Grappa, from the Latin word 'grappapolis', meaning a bunch of grapes, is produced throughout Italy and is a spirit derived from the distillation of pomace, the left-over remains of grapes where the juice has already been used for the production of wine. The pomace comprises of the skins, seeds, stems and grape-pulp which still has enough sugar left to be able to ferment.
The production of Grappa helped a winemaker add a further income stream to their business and, by comparison to other spirits, was cheaper versus other available spirits, however that has changed over the years, where today we see many quality grappa producers specialising in their field, having honed their production methods, and greatly improved the quality of the pomace by removing the stems and stalks after initial fermentation.
Italy's oldest grappa distillery was established by the Nardini family and produces some of the finest grappas in the world today, and who were the first to build a still which did not use a direct flame, but rather by steam distillation in a 'discontinuous' cycle still, thereby improving controls over both temperature and quality, before introducing the altogether better method of double distillation for greater purity, thereby putting grappa on the map as competitor to whisky and Cognac.
Grappa labelled as di Vitigno means the pomace is from a variety of different grapes. Conversely, Grappa Monovitigno classifies the product as being derived from a single grape variety.
Grappa may be both un-aged and aged, and must be produced in any on of the eight recognised geographical regions and bottled at a minimum of 37.5% alcohol by volume. Styles of grappa are primarily based on their age and whether or not they are made from an aromatic grape type such as moscato, described as 'aromotica' on the bottle's label.
In France, they use pomace from their grapes to produce Marc (pomace brandy), in the same way as the Italians produce grappa.