We all know that grappa is a delicious and enjoyable alcoholic beverage of Italian origin that is unlike any other. Wonderfully fragrant in addition to having unforgettable taste, this grape pomace brandy is enjoyed by millions around the world. Those paying attention may have noticed an interesting fact – more often than not, grappa will be served immediately after a meal. This is not a coincidence, nor just a cultural practice with no reason other than tradition. Grappa is one of the most popular types of alcoholic drink known as a digestif. But what exactly does that mean? Well, we’re glad you asked!
A digestif drink is an alcoholic beverage that is served after a meal – usually a ‘main meal’ such as lunch or dinner. The reason for this is that these drinks aid in digestion. Generally, they will have a higher alcohol content but a deceptively ‘relaxed’ profile. While they may be a bit sweeter, they are not to be confused with dessert drinks that are far sweeter and lower in alcohol content, and unlike digestifs, may come with decadent ingredients like cream or added chocolate.
Many types of digestif alcohol actually began as medicines or ingredients of elixirs hundreds of years ago in their countries of origin. And you guessed it – many of these tonics were meant to treat digestive issues and other stomach problems. Some are extremely herbal in nature, with carminative herbs that prevent the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract like anise being prevalent (think ‘Jägermeister’ for instance). However, others simply rely on their higher alcohol content and a taste profile that lends itself to after-meal sipping – grappa being an excellent example. In the end, any drink that fits these criteria and helps stimulate the digestive enzymes can be considered a digestif.
Understandably given the similarity in their names, these two are often confused. However, the fact is that these two types of alcoholic drinks are technically opposites! As previously explained, digestifs are enjoyed after a meal and are intended to aid in the digestion of that meal. Aperitifs, meanwhile, are drunk before a meal, with the intention of stimulating the appetite. Unsurprisingly, many of their characteristics are also the opposite of digestifs. They will usually be quite dry, unlike digestifs that tend to be a bit on the sweeter side. Generally, they will have somewhat lower alcoholic content as well.
An interesting and notable difference is that nearly all aperitifs are equally drunk not as aperitifs. While no alcoholic beverage is only drunk at a certain time without exception, most digestifs are used as such a most of the time. Aperitifs, however, while appreciated as such, are regularly drank with meals, by themselves, and perhaps most surprisingly, some are used as aperitifs in one instance and as a digestif in another! To illustrate this point, vermouth, champagne, gin, dry wines and dry sherrys are all considered aperitifs. In Greece, ouzo is a popular aperitif, while on the county’s island of Crete the almost identical drink raki is used as a digestif.
Like many of its digestif brethren, grappa is revered by many as a curative drink, with claims it will solve a host of digestive and stomach issues. Whether you agree or not, one thing is undeniable – it makes an excellent digestif! Once belittled as ‘poor man’s drink’, it is now recognised as one of the most enjoyable choices to follow up a hefty meal.
Knowledgeable drinkers and distillers will implore you to seek out grappa made by knowledgeable distillers – and as a beginner, gravitate towards grappa made from the pomace of a single, quality grape (e.g. Grappa di Moscato or Grappa di Prosecco). Traditionally served in straight-sided shot glasses, fine grappas are often now served in elaborate flutes so the fragrance can be more easily appreciated. Should you be planning a particularly large dinner or one with multiple courses, the addition of a grappa digestif can truly put the cherry on the top of a fantastic dinner get-together.
Pietro Gallo Estate offers an unparalleled grappa experience in Australia. Our esteemed King Valley Prosecco grapes, grown here at the perfect altitude, were originally directly sourced from Italy using the finest examples to create the lineage of our now-storied grapes. We distil the pomace of these grapes using centuries-old traditional Italian methods, along with modern techniques. These, modern approaches result in superior, remarkable consistent grappas and wines. Our Grappa di Prosecco is the perfect way to enjoy a pure, premium grappa while for those who enjoy coffee and grappa combinations such as caffe corretto and ammazzacaffè,our Grappa al Caffè offers an exciting and unique spin. We also offer unique onsite experiences, and our Olivigna Restaurant provides the perfect fine-dining precursor to your grappa tasting. To find out more about our grappas, liqueurs, wines, and unique products – or to enquire about holding your next event at our beautiful estate – contact us today!