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TDG Boot Camp: Franco's Grappa


Craig Camp
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While busily typing away at home I begin to feel a little light-headed and I soon begin to notice a strange sweet, warm, floral smell filling the house. Soon there is a knock at the door. There's my neighbor Franco smiling broadly. "Come, come quickly," he says excitedly. "The grappa is starting to come."

Click here for a taste of Franco's Grappa - if you dare.

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That's a really well-written piece. I think this is my favorite sentence:

At this point it is almost pure alcohol and considering its potency it is round and flavorful -- at least until it knocks out all the nerve endings in your mouth for five minutes.

Also, your discourse on acquavite d'uva was really interesting. I've never heard of that. I guess it's best categorized as a grape liqueur. Is there anything else I might have already tried that might be somewhat similar to acquavite d'uva in flavor?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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A couple of years ago I made a pilgrimage to the distillery of Vittorio Capovilla just outside Bassano del Grapppa. He had been profiled in Italian Cooking and Living a few months earlier and lauded for using only his hand gathered fruit to produce distillates. I was pleased to meet him and be shown around his modest facility and came away with an appreciation of the process and bottles of his apricot distillate and grappa. While the fruit distillate is amazing stuff (I still have a few ounces) his grappa, unfortunately was very ordinary. The Banfi product is, I think, superior as is the grappa from Arnaldo Caprai's Sagrantino grapes.

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That's a really well-written piece. I think this is my favorite sentence:
At this point it is almost pure alcohol and considering its potency it is round and flavorful -- at least until it knocks out all the nerve endings in your mouth for five minutes.

Also, your discourse on acquavite d'uva was really interesting. I've never heard of that. I guess it's best categorized as a grape liqueur. Is there anything else I might have already tried that might be somewhat similar to acquavite d'uva in flavor?

Thank you Michael,

No acquavite d'uva is not at all liqueur like as no sugar is added and they are decidedly not sweet. These are delicate, refined spirits that uniquely capture the aromatics of the grapes they were made from.

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Bravo for this marvellous story on that long maligned yet little tippled spirit, grappa.

For those who know Italian cuisine, no meal is complete without a gorgeous grappa to chase down a fortifying espresso.

I fondly remember the pinga/cachaca emporiums in Belo Horizonte, Brazil where every gentleman farmer purveyed his special firewater. If only America, in all its varied regions, could do the same with grappa. It is an integral part of Italian dining and should be promoted as such.

Barbarian at the Plate

Your Gourmet with an Attitude

http://www.barbarianattheplate.com

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For those who know Italian cuisine, no meal is complete without a gorgeous grappa to chase down a fortifying espresso.

Clearly you are a real man.... I bow before you. Anyone who can regularly consume grappa can withstand all tests of manhood. :biggrin:

A neighbor has offered to teach me to make Vin Santo in the fall, hopefully it won't be as dangerous as grappa making.....

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Until an Italian friend came to visit, I didn't know about flavored grappa.

In particular, he brought a Roner Myrtillo grappa (blueberry). I confess,

it was smooth and easy to drink. And, it was only 30%, which made it even

easier.

In my opinion, grappa is a truly wicked concoction, not even on the same level

as Armagnac or Cognac, but completely wild and unless corralled, leads to the

worst hangovers...

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Until an Italian friend came to visit, I didn't know about flavored grappa.

In particular, he brought a Roner Myrtillo grappa (blueberry). I confess,

it was smooth and easy to drink. And, it was only 30%, which made it even

easier.

In my opinion, grappa is a truly wicked concoction, not even on the same level

as Armagnac or Cognac, but completely wild and unless corralled, leads to the

worst hangovers...

Well, first of all Myrtillo is not a grappa. Grappa must come from the pomace of grapes. Myrtillo is a berry distillate that is a specialty of Sardegna.

...also I assure you you can get a nasty hangover from the finest Scotch, Cognac or any other spirit you think of no matter how much it costs or how old it is - when it comes to fine spirits the hangover is the fault of the consumer not the consumed.

