Gastronomy
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Homemade Grappa

trapa s.f. - grappa,  prodotto della distillazione della vinaccia. Attestato anche a Trieste, Pola, Rovigno, Grado, nel bis. e nel frl; nel ven. col senso di  «vinaccia». Dal tedesco Treber «vinacce», prob. incrociatosi con grappa. [dal Dizionario storico del dialetto di Capodistria di Giulio de Manzini (Trieste - Rovigno, 1995).]

While purists will insist that there are differences in the distilling methods and the results of the end-products, the Istrian rakija / trapa and Italian grappa are terms that are often used interchangeably.

History (one account) - to be translated to English

L'origine di questo distillato si perde nei meandri dei secoli medievali; comunque esso è nato certamente nelle regioni settentrionali italiane, da cui le polemiche sui suoi natali scambiate tra Piemontesi, Veneti e Friulani.

La distillazione in genere ha verosimilmente avuto inizio tra l'VIII ed il VI secolo a.C. in Mesopotamia, mentre quella applicata soprattutto al vino per ottenerne acquavite risulta citata dagli alchimisti solo dal XII secolo d.C. in avanti.

La leggenda vuole che un ignoto legionario romano del 1° sec. a.C., reduce dall'Egitto, dove aveva trafugato un impianto di distillazione, avesse appreso le tecniche per ottenere un distillato dalle vinacce che otteneva dal vigneto di cui era assegnatario in Friuli. Lo storico Luigi Papo fa risalire la prima produzione in Friuli nel 511 d.C. ad opera dei Burgundi che dalla vicina Austria fecero una fugace apparizione a Cividale, applicando le loro tecniche della distillazione delle mele, per la prima volta con le vinaccie ottenendo quindi la grappa.

Più avanti, nel Medio Evo, nel 1451, abbiamo un primo riferimento alla distillazione della grappa quando fu inventariato tra i beni lasciati dal notaio di Cividale Ser Everardo da Cividale, "unum ferrum ad faciendam acquavitem".

La parola "GRAPPA" o deriva dal tedesco "schnaps", che letteralmente significa acquavite o distillato, oppure più probabilmente dal piemontese "rapa" o dal lombardo "grapa", termini che si riferiscono alla vinaccia.

La grappa riveste un interesse notevolmente ampio e diversificato come importanza in tutte le Regioni italiane, ove assume talvolta dei nomi dialettali particolari.

Description

Maligned as firewater, grappa is unfettered by sugars and leaves the palate crisp, if not shocked. After grapes are pressed for wine, the remaining pomace is used for this national blue-collar favorite. Originally, mobile grappa stills traveled from vineyard to vineyard to collect fermentation leftovers.

There are four types of grappa:

  1. giovane - clear, it is distilled for six months in a stainless steel vat;
  2. invecchiata - milder, amber-colored, aged for years in wooden barrels;
  3. monovitigno (one grape) - flavorful , made from a single grapevine; and
  4. aromatizzata - fruit-infused.

Grappa is also known by other names. It is called Marc in France, Aguardiente in Spain and Portugal, and in Germany it's known as Tresterschnapps.

Grappa is made from the waste material (pomace) from wine making. It was the drink of the frugal rural folk as there is still sufficient alcohol at about 12% present in the pomace. A more litreary name would be "acquavite di vinaccia". Vinaccia is Italian for pomace. For similar reasons in Greece they make tsipouro / raki / ouzo out of stemfila which is Greek for pomace.

For the Greek version and using a single distillation, herbs (anise seeds etc.) are placed in the bottom of the pot to prevent the pomace from burning. Possibly 500 g. of aniseed per 100 kg. pomace is used (this produces about 5 litres of spirit). For a second distillation product, steeping 100g of aniseed per litre of spirit and redistilling seems right (about the equiv. of 50 drops of aniseed oil per litre of spirit). In France grape residue is called marc and its used to make "eau-de-vie de marc".

Because grape residue contains seeds and stems, elementary distillation produces a rough product which was avoided by more discriminating drinkers. The seeds also produce quite a bit of methanol. Pomace after a first pressing contains much of the flavor of the particular grape type and thus the final product resembles brandy or fruit-based liquor. Lighter pressing of the grape must, better distillation techniques and packaging have made grappa into a sophisticated liquor.

The vinaccia should be distilled within 48 hours of pressing otherwise the aromatics disappear, and oxidation and acetification starts. On average 100kg of grape pomace yields from 4 - 8 litres of grappa at 70% abv. In making white wine, the grape is pressed first to extract the juice (100kg grapes produce about 55litres of juice), so the pomace from white grapes must be fermented separately to produce grappa. Water (or steam) is added to the red grape pomace resulting in a slurry called flemma which is then distilled. Water is added to white grape pomace which is first fermented and then distilled.

Distilling, traditional method

Load 100 kg. of pomace with an equal weight of water (100 litres) in a pot still and distill. Triple distillation is common commercially. Normally it is diluted to 45% abv.

In Italy grappa is normally an after dinner drink (digestive), or on a cold day you can have it with your morning coffee! Last vintage I decided to try a modern method using the red pomace to provide nutrients and flavor. The yeast was already present.

Grape's components:

  • stalk 3-5%
  • skin 6-10%
  • pulp (water, sugars, minerals) 82-90%. The actual water content of grapes is approx. 65-75%.
  • seeds 2-4%

The grape pomace (vinaccia in Italian) contains about 10% sugar or 5% alcohol if fermentation has occured. Traditionally equal quantity of water was added and redistilled in a pot still. A modern grappa recipe could be based on making a 'false wine', as sugar is affordable these days, and then distilling as for brandy. [For instructions on brandy and other homemade liquors, see http://homedistiller.org/.]

Distilling, modern method

  • 50 kg. of pomace with 100 litres of water (2 kg. per 4 litres)
  • 25 kg. of white sugar (1 kg. per 4 litres)

Referment for a week, press out and distill the clean wash. I used a reflux tower with a jacket reflux and vapor condenser and which produces 75% abv which is a great brandy base. I kept five litres of the reconstituded wine under an air lock for six months and it made a reasonable light wine. This is based on the fact that to "reconstitute" the pomace to make a pseudo wine, we need two kilograms pomace, four litres water and one kilogram of sugar. These proportions are approx. equivalent to seven kilograms of fresh grapes which give about four litres of wine.

Distilling, the Istrian way

Sources:
  • Home Distillation of Alcohol (extract on grappa) - http://homedistiller.org/fruit/wash-fruit/grappa (full article)
  • http://www.letsgo.com/ITA/01-LifeTimes-111
See also:

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran and Bruno Clapci

Created: Sunday, December 19, 2004; Last updated: Sunday, January 20, 2013
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