The Italian Almanac

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drinking grappa

Moonshine Grappa

Two Northern League senators began a campaign to make distilling northern Italy's famous Grappa spirit at home legal. Enrico Montani and Sergio Divina presented a bill that would allow people to make up to 30 litres of Grappa a year as long as they abide by hygiene regulations and did not sell it. According to the senators, neighbouring Austria permits home spirit production, but it is forbidden in Italy for hygiene and fiscal reasons.

Montani and Divina pointed out that despite the law Grappa is still being distilled on