Where to Visit a Grappa Distillery
Remember to visit a Grappa Distillery before leaving Bassano del Grappa. The Poli Museum demonstrates how grappa is made and gives you an opportunity to buy and taste the spirit.
Ask the Internet and there are many different stories about how grappa was invented, but for the inhabitants of Bassano del Grappa there is no doubt. The local spirit made from distilled grape stems, seeds, skin and other residue left over from the wine production, was named ‘grappa’ after the local mountain. And it was here in 1779, Bortolo Nardini found a way to refine the process. The story unfolds as we visit the museum of a grappa distillery in Bassano, where the Poli Museum in located.
From Mild Intoxication to Sudden Death
The problem involved in the distillation of grape pomace is that it produces wood alcohol, which is highly toxic and can cause blindness and sudden death. Wood alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than drinkable alcohol, so it has to be “cut off”, before the grappa pops up. At the same time pomace must not burn as this would destroy the taste, so the heating has to be done in a bain-marie or by steaming.
For this purpose, professional distillers have developed intrinsic devices and appliances, which make the brandy vaporize and condense into small glass containers. It seems very complex, and the job requires so much skill and knowledge that in Italy only authorized grappa makers are permitted to distill pomace. Grape pulp from Southern Italy must therefore pass through a distillery in the North, before it can be sold as grappa.
Part of the Local Culture
How grappa is distilled today, and how it was done 100 years ago, when the distilling master travelled from farm to farm in the early autumn, after the wine had been harvested and pressed, can be seen at the Poli museum in Bassano del Grappa where they have a large collection of brass distillery equipment. From here you can also arrange a tour to their grappa distillery or take the opportunity to buy and taste the spirit.
After your visit to the museum of the grappa distillery, you might head across the street from the Poli Museum to the bridge over the Brenta river. Here you will find the “Osteria sul ponte” still run by the Nardini family. On Friday afternoons people are queuing the bridge for a glass, indicating the important role of grappa in the local culture.