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Finland Grappa Tasting

Helsinki, June 9, 2015

Bailliage of Helsinki members receive an introduction to one of Italy's most popular alcoholic drinks

Grappa was the theme in early June when a dozen enthusiasts gathered round a table in Helsinki for a presentation and tutored tasting facilitated by Irene Zulian from the Distilleria Marzadro at Trentino.

Forty million bottles of grappa, one of Italy's most popular alcoholic drinks, are produced annually. Nevertheless grappa is fairly unknown to Finns. We know it is a strong and clear alcoholic beverage and that’s about it, commented one participant before the tasting took place.

Irene commented that this is exactly how grappa was some 30 years ago. Nowadays grappas, both young and aged, are high-quality products exclusively from Italy. They are developed and marketed to different target groups around the world.

Since 1989 the name has been protected by the European Union meaning that the drink can only be called grappa if it is sourced and produced in Italy. Irene explained that to be called grappa the following criteria must also be met: 1) It is produced from pomace, and 2) its fermentation and distillation must occur on the pomace without adding water.

Most grappas are still clear, indicating they are unaged distillates. However aged grappas have become more common. These take on a yellow or red-brown hue from the barrels in which they are stored. Oak is the most used, but some high-end grappas are aged successively in casks of oak, acacia, ash and cherry wood – an innovation introduced by the Marzadro Distillery.

Like wine, grappa comes in all varieties and qualities, the flavour based on the grape or fruit used.

We tasted four different types of grappa:

La Trentina – Tradizionale, Grappa giovane
This grappa was created to express the elegance of the Trentino traditions. The marc was from typical grape varieties of the region – Teroldego, Marzemino and Merlot – giving a taste which was characteristically fresh and elegantly dry.

La Trentina – Barrique, Grappa morbida
A sister grappa to the previous one was made of marc from Muscat, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer grapes which are also typical grapes for the region. However, there is a clear colour difference which is due to the fact that La Trentina Morbida is then aged for several months in barrels previously used for aging a different grappa. This gives the grappa a more gentle and velvety taste.

Le Diciotto Lune – Grappa Stravecchia
The name tells it all: the aging time follows the moon cycle for over 18 months. Also, the making of this grappa is very scientific: you need 5 marcs of Trentino grapes: Marzemino, Teroldego, Merlot, Moscato and Chardonnay. Then you distil from a water bath into pot stills and let the grappa age in small barrels of cherry, ash, oak and robinia, each imparting its own characteristics of fragrance, aroma, colour and flavour.

Giare Amarone
A single grape grappa produced by distilling precious Amarone varietals with a Bagnomaria. It is left to age for a period of at least 36 months in small oak barrels of 500 litres. The end result is a fine and decisive aroma and a pleasantly captivating taste that is harmonious and persistent on the palate.

During our tasting, we sampled grappa at room temperature, but many Italian households serve it straight from the freezer, while the Instituto Nazionale Grappa (the body that represents most of the grappa producers in Italy) recommends serving young grappa between 9-13C, and riserva at around 17C.

Grappa is a wonderful way to end a meal. Alternatively you can drink it on its own as a shot or add it to an espresso (caffè corretto). The Instituto Nazionale Grappa recommends serving shots in small tulip-shaped glasses. Salute!

Stana Porvali, Vice-Chargée de Presse

Photos courtesy of Stana Porvali and the Marzadro Distillery