Ranking the best wood-aged Italian grappas: 8 bottles to drink before Christmas
Today we want to talk about the best Italian grappas, offering you a selection of the best wood-aged distillates that we have tasted in recent times. But before starting with our ranking, make a small introduction to explain what is grappa and how it is produced.
What is grappa?
To put it simply Grappa is a brandy that comes from the distillation of the pomace, so it’s like Italian cousin of Cognac and Armagnac. But after the distillation, you can bottle or age in wood your grappa. So if you are trying to make sumptuous spirit with plenty of spices, vanilla suggestion and smoky scents you have to let the grappa rest in the barrels. To be able to call it Grappa Invecchiata it must age in wood for at least 3 years. The most prestigious grappas are usually refined in large barrels of cherry and chestnut or French barrique. But what happens to grappa during wood aging? It takes tannins, spices, aromas and flavors from the wood, so it is not a simple and fruity, but complex, sumptuous grappa, where the fruit ripens and leaves room for tertiary, vanilla and wood. The same is also true for other distillates such as whiskey, cognac, brandy and Armagnac, only the distillate you put inside changes, but the function is the same.
We have written a list of the best wood-aged grappas, but the title is specious, there are still a thousand bottles that we have not yet tasted and above all we have tried to talk about grappas that have a good quality-cost ratio.
Grappa Rubinia, Distillery Gualco
Let’s start with a Moscato grappa aged in acacia barriques for six years, a classic spirit that every Piedmontese distillery. The result is a clean grappa, very fragrant and elegant, rocky and spicy, but with alcoholic heat under control. At first glance, it amazes with its richness and spicy retro-nasal flavor. The beauty of this grappa is that the wood has enriched, but not covered the aromatic exuberance of Moscato, which emerges with arrogance offering floral, fruity and aromatic herbs. Price 36.60.
Grappa Bepi Tosolini ex Porto 2001
A very complex and rich distillate, full of spicy nuances, cocoa, and ripe fruit. The long aging has dampened the fresh fruit to promote tertiary development, enriching it and not distorting (almost) the initial product. Vanilla is indeed strong in the veins of this grappa, yet it has an aromatic identity, which is rare for oaked grappas. Tasty finish with Port’s nutty flavor that adds sparks. Price: 40-45 euros, acceptable.
Grappa di Bolgheri Sassicaia di Poli
This grappa is like Katy Perry, everyone says it’s too overrated and then they dances like Tony Manero as soon as they hear Fireworks at the gas station. But let’s not fool around, this is a bottle to own for all oak-aged grappa lovers, both for the richness and for the spicy suggestions. Is it excessive? Sure! Is it too vanilla, cheeky, expensive, sophisticated and ambitious? Perhaps, but this is a unique product, born from precious pomace. Price: 70 euros for the 0.50 bottle: if you want the best get ready to spend.
Grappa di Recioto and Amarone di Monte Santoccio
Simple, well made, vanilla and spicy are there to cut very rich pomace used to produce Recioto and Amarone. It is not pyrotechnics, but it does its duty, offering sumptuous suggestions. Price: 35 euros
Grappa della donna selvatica scavalica le colline del Barolo Riserva
That of Levi is a dynasty, a true legend of the distilling art not only of Piedmont but of all Italy. They could also use lego bricks instead of pomace and they would make a great spirit anyway. And this Barolo grappa is amazing. Once again it is the elegance of Nebbiolo to emerge in all its splendor, offering ethereal suggestions, of earth, berries, and licorice. The spices are a light echo.
Grappa Sibona aged in Madeira barrels
Very opulent in tropical fruit, spice, and sweet wood. The heat and fruity progression are very clear, have three-dimensionality and a certain precision. On the whole, it is a powerful and sumptuous, not too elegant, but nice. Excellent wood aging that draws never overbearing aromatic arabesques, thanks to the oxidized charm of Madeira. Structure, alcohol, intense flavors that hit hard: this is a complex & smoky that will excite enthusiasts. For strong palates.
Grappa Rifò 1999 Riserva del Fondatore Beccaris
A grappa from another historic Piedmontese distillery: warm and enveloping fruit, with an amazing array of floral fragrances (Moscato). Sweet spices and vanilla are the shoulder and add great elegance. In the mouth, it is powerful and direct. The sip is long, with a floral explosion in the back-nose. Excellent, rare to find, but worth it. Price 55-60 euros.
Grappa di Amarone Le Giare Marzadro
A good grappa aged in barrels for at least 36 months, made in a copper bain-marie pot still, with discontinuous distillation. The aromatic thickness, the ripe and spicy fruit, the evolved tones and a slightly oxidized aftertaste of dried fruit and flowers make it a splendid grappa. Being an Amarone grappa, consider that the pomace has undergone a process of dehydration, therefore intensities, sugars and polyphenols are enhanced to the nth degree.