Grappa is a fragrant grape-based pomace brandy of between 40% and 60% alcohol by volume (80 to 120 proof), of Italian origin. Literally a word for “grape stalk”, grappa is made by distilling pomace, grape residue (primarily the skins, but also stems and seeds) left over from winemaking after pressing. It was originally made to prevent wastage by using leftovers at the end of the wine season. It quickly became commercialised, mass-produced, and sold worldwide. The flavour of grappa, like that of wine, depends on the type and quality of the grape used as well the specifics of the distillation process.
In Italy, grappa is primarily served as a “digestivo” or after dinner drink. Its purpose is to aid in the digestion of the heavy Italian meals. Grappa may also be added to espresso coffee to create a caffè corretto. Another variation of this is the “amazza caffè” (literally, “coffee-killer”): the espresso is drunk first, followed by a few ounces of grappa served in its own glass.
Among the most well-known producers of grappa are Nonino, Sibona, Nardini and Jacopo Poli. While these grappas are produced in significant quantities and exported, there are many thousands of smaller local and regional grappas, all with distinct character.
Most grappa is clear, indicating that it is an un-aged distillate, though some may retain very faint pigments from their original fruit pomace. Lately, aged grappas have become more common, and these take on a yellow, or red-brown hue from the barrels in which they are serve.