the majority of the planet considers it fancy moonshine at best or the primer for an expensive Molotov cocktail at worst.
Though its true origins remain a mystery, the idea of distilling pomace, the guck left over from the winemaking process, appears to have occurred to the Italians somewhere in the middle of the 14th century thanks to someone finally putting into words what they put in their mouths.
To clarify, the term pomace covers a lot of ground, including everything from the leftover skins, stems, seeds and the pulp of the grapes previously pressed into vino. Arguably the first attempt at organic recycling, grappa’s popularity was built on the palates of the Italian working class from across the country who found drinking the spirited remnants of fine wine within their snack bracket.
For the sake of transparency, I’m a fan. As close as some of the low-end variations come to drinking sandpaper, good grappa is … really good grappa. Many of your favourite high-end Italian wines, like Tignanello and Sassicaia, give birth to grappa from the remains of their high-end grapes, and many more wineries experiment with oak-aging with their grappas drinking as fine as a cognac or Scottish whisky.
And if you’re into packaging, grappa producers take their bottles very seriously. From hand-blown beauties with a grape bunch magically floating inside to decanters that put perfumeries to shame, what grappa may lack in mainstream flavour it more than makes up for in looks.