Maybe it’s time you grabbed some grappa
I have seen a description of grappa that compares its transition to the fairytale of Cinderella.
Poor and in rags, with the help of her fairy godmother, she became a beautifully dressed young lady who won the heart of a prince at the ball.
A 1997 New York Times article reads: “Through uncounted decades, grappa was little more than a cheap, portable form of central heating for peasants in northern Italy. Fancier Italians, and most foreigners, disdained it, but that was before the Nonino family of Percoto came to prominence.”
Efforts to use the residue of seeds, skins and stalks and the leftover sugars from winemaking, are all fermented and then distilled in a process that predates whiskey, vodka and gin.
Its rise from centuries of numbing the pain of hard toil and subsistence living, to being sold in handblown bottles and adorning the dinner drink trolleys of fine restaurants can be traced back to families like the Noninos.
In 2019 Wine Enthusiast magazine awarded Nonino their spirit brand of the year and said their “longstanding legacy of craftsmanship and innovation has led this family business to the top”.
In 1973, Nonino became the first distillery to produce grappa from a single grape variety.
Traditionally, winegrowers harvested many different types of grapes from their vineyards and, after making their wine, would throw all the grape skins together into one pile.
As she tells the story, Giannola Nonino first fell in love with her husband Bonito, then fell in love with his grappa.
She believed so strongly in Bonito's work, she wanted to celebrate both his skill and its potential.
Her father had also raised her to celebrate the unique culture of Friuli.
In combining the passion for heritage of her father with the talent for distillation of her husband, Giannola came up with an idea for making grappa from a single grape type.
Nonino Il Moscato Grappa is described this way by Wine Enthusiast: “Fragrant and lovely, this clear grappa offers aromas of dates and figs, lingering violet and rosewater notes on the palate, and a surprisingly soft feel for the oft-fiery grappa category.”
Canadian critic Natalie Maclean says: “Nonino was the first producer to distil pomace and fresh fruit at harvest time, and among the first to distil strictly from fresh juice to make their unique grappas. It is the latter technique that allows this moscato spirit to retain much of the aromatic richness for which the grape is known. Chill this and serve as a digestif, and experience why Nonino is synonymous with the absolute pinnacle of quality grappa production.”
It is best served after dinner at about 60F from a smallish tulip-shaped glass. To get the maximum benefit, it is wise to let it sit in the glass for ten to fifteen minutes before tasting. Nonino Moscato sells for $49.90 for a 70cl bottle.
Nonino Grappa Lo Chardonnay is fine, soft and elegant with hints of golden apple and fresh bread crust.
Lightly amber after a short time spent in barrique, refined and elegant, it has a scent reminiscent of bread, vanilla and pastry.
On the palate there are notes of chocolate and newly shelled almonds. Perfect if combined with fish or sushi. It can be added to risotto to enhance its scent; one or two tablespoons will suffice. $49.90.
To appreciate the potent Italian digestive called amaro is, quite honestly, a work in progress for me, but there are certainly quite a few of them and they are popular.
Nonino Amaro Quintessentia consists of their grape distillate that is, in their words, “enriched by important cultural contaminations and great knowledge of botanical varieties coming from far and exotic lands”.
To appreciate the extraordinary scent of herbs, it should be served at room temperature. $49.45.
I must confess that it was not until researching for this article that I became aware of the significance of one grappa that we stock.
I have told the story of the lovely Alpasion wines from Argentina and mentioned that one of their founders, Bill, lives here, but here is what their website has to say: “This year we also produced a grappa that we called Don Bill. From the beginning of our project, Bill has dreamt of making a grappa, but it was always put aside by other priorities. Last April, Toine, also one of our founders and a great friend of Bill's, decided to sponsor the grappa and honour it with the name of his friend. It is made from one of the most renowned master distillers in Argentina. A very pure grappa for $83.60 for a 75cl bottle.
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). Visit wineonline.bm