Lorenzo Marolo: “Quality is the difference!
Wein Weber – one of the main importers of fine wines & spirits in Germany – recently interviewed Lorenzo Marolo to introduce the grappas from the Alba distillery to the German-speaking public. We report here the beautiful interview resulting from this meeting and published in a Wein Weber Magazine intended for customers of the group.
Lorenzo, which areas do the wineries with which Marolo collaborates to obtain the pomace mainly come from, and how do they influence the quality of the grappas produced?
Marolo selects the pomace from trusted small producers with whom it has decades-long relationships. The main production areas are the Langhe and Roero, territories recognized as World Heritage Sites for the close link between viticulture and human work. The conferment takes place directly: after the harvest, the pomace arrives very fresh in the distillery, from the hands of the cellarman to those of the master distiller. They are neither ensiled nor stored, but distilled one batch after another. Marolo distills all of its production in about 90 days from the end of the harvest, a factor that guarantees the integrity of the pomace, freshness and aromatic expressiveness. The varieties are typical and traditional: Nebbiolo for Barolo and Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto. But also important white berried varieties such as Arneis, Cortese da Gavi and the aromatic white Moscato, used for Moscato d’Asti.
How have the history and traditions of Marolo and its region shaped the grappas produced today?
Marolo has learned to value the differences of his own grappas by learning from wine producers. Like them, he has always tried to respect the vine of origin as much as possible, enhancing its typical aromas, identity and territoriality.
What distinctive features distinguish Marolo grappas from other Italian grappas?
Always observing the vignerons of the Langhe, Marolo has tried to “go beyond” the concept of single-varietal grappa. Today Marolo’s production is differentiated by the wide range of single vineyard grappas, i.e. grappas from a single vineyard located within the so-called Additional Geographical Indications (MGA) of Barolo and Barbaresco, i.e. vineyards of a particular vocation, officially recognized. This is how, for example, Grappa di Barolo Brunate or Grappa di Barbaresco Rabajà are born. It is an attempt to go even deeper with the characterization of grappa, linking it unambiguously to a vineyard and a vintage.
How does Marolo integrate modern distillation techniques with traditional methods to obtain high quality grappa?
We distill in an exquisitely artisanal way, through a bain-marie system that allows for a very delicate extraction. Despite the tradition, however, he does not give up experimentation, adopting techniques – always artisanal – forgotten or borrowed from other cultures. An example of this constant research is Grappa di Barolo Nivis, obtained by natural cold stabilization and not mechanically filtered. Or the Grappa di Barolo Soleras, obtained using the homonymous method used for rum and sherry. We experiment a lot with the barrels used for ageing. This is how the Doppio Fusto Grappas are born, for example, distilled in a bain-marie and then aged in two different types of wood (oak and acacia, oak and cherry or oak and chestnut). Or the Grappa di Barolo 10 years, aged in Barolo Chinato barrels.
Could you provide us with information on the different ranges of Marolo grappas and on the different types of customers they address?
The Classics are the introductory grappas to the Marolo world: they are young or slightly refined grappas from the most representative Langhe and Roero vines. Le Invecchiate (“The Aged Ones”) represent the line of Grappas aged in wood for the most demanding palates, who want to taste distillates up to 20 years of age. Finally, Le Grandi Riserva (“The Riservas”) are exclusively super aged Grappa di Barolo (they can be over 40 years old) for enthusiasts of very long aging who are looking for a hedonistic, prestigious drink. Then there are lines such as the Anniversary and the Exclusive Selections that collect rare and experimental Grappas, in limited editions.
What culinary pairings do you suggest to best enhance Marolo grappas?
I always say that Marolo Grappas have a strong «playful» side. There are therefore no fixed or commanded suggestions, perfect recipes or ideal dishes to pair them with. There is a desire to taste them, to experiment, to compose combinations and have fun. That’s the beauty of it, using Grappa for pure hedonistic pleasure and discovering new frontiers of taste. For example, we like them with chocolate, with panettone, with Piedmontese dry pastries, or as a simple after-meal after coffee.
Are there any plans to launch new Marolo products in the future?
Marolo has just launched Fernet Domenico Ulrich on the market, a bitter reworked from an ancient recipe by the famous Turin botanist and pharmacist. It took years of experimentation, study and recipes to achieve the balance between botanicals. That of the bitters is an old “pallino” of my father, Paolo Marolo, who in the 60s was a professor of Herbal Medicine at the Enological School of Alba. Today his passion has materialized in a new range of products under the Domenico Ulrich brand (Amari and Vermouth), which is giving us great satisfaction.
Marolo organizes grappa tastings, guided tours or events for visitors; How can interested parties take part?
Very easy, just go to the Marolo website in the «Visits» section. Here you can book a visit with tasting to our distillery in Alba. The visit can also be given as a gift!
Marolo collaborates with renowned Piedmontese artisans in the creation of pastry products combined with its grappas. Can you tell us more about this collaboration and the products obtained?
One of the most fruitful collaborations is the one with Albertengo, an artisan company specialized in the production of panettone. To create our panettone we had to provide it with a “special” Moscato Grappa, which could naturally fix its aromas to the most humid part of the dough and, even after cooking, would give its unmistakable scent to the whole panettone