Grappa Week – Day 7: Nardini Grappa Riserva (50%, 70 cl, L.08/07)

Grappa Week LogoAlready the last day of the Master Quill Grappa Week, and we’ll close this off with a Grappa of one of the oldest and most important Grappa Distilleries around today. Nardini has a market share of 25% and produces 4 million bottles per annum.

The Nardini distillery was founded by Bartolo Nardini in 1779. Bartolo bought an inn (Osteria al Ponte) near the Bassano bridge a.k.a Ponte Vecchio, across the Brenta river. This inn became the Grapperia Nardini and still exists today. Nardini is still run by members of the Nardini family, by now the seventh generation. Today Nardini has two distilleries: one in Bassano del Grappa and one in Monastier where besides Grappa also Liqueurs and Amaros are made.

This Nardini grappa has been distilled two times in a traditional, a discontinous and a vacuum steam still, across both distilleries. The Grappa from both distilleries are then blended and aged for at least three years (according to the Italian site) or five years (according to the UK site), in Slavonian oak barrels. The grape pomace is taken only from the foothills of north-eastern Veneto and Friuli.

Nardini Grappa RiservaColor: White wine

Nose: Old dried grass. Apple skin and cold, lightly sweet apple compote (as opposed to an acidic one). Very restrained. Brooding, you sense a lot underneath. Vanilla and oak, licorice and juniper. Unlit cigar, excellent Havana Tobacco. Warm the glass up in your hand, very important for this liquid. The smell is natural, lightly fruity, perfumy and the usage of wood is apparent. Lots of Grappa’s are “enhanced” with sugar, but this one hasn’t got the sweet nose like many others. Extremely lovely stuff, this Grappa.

Taste: Cigar box and tobacco. Lightly sweet, but all in good balance. The sweetness, that is mostly apparent when entering the mouth, is balanced with tannins from the wood (can’t imagine it coming from the grapes). Pine and cedar. The higher ABV of 50% really delivers the aroma’s of this Grappa perfectly. Underneath the cigar (box) and the Tobacco lies a great fruitiness. Fresh green apple.

From a Whisky drinkers perspective a very nice Grappa. Balanced, dry, noticeable wood influence without the predominant hay and grass notes. What a stunning nose. It gives off layers and layers of niceties. Easily the best Grappa I’ve tasted. Great product. I’m impressed by the nose, I just hope all batches are at least as good as this one, (L.08/07). This is a must!

With this Nardini we conclude our (ad)venture in the world of Grappa. Grappa had, and maybe still has a troublesome reputation. Lots of people consider it to be a not-so-nice and harsh distillate. I guess the lesser gods of Grappa making are trying to do something about that by adding lots and lots of sugar to their products as could be seen with the first few reviews from this week. I for one do not like that. Luckily also good and very good Grappa is made, although outside of Italy we only know the big brands, but insiders from Italy know there are lots and lots of artisanal Grappa producers who make very good Grappa’s, so maybe it is time to plan a holiday to Italy. Still there are a few very good Grappa’s around that are widely known, like this Nardini. Not breaking the bank and making a very good Grappa. Salute!

Points: 88

Grappa Week – Day 3: Terre Antiche Grappa Amarone Riserva (42%, Roberto Dellavalle, 70 cl)

Grappa Week LogoWell this is a first. Starting a Master Quill week and really disliking the first two entries. I was hoping to show you that Grappa is a lot better now than it used to be, and the bad reputation is now false and far behind us. Where is this going? Since Amarone is such a stellar Wine, why not return to a, hopefully better, Amarone Grappa. Third time Lucky? By the way the picture is from Terre Antiche’s Grappa Moscato, but the reviewed Grappa Amarone looks pretty similar.

Terre Antiche Grappa AmaroneColor: Light sparkling gold.

Nose: Hay and dry grass. Like a good grappa should be. Warm haystack and oozes of summer. Wet cold tea leaves. Next the fruit. Hints of cherries and warm cherry compote. (not the sharp acidic smell, no, the soft and sweet part of the cherry smell). Citrus fruits, but like the cherries, not very acidic, but more the sweet and aromatic side of citrus fruits. Orange and tangerine. Nice balance and I like the overall smell. Compared to some other Grappa’s the smell gets more and more accessible. Hints of spicy wood. Lovely.

Taste: Yes it’s very sweet again! The taste matches the nose. Hay, grass, leafy and cherries are all over this Grappa as well, but not as much as the sugar is! It has a sugary sweetness you might remember from dissolving too many sugar cubes in your tea (when you were a kid). When the sugar film leaves your mouth, not a lot is left behind underneath the sweetness. Again a sort of Grappa Liqueur to make it more accessible and have a larger appeal to a wider public. Lots of the finer elements of the original Grappa are lost because it is drowned by sugar.

Easy to drink, but yet again lots of sugar. As a Liqueur it’s not even that bad this time. Better than the two previous Grappa’s in this Grappa Week, so we’re moving up. Although quaffable, I wouldn’t buy something like this. I’m very interested in Grappa and would like to have some top-notch stuff on my lectern. I do like the smell of this Amarone Grappa though, although nothing reminds me of Amarone at all. This sweet style is not something I’m looking for personally, and the amounts of added sugar is something, I guess, that is done to hide a lack in quality or make the product more interesting for lovers of Liqueurs. I think in this case, the latter is true, since this Grappa has a wonderful nose, so the quality is certainly there. Three rather inexpensive, and sweet Grappa’s down, four more to go…

Points: 69

Grappa Week – Day 2: Duca di Vigliano Grappa di Prosecco Riserva (42%, Roberto Dellavalle, 50 cl)

Grappa Week LogoYesterday was a bit of a false start for me. I didn’t really like the Paesanella Amarone. It probably had nothing to do with the Grappa itself, but it seemed to have an enormous amount of added sugar that put me off. Today we’ll have a look at this Grappa di Prosecco. Prosecco is a totally different wine from yesterday’s Amarone, so I’m expecting something completely different.

Prosecco is a sparkling dry White Wine, mostly made from the Glera grape variety that used to be called Prosecco. It is made in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. Amarone is a still Red Wine mostly made from the Corvina grape variety in the Valpolicella region.

Duca di Vigliano Grappa di Prosecco ReservaColor: Almost colorless, with a slight green haze.

Nose: Obviously some hay and dry grassy notes. Sugary sweet (oh no!) and also floral. I would almost would call this cute. Good balance. The alcohol is only noticeable when spinning the glass a bit. If you let it breathe for a while the nose becomes more fruity. Tiny hints of lavas and licorice. With breathing the Grappa becomes more dry and dusty too. With even more air the alcoholic note becomes spicy. Nice, just fear for the sugary note in the nose though.

Taste: Sweetness first. Just like the Paesanella Grappa Amarone Barrique this is pretty sweet, so my guess is that sugar was added for a more “accessible” taste profile. It’s sugary sweet and not fruity sweet. Again the sugar is able to mask a lot of aroma in the taste, or I can’t get past the sugar. The sweetness ruins the finish and leaves a bad aftertaste in my mouth. Yep a potentially reasonable Grappa ruined by sugar. Too much sugar and with that sugar a bad finish…

Dear Grappa producers, please market this as a Grappa liqueur. In my opinion taking the sugar route is a bad way to get around the Grappa crappa feeling of the past where Grappa was considered a hot and inferior distillate. Don’t make Grappa friendlier by adding heaps of sugar, because you’ll be ruining the reputation of the distillate yet again! Just use fresh pomace and make the best Grappa you can!

Points: 59