The raw material: marc
Grapes are fruits of the vine, whose botanical name is vitis vinifera. This plant probably dates back a million years. And ever since man learned of the properties of its fruit, he has never stopped growing and safeguarding it in every possible way.
Every grape has a protective skin whose thickness variess from 2 to 10 thousandths of a millimetre. Huge amounts of aromatic and colouring substances are concentrated in this thin layer. If, for the vine-maker, the whole grape is all-important, the Grappa distiller’s attention is focused on the skin.
The skin’s aromatic substances constitute the primary aroma of the Grappa, because they are already present first and since the beginning in this part of the grape. This is why it will be easy to recognise a Muscat Grappa if we know the flavour of the grapes used to make it. Nature chose the skin of the grape to fix an enormous quantity of aromatic substances that produce unmistakable fragrances. Few other fruits and vegetable essences can compete with the aromatic complexity of grapes.
It is always necessary to make a distinction between the intensity of a fragrance, or a flavour, and its complexity. While, in a certain way, the intensity gives the strength of a fragrance thanks to its impact on the olfactory mucous membrane, the complexity is given by all the notes making up that given fragrance. Therefore, if we smell a bunch of a hundred red roses, the intensity will be very marked, but with low complexity. On the other hand, if we smell a bouquetof a hundred of 100 different flowers, the intensity will be marked but, above all, the complexity will be enormous.
Therefore, as Grappa is made with grape skins, this distillate holds a wealth of fragrances ranging from flowers to fruit, sweet spices, citrus fruits, candied fruit and even the fragrance of medicinal herbs. Few other distillates can boast such taste and smell characteristics, given the very high concentration of aromatic substances obtained on distilling marc.
KINDS OF MARK
Grappa is a distillate of marc. The quality of the marc is the first and most important factor for obtaining a good product and distillers are well aware of this, which is why they take great care in choosing the raw material. The freshness and good condition of the marc are all-important, since any deterioration in these qualities will inevitably have a bearing on the end-product.
Before proceeding with the distillation of the marc, it must contain alcohol. This is possible only when the marc has been fermented, i.e. when the sugar contained in it has been converted into alcohol. This condition depends on the type of vinification thaw was adopted. Marc coming from the production of white wines not left to soak in the must during the fermentation, is called “virgin”. It is rich in sugars but not alcohol and therefore must be fermented before being distilled. Marc coming from the production of rosé wines has undergone brief soaking in the must during fermentation and is therefore called ”semi-fermented” and already contains a small part of alcohol. On the other hand, marc coming from the production of red wines has fermented in the must and is called “fermented” and therefore already contains alcohol and is ready for distillation. Before distilling virgin and semi-fermented marc, it must be completely fermented, so that the sugars convert into alcohol, thus obtaining fermented marc.
If the fermented marc is not distilled in a short time, special measures must be taken for its preservation, since it could easily deteriorate, become spoiled or go mouldy. Preservation of the marc is all-important, since altered and faulty marc will certainly produce a faulty and poor quality Grappa.