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For those who know Italian cuisine, no meal is complete without a gorgeous grappa to chase down a fortifying espresso.

Clearly you are a real man.... I bow before you. Anyone who can regularly consume grappa can withstand all tests of manhood. :biggrin:

A neighbor has offered to teach me to make Vin Santo in the fall, hopefully it won't be as dangerous as grappa making.....

You really must try a fine grappa. Like all spirits there are bad and good ones and the bad ones far outnumber the good ones.

Rotgut is everywhere - Scotch, Cognac, vodka and every other spirit you can think of is predominately gut-busting fireballs - including grappa. Like all spirits (and wine and beer for that matter) the consumer must put in some effort and often spend a few extra bucks to find a top quality product.

Start here: Nonino Ue' and go from there...someday you'll be ready to understand fine grappa.

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Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it.

Some things are just not for everyone. My wife (Italian) enjoys grappa, but cannot take a sip of even an extraordinary old Cognac. One wiff of a Cognac or Armagnac and she twists up her nose and says it is too strong, while grappa does not bother her a bit.

What can you say?

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I have bottle of unaged Grappa at home, and that stuff is like rocket fuel -- I vastly prefer the aged stuff, particularly the considerably older stuff.

I also have a Barbaresco/Nebbiolo grappa from Bocchino that's really nice -- although I have been told by a few Italians that a "Bocchino" is slang for a particular kind of sex act in certain provinces. :laugh:

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I know you're the expert, you live there after all, but here on the Roner bottle

it says, and I quote "Myrtillo liquore con frutti e con grappa", bottled by Roner srl,

Tramin, Termeno, BZ.

So, it looks like a mix of blueberry juice, fruit and grappa, no?

And don't get me wrong, I've had the good Grappa too, but for some reason

it seems to land me on the wrong side. That's not to say I'm not willing to try

more.

Last time I was in Venezia, I went to dinner at a friend's house in Mestre and

floated all the way back to Padova courtesy of a very fine Grappa. (and FS Italia

of course)

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As you say, what you have is blueberry liqueur blended with some grappa. Though it is not a grappa in the true sense - just as Grand Manier is not a Cognac - and would have a very different and much sweeter flavor.

I'm sure the trip back to Padova seemed very fast!

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Yes, grappa could be used as a method of time travel...

And yes, the blueberry "grappa" is sweet and quite easy to consume.

And, interestingly enough, my wife agrees with yours; she can't stand

Armagnac but willingly consumes grappa; is there a linkage?

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There are genuine flavoured grappas (infusions, like flavoured vodkas) as well as grappa-based liqueurs like mirto. They are very popular in Slovenia and Friuli, and I think in the Veneto too. Dalmatia's travarica is another example. In the coastal area of Slovenia and some parts of Friuli they will bring a bottle of rutica (rue grappa) to your table as a digestif. You help yourself. A lot. For free. For some reason I seem to take my time leaving the restaurant... Another favourite of mine is lustrek (lovage grappa; sedano selvatico in Italian). A gorgeous digestif. Anybody else tried these?

Edited by Dan Ryan (log)
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Well friends, a couple of things...

Well, first of all Myrtillo is not a grappa. Grappa must come from the pomace of grapes. Myrtillo is a berry distillate that is a specialty of Sardegna.

Myrtillo from Roner is a cranberry juice liqueur (juice, sugar and a grappa base; pretty nasty stuff IMHO), Mirto di Sardegna is another story, coming from myrtle berries.

Nonino grape distillate is spelled ùe (with capital), plural of ùa which means grape (ùva) in both veneto and friuli dialects. Grape distillate has never been my cup of tea, I found it rather weak in comparison with a good old traditional grappa as those from Domenis, Nonino and of course the benchmark Nardini. But women like it...

Last time I was in Venezia, I went to dinner at a friend's house in Mestre and floated all the way back to Padova courtesy of a very fine Grappa.  (and FS Italia of course)

Kahrs, if you will be in Padova again I can suggest you a visit to Bonollo distillery shop in Mestrino, 10 km west the city center. The plant itself is located in Conselve, in the south part of the province (Bagnoli DOC area). :smile:

Alberto

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Well, first of all Myrtillo is not a grappa. Grappa must come from the pomace of grapes. Myrtillo is a berry distillate that is a specialty of Sardegna.

Myrtillo from Roner is a cranberry juice liqueur (juice, sugar and a grappa base; pretty nasty stuff IMHO), Mirto di Sardegna is another story, coming from myrtle berries.

whoops! confusing bad Italian liqueurs that start with "m". A friend of mine spent August in Sardegna and brought back a range of Mirto.

I think it is better consumed on the island with a great view after dinner when you are not concentrating on the taste.

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In the coastal area of Slovenia and some parts of Friuli they will bring a bottle of rutica (rue grappa) to your table as a digestif. You help yourself. A lot. For free. For some reason I seem to take my time leaving the restaurant... Another favourite of mine is lustrek (lovage grappa; sedano selvatico in Italian). A gorgeous digestif. Anybody else tried these?

I think I've only ever had regular grappa, I guess, but I don't know what rue grappa and lovage grappa are. Please elaborate.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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You make your grappa. You infuse it with flavourings. Simple.

They're very popular in Slovenia and Friuli, where there is a great home-distilling tradition. Among the most popular flavourings are rue, a bitter herb whose culinary use has been declining for centuries (pesto is thought to be derived from a Roman paste made with rue), other herbs such as sage, rosemary, lovage (another herb under-used in culinary circles, it has a strong celery-like flavour), basil and verbena, spices such as aniseed, and fruits like rose hip. People often use vast mixes of wild herbs and berries.

Rue is probably my favourite. It has a flavour somewhere between mint and rosemary, and is not as bitter when infused. An excellent digestif. If you ever come across some rue, I recommend making some rutica by sticking it in a bottle of plain grappa (not en expensive one) and leaving it for a while. I'm sure you'd enjoy it. Another popular digestif is pelinkovec, made with wormwood, and that really is bitter. An aquired taste for sure.

You can also make liqueurs using grappa as the base spirit, but these are very different drinks. Not bad, though.

Edited by Dan Ryan (log)
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Craig, great article, well written and researched. When we lived outside of Florence while researching 'The Wine Roads of Italy' we had the chance to spend some time with friends and neighbours home-distilling grappa in a garage. The grappa wasn't that brilliant, if I'm entirely honest, but the occasion was a meaningful one. I wrote about it in that book, concluding with these words:

In truth, to me, the raw colourless spirit that emerged directly from Roberto's still was barely potable: but the men we were with waxed lyrical, their eyes misty, not only from the searing alcohol but also out of nostalgia for the remembrance of times past, and the re-connection with generations-old rural roots which today many had moved so far away from.

That said, I adore grappa, good grappa, of course. My favourite is made by Paolo Marolo outside of Alba, mainly from fresh wine-drenched grape pomace from prestigious local wine estates. Paolo's wood-aged grappa gialla from Nebbiolo (grappa di Barolo and grappa di Barbaresco) can be sublime. The bottles are works of art, the labels decorated with local woodcuts.

If anyone is in the area and wants to see a true artisan operation and discover how wonderful this distilled essence of the grape can be, contact:

Paolo Marolo

Distelleria Santa Teresa

Case Sparse, 35

12067 Mussotto d'Alba CN

tel 0173 33144 fax 0173 361240

Marc

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Ciao Alberto, thank you for all the information. I hope, of course to return to Venezia (and Padova) as soon as I can, but alas, I have not been invited. Soon I hope.

I'm not holding up the Roner Myrtillo as an example of a sophisticated drink, rather as an example of a blend, much as the russians put fruit peels in vodka.

Tell us more about visiting a distillery, can you just show up and say "ciao, let's sample?" I am afraid I've always been a bit timid to visit wineries and distilleries...

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