Those of you who follow on instagram may remember some earnest postings in August during a visit to Distilleria Nannoni. I had gone to pay my respects to a cask of 2010 Grappa Riserva and to determine whether it was time to unleash this fire-kitten onto the world. For a number of reasons this is a very special grappa, not least because vintage 2010 is considered t0 be one of the best ever years in Montalcino. The only ingredient in grappa is fresh marcs, or pomace (in Italian vinaccia) that we deliver to the distillery within twenty four hours of pressing our grapes. Vinaccia must be moist and fresh in order to conserve the best aromas. A fantastic vintage like 2010 yields great vinaccia that in turn have become a wonderful grappa.
We are extremely lucky to have one of the best distilleries in Italy almost on our doorstep, particularly since timing is so important in the process. Using copper stills and a discontinuous distillation system, the unpleasant and aggressive “head” and “tail” are manually separated from the delicious aromatic “heart.” This operation, which requires incredible skill and instinct, is performed by Master Distiller Priscilla Occhipinti. It is what determines the style of each single batch of grappa and is an increasingly rare craft and requires enormous dedication; Priscilla sleeps amongst the stills, waking at 20 minute intervals to taste and intervene.
The Poli Grappa Museum describes the process like this:
If you have the chance to see a distiller at work, it will be like watching a conductor controlling the high and low notes of the musical instruments, and moving in jerks or slowly amidst the pipes and kettles, to coordinate the general harmony of every part of the symphony.
Following distillation, our grappa spent nearly six years maturing in a single cask, barrel number 428. It went into wood on 9th February 2011 and was extracted on 30th January 2017. Only 542 numbered 500 ml. bottles have been made of this extremely limited edition Grappa di Brunello Riserva.
As I write, the label is being created by Chris Watson, a Scottish artist. To be collaborating with an old friend from home whose work I have admired since we were at school together definitely deserves a toast. I am very much looking forward to seeing his creation and to start sharing this amber delicacy with visitors to the cellar.