What is Grappa Riserva?
Have you ever been in a grappa stravecchia’s – also called Riserva – shoes?How many things have you seen under the staves of your barrel?
Let’s take one of Marolo’s Grandi Riserve, Grappa di Barolo 1989.
As soon as the grappa left the still in autumn, it witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and two years later, once in the barrel, it saw the Italian Communist Party dissolve during the historic Bolognina. In 1992, it suffered for the wars raging in the Balkans, together with the whole nation. And participated, in outrage, in the Mani Pulite investigation; it was Berlusconi’s first – and unforgettable – deal with the Italian people. Grappa mourned Kurt Cobain’s passing and greeted the birth of the Internet. In 2001, it was shocked by the tragic outcome of the G8 Summit in Genoa. Grappa saw the Twin Towers collapse, the beginning of the Afghan War and the explosion of Islamic terrorism and the escalation of attacks. But the following years were also filled with development and innovation that have changed the world: Facebook was born in 2004, the first iPhone was launched in 2007, and Obama was elected in 2008, becoming the first black president at The White House. After the World Cup in Mexico, it was the first grappa to sing under the «blue sky of Berlin»: Italy was world champion in that magical summer of 2006, and perhaps grappa regretted not being in the bottle to celebrate.
And more: the nuclear disaster in Fukushima and the Costa Concordia shipwreck; Samantha Cristoforetti and Pope Francis; Trump and Greta Thunberg; Harry Potter, Dan Brown. Grappa saw all the Star Wars sequels at the cinema (long live Han Solo!), the birth of Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and even Achille Lauro.
AN EPIC NOVEL “MADE” WITH TIME
Aged grappa is like an epic novel. From generation to generation, from era to era, it combines different emotions in one sip, showing so many memories that would be hard to list. Time carves grappa’s value, for time is the only resource that cannot be purchased but, if experienced thoroughly, it can give meaning to the present.
WHAT IS GRAPPA RISERVA?
Unlike young grappa, which does not undergo any refinement and is bottled after spending a short period in stainless steel, grappa riserva is placed in wooden barrels where it must remain for a certain time.
How long? The period is established by Italian law, which does not limit its aging but indicates a minimum period after which grappa can be considered “aged”.
So? Therefore, grappa can only be considered invecchiata if – and only if – it spends a period of time between 12 and 18 months in wooden barrels (which can be made with different woods). If it exceeds 18 months, in can also have stravecchia or Riserva on the label.
Only 18 months then? As determined by law: a grappa riserva ages for about a year and a half, during which it undergoes control by the Customs.
And after 18 months? It depends on the experience of the distiller, who can keep it in the barrel to create very aged spirits. For example, Marolo prefers long and very long aging to produce unique grappas that can develop more intense and deep aromas and nuances, year after year.
But does grappa change after spending many years in the barrel? Grappa is a living element, and as such, it experiences the passing of time. It feels the contact with the wooden barrel: and ever so slowly, thanks to the presence of alcohol, it extracts the noble scents. It connects with the air and humidity present in the barrel room. Did you know that grappa loses between 2-4% of its liquid mass every year? The barrels are not airtight, allowing small amounts of liquid to leak and evaporate. This process has a poetic name, it’s called “Parte degli Angeli” (Part for the Angels): a “tribute” that riserva grappas pay to the heavens for allowing them to be excellent and precious liquors.
Does that mean that a 10-year-old grappa loses 20-40% of its total volume? Exactly. That’s why the barrels must be filled up after a certain amount of time. Of course, the same type of grappa from the same year is poured in from other barrels. At this point, the distiller’s professionalism and experience are greatly needed to ensure that the distillate does not lose quality and authenticity.
Authenticity? This is a key word, at least for grappa. Unlike cereal-based distillates, grappa comes from a noble raw material, Italian wine grapes, which are full of characteristic aromas and nuances. An experienced distiller and refiner must make sure that the grappa retains its varietal expression and not completely be “overwhelmed” by the scents extracted from the wood, even after tens of years.
In short, riserva grappas – especially those aged for decades – are the pride of Marolo and its production philosophy.
Do you want to know more?
Discover Grandi Riserve on our website and order them from your trusted wine shop!