If the aim of tasting is not that of analysing the product's sensory characteristics, but simply for the pleasure of drinking a good shot, even together with friends, a relaxed tone will certainly be the best condition for fully enjoying the distillate.
On the other hand the sensory analysis of a Grappa requires attention and concentration.
The tastings done by professional Grappa tasters occur in a suitable place, with light-coloured walls, quiet to aid concentration, and free of strong fragrances or odours. Therefore the tendency is to create a neutral base, so that everything contained in a glass of Grappa can express itself without interference.
Tasters are always advised not to use perfumes or smoke immediately before the tasting, and also not to swallow anything that can alter the taste: e.g. coffee or very strong and spicy foods. A logical order in the succession of Grappas must always be followed so that everything proceeds according to a natural increase in intensity and persistence (from new Grappas to aromatic ones and then Grappas aged in wooden barrels). Lastly, it is always a good rule to taste on a full stomach and be in good physical shape.
Grappa must not be served too cold, and never too hot. The ideal serving temperature for Young Grappas and Young Aromatic Grappas is between 9°C and 13°C. Whereas, with rare exceptions, Aged Grappas should be tasted at a temperature of 17°C. When in doubt, it is always better to serve them at a lower rather than higher temperature. A Grappa served a bit too cool can always be warmed in the palm of the hand in order to bring out all its bouquet. But the opposite is not possible.
Similar attention must be paid to the tasting glass. It consists of a tulip-shaped glass of average size (100-150 mm), not too narrow at the mouth, and strictly in crystal glass. Brandy balloons and similar are to be avoided. The upper bell-shape of the tasting glass allows a gradual release of the fragrances.
The first examination of the distillate is visual. It is a good rule to place the glass between your eye and a light source in order to have optimum conditions. First of all it is necessary to check if the liquid is perfectly transparent, without any suspended particles that alter the light rays passing through it. If the Grappa being tasted is perfectly transparent it can even be defined bright. Otherwise, if there are suspended particles the liquid will take on a whitish and milky hue, and, in the worst cases, will even be turbid. Any form of opacity making the Grappa no longer a crystalline liquid is to be considered a defect, unless it concerns a flavoured Grappa with an infusion of vegetable essences that can release particles: such as in the case of a stick of liquorice left in infusion inside the bottle.
By analysing the colour, on the other hand, it is possible to know if it is a young Grappa, which is always perfectly clear and colourless, or Grappa aged in wooden barrels, which has shades ranging from pale yellow to a splendid intense amber.
In the olfactory or bouquet test, make sure not to stick your nose inside the glass, to avoid its saturation with alcohol which would anaesthetise your sensory capacity. The Grappa must be kept away from the nose and sniffed briefly and with moderation, seeking to perceive its qualities without breathing in too deep. A young Grappa will have clear notes of fresh marc, or flora and fruity notes if aromatic. Grappa aged in wooden barrels will be rich in spicy notes of vanilla, cinnamon, liquorice, cocoa and even tobacco.
The taste test completes the encounter of the Grappa with our senses. The distillate should be tasted in small sips, using the tongue gently, but never in the entire oral cavity as though tasting a glass of wine, which would numb our gustatory papillae due to the effect of the alcohol. Its contact with our palate for long enough (just a few seconds) is the ideal measure for correct tasting.