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10 February 2021

A Passion for Grappa: versatility and internationality of Italy's par excellence spirit

A sip at the end of a meal, an ingredient in traditional and avant-garde cuisine, mixed in cocktails. Grappa is the queen of Italian spirits. Indeed, it is the par excellence Italian spirit and today is enjoyed all over the world.
“Grappa is loved in established markets such as Germany, Russia and the United States but is also becoming increasingly popular in South East Asia. Over the last two years, we have achieved impressive results in the Philippines.” So said Francesca Bardelli Nonino, communications manager with the Distillery in Friuli of the same name, speaking during the first live chat 2021 on the Vinitaly Instagram channel. "Although 2020 obliged us to communicate exclusively by digital means, on the other hand, it actually helped me open a channel towards Brazil. I hope to be able to visit the country as soon as possible,” she added.
Since the times when grappa was known as the "hunger killer" the years have gone by and a great deal of pomace has been distilled: yet, if it is sold today all over the world, this is thanks to the tenacity of six generations of the Nonino family, and especially the insight of Giannola (Francesca's grandmother) who first decided, in 1973, to distil single-grape pomace and combine good marketing with quality products. A choice and strategy pursued over the years that saw Nonino obtain Wine Enthusiast's "Best Distillery in the World" award in 2019.
Giannola was the first to promote the family grappas in person and today the baton is being increasingly handed over to Francesca as Nonino's brand ambassador and even testimonial in a commercial: “Showing who you are is vital," she said: "it conveys a sense of belonging and pride. And this is important not only for family businesses like ours but also for others,” she explained. Nonna Giannola is now Francesca's number one fan - although Francesca rather modesty considers her grandmother to be "Incomparable," adding that "on her online debut during a Facebook corporate direct event, she kept more than one hundred people glued to the screen for an hour and a half".
Marketing and communication, as well as products. Grappa is experiencing a second youth in fields including cuisine and cocktails: “Muscat grappa is wonderful with raw fish, ice cream, creamy desserts, while grappa made from Chardonnay in barrique is excellent with meat. Chef Andrea Berton used it in a rabbit broth," Nonino added. "In recent years, grappa has inspired the imagination of bartenders and is coming increasingly to the fore in the world of mixology. Being very aromatic, it is important to mix it in a manner that enhances its characteristics and reduces alcohol content."
Lastly, when buying and tasting grappas, what is the secret for verifying quality? "Distillation is truly successful when you can trap the soul of the vine in the glass," Francesca Nonino explained. "When you asses the bouquet of grappa you must to be able to recognize the grape variety." Taste and bouquet - but first of all, you must carefully check the label: "Visual examination starts even before colour with a look at the label and paying attention to details: we always indicate ageing in months or years, specify that there are no added colourings as well as the artisan distillation method complete with ageing by us in barrique."