Know Your Grappa Glass
Craft grappa is a precious spirit owing to the low yield of this product, starting from its main ingredient and, if aged, also because of the lengthy process involved. The enjoyment of a craft grappa takes the form of a ritual in which the relative gestures and utensils contribute to underlining the pleasure of such occasions and enhancing the tasting experience with all the emotions it arouses. Which glass is most suited to drinking grappa? A tumbler or a stemmed glass? And what is the best way to go about tasting it?
GET THE RIGHT GLASS FOR THE JOB, YOU TASTERS!
Grappa should not be served any old way, but in proper stemmed glasses. This makes an important difference because a stemmed glass consists of a foot, stem and bowl. The glass stands on a flat surface and may be picked up by its stem. At this point, there are two ways in which to enjoy the aroma as you hold your glass and swirl its contents around slightly:
- Traditional: index finger and thumb pinch the stem while the bent middle finger supports the foot.
- Trendy: the index finger and thumb hold the foot pincer-fashion.
You will have noticed that the glass is never held by the bowl, in other words, by inserting the stem between the fingers to support the bowl in the palm of a hand. Why? This method would heat the product excessively and, at the same time, leave unappealing finger marks that prevent a visual inspection of the spirit. However, there is an exception to this rule: in the case of a grappa that has been aged considerably, it is admissible to warm it with the palm of the hand to perceive the development of its aroma more clearly.
Say goodbye to the little old “grappino” glass!
Hands up those who do not possess a “grappino” glass. And those of you who have inherited your grandparents’ glassware, will surely remember the little balloon glasses shaped like an extremely narrow chimney for taking a quick shot. Well, forget them. The former were in use when grappa was little more than a fuel and the sole concern was to dose the quantity and swallow the contents in one gulp. The latter type, albeit more elegant, actually concentrated the alcohol content excessively, by assaulting the nasal mucous at the precise moment of olfactory analysis.
No two grappas are the same. If tasted ‘comme il faut’, different types of glasses are required to effectively underline and release various nuances and interpretations. In the interests of simplicity, all varieties of this Italian spirit fall into one of the following categories white grappa, aged/barrel-aged grappa and extra old grappa, and each category has its own glass.
White grappa is usually a young product endowed with lively aromas which recount the varietal from which it originates. It is served cold and is devoid of any structured or complex secondary aromas typical of grappa that has been aged in wood casks. Two types of glasses are suitable for serving such grappa:
- Calice a tulipano: it must be a sufficiently large glass to provide an ample contact surface between spirit and air, allowing for a full perception of its fragrance.
- A flute glass that is neither too narrow nor too tall: enabling a full appreciation of the aroma, especially when tasting very fragrant types of grappa.
BARREL-AGED OR AGED GRAPPA
For grappa preserved in oak wood barrels (barrique) or aged for periods up to10 years, it is advisable to use tulip-shaped glasses of at least 50 ml \ 1,69 oz. However, a particularly elegant grappa will express its full potential in a glass twice as large in which over one third of its capacity is occupied by the spirit.
Calice a tulipano largo: a very wide tulip-shaped glass which enhances the contact between spirit and air, allowing for an optimal volatility of the aromas, comprising the secondary aromas resulting from an ageing process in wood casks. The tulip shape encapsulates volatile aromas in the narrow part of the glass and gradually releases them on the nose.
EXTRA OLD GRAPPA
For grappa that has been aged for over 10 years, the glass assumes an importance that is aesthetic and ritualistic, as well as functional. These grappa varieties are comparable to other great international spirits and deserve an exceptional glass, of the meditation type. In this case, stem glasses are not called for. It is preferable to choose a glass that can be held in the palm of the hand to enable the spirit to “breathe”.
Balloon: a very large glass, whose bowl is wide at the bottom and narrower at the top, in order to obtain maximum spirit/air contact while preserving aromas intact. This is a glass designed to enhance the grappa and its fragrances while highlighting the uniqueness of this tasting experience.