Grappa is traditionally a grape distillate made from the pomace (skins, pulp, stems) that is left over after wine production. The Nonino family, however, has perfected the usual process to optimize the flavors of their grappa and guarantee maximum quality at every step.
This specialized process has earned Nonino many prestigious awards, and the Nonino family is credited with being the first grappa-maker to turn grappa into a remarkable and distinguished spirit. Here’s how the family insists on making their product.
Fresh, soft grapes are picked at precise ripening from dedicated vines of the most fitting grappa-making grape varietals.
The skins and pulp of the grapes are used to make the grappa, but the stems are removed because of their bitter flavour.
The conversion of sugar into alcohol must be done in a way that conserves the flavors and aromas of the grapes used.
If these subtleties are lost, the grappa will have a lesser character or flavor profile.
Nonino has five artisanal distilleries each with twelve batch steam stills that are in operation twenty-four hours a day. A sophisticated grappa is assured only when fresh pomace is used and no time is wasted between fermentation and distillation.
Many grappa producers allow for a double fermentation, however this can lead to the production of methyl alcohol, which will then have to be removed and leaves a bad taste. Nonino does not allow for a lengthy fermentation in order to avoid this.
1750 barrels are kept in the Nonino cellars made from various types of wood, including Limousin, Acacia, Wild Cherry and Pear.
Wood changes the sensory profile of the grappa for two reasons: firstly, oxygen is allowed through the porous wood in small quantities and secondly, the particular flavours of the type of wood that is used are released into the grappa upon contact with the liquid and become part of the taste of the final product.
Nonino uses small barrels to increase wood-contact with the grappa and optimize the flavour. The cost of these barrels is higher but the quality of the grappa is increased. Many grappa producers add caramel and other flavors to the distillate in order to artificially produce these ‘wooded’ flavours. Nonino, of course, refuses to do this. The Angel’s Share (the alcohol that is evaporated naturally during this process) is also increased with these small barrels, leading to a smaller production; and a far superior grappa.
Nonino creates its Grappas and Distillates in the same general way, but each process is adapted to enhance the flavor and quality of the specific type.
Only selected pomace is chosen, with the stalks removed. No time is wasted after the juice for wine has been drawn from the grapes. The pomace is immediately taken to the distillery and kept in stainless steel tanks where the temperature and anaerobic conditions are carefully controlled, and the pH-level, yeast and selected enzymes closely monitored.
Best quality fresh grapes are used, and harvested when just ripe. These grapes are pressed and de-stalked. Temperature control is vital at this point as the grapes must not be allowed to warm. The pomace is then kept in stainless steel tanks under vacuum, and selected yeasts are added.
Distillation then occurs with small steam boilers and not in vacuum stills because the pumps in the vacuum actually remove precious aromas from the distillate.
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Carefully selected honey from uncontaminated ecological areas is kept in stainless steel vats at controlled temperature to ferment. Honey is a very difficult substance to ferment and this requires skill and practice.
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All images were taken from the official Nonino website.