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January 12, 2021
Grappa. If your experience of Italy’s national spirit is a thimbleful of firewater poured with a knowing smile at the end of an Italian meal out, reading the word is probably enough to make you shudder. I share your pain.
Until recently my most memorable grappa experience was being, um, invited to gulp down a massive complimentary glass of the stuff in a shed in Northern Croatia, so as not to offend the village winemaker/distiller whose wine I’d gone to buy in empty 1.5L plastic water bottles. ‘Rustic’ would be a polite one-word review. But then late last year this appeared in the shop and I couldn’t stop wondering. For starters, come on, look at it. Beautiful bottle and the kind of colour you’d search for prehistoric mosquitoes in if you were trying to genetically engineer a T-Rex. So a bottle came home for Christmas and all of a sudden my one New Year’s Resolution is to get into grappa in 2021. ‘Impressive’ would be a mild one-word review. It’s not just the complexity of aromas, which bounce around between liquorice, bitter orange, earl grey tea, rockpools and rum-soaked raisins. Even with all that going on, the texture is what really sings. It’s creamy-smooth, velvety-voluptuous. Sip sip sip, yum yum yum. Maybe the whole thing shouldn’t have come as quite so much of a surprise. It’s made by Antica Distilleria Quaglia in Piemonte, and they’ve been busy figuring out how to make grappa this good since 1871. But the way they’ve taken spent Nebbiolo skins and transformed them into this nectar through all those years of barrel ageing… it’s a revelation. Here’s to more of this kind of thing in 2021. Grappa New Year!
By Richard Marsden
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