Monday, December 10, 2018

Grappa - An Educational Tour at Bonollo Distillery

The first stop on the Grappa tour involved getting a lesson in how Grappa is made at the Bonollo Distillery located in Torrita di Siena in the heart of Tuscany. Bonollo owns five distilleries located throughout Italy that distill 200,000 hectoliters of alcohol per year which is equal to 50 million bottles. Grappa is an alcoholic beverage of Italian origin and it is their most important product. They also produce acquavitae and brandy.

We arrived just as a truckload of pomace which is also called marc arrived at the plant. Pomace is the used grape skin and seeds leftover after winemaking. Our tour was taking place during the wine grape harvest so the distillery was operating in full swing. The distillation season is only about three months long. In addition to alcohol production,  they also collect the grape seeds during the production process to make grape seed oil, used both for cooking and in the cosmetics industry.

The pomace must come from Italy, grapes from wine regions in other countries cannot become Grappa. After the pomace is delivered to the distillery, speed is of the essence. Fresh pomace makes fresher tasting Grappa. The pomace is moved into copper stills where steam is pumped in to collect the aromatic vapors which rise into a pipe to reach the distilling column. Pot stills work in alternating pairs which is called the discontinuous method. Coffey or column stills are continuous stills that are more efficient and, as the name suggests, work continuously. Both types are used at the Bonollo Distillery in Torrita di Siena.

The vapors are cooled and the condensation that results drips down in three parts - the head, the heart, and the tail. The head contains the most alcohol, it is discarded. The tail contains the oilier components that will be separated out. The heart is the good stuff and it is from what the Grappa is made. After distilling is complete, the heart is stored in either stainless steel tanks or oak barrels depending on what type of Grappa is meant to be made from it. Grappa destined to be clear and sold young will go into the stainless steel and Grappa that is meant to be aged will be placed into oak barrels which will add additional aromas and flavors and help it to become smoother.

After our tour, we did a tasting of several of the Bonollo products which were served with a side of local sweets and dark chocolate. Each had a uniqueness that came from the type of grapes from which it was made and the aging process it had been through. It was a very
informative tasting.

At the end of our afternoon, we were gifted a bottle of their Consenso
Classic Chianti Grappa to take back home. This dry and elegant Grappa displays cherry cordial aromas and flavors. Serve this Grappa chilled to 48 degrees Fahrenheit, it is an ideal partner with dark chocolate and perfect after a heavy lunch on a cold day by the fire.

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