I have to be sincere, grappa is not a favorite drink of mine. I rarely have one even if it's customary in Italy to drink a little shot at the end of the meal to "digest" the huge meal (some places they even put grappa into coffe any time during the day - ask for a "caffè corretto" should you wanna try this).
Grappa is distilled from the pomace left over after the wine making, so the grape skins and seeds that have already given their best to the wine. Wineries in Italy are usually required to sell their skins to a distillery (to make sure no one makes grappa illegally at home).
Distilleries may be smaller or larger, adequate or great - or anything in between. The one I visited is an artisan distillery that uses the bain marie method and the master distiller is Maurizio.
After the grape harvest and fermentation of grapes into wine, wineries will typically put the pomace into big plastic bags, seal them and send them off to the distillery that then has a few months to process it.
The pomace contains about 5-6% alcohol and by putting it into this vat and warming up the sides with bain marie the temperature rises so do the alcoholic vapours.
This vat will be closed during distillation and the vapours are collected in the little grill you see on the top and flow through a tube into a large vat at a lower temperature where the alcohol liquifies.
This process takes a few hours and the yield is around 10% in volume from the initial weight of pomace.
At this point we have an approx 35 % alcoholic solution mainly ethanol (good alcohol) and methanol (bad alcohol).
It's necessary to do a second distillation to get rid of the methanol which evaporates at a lower temperature than ethanol. So first the methanol boils off and is collected and separated and secondly the ethanol goes through the beautiful bronze distilling machine (or whatever it's called) and is collected in small tanks.
The grappa is now 80% alcohol and ready inside one of these tanks to be diluted with water to contain around 42% alcohol in the finished product. It's refrigerated down to under freezing point (around - 6 celcius) and ready to go!
The next step could be bottling which here is done by hand...
Some grappa may go on for ageing in recuperated wine barrels (the fact they've already been used for wine is beneficial and will impact the flavour the grappa. Aged grappa is typically golden in color.
Thanks to Maurizio at Alboni Distilleria for showing me around - it's always great to meet people who are passionate and proud of what they do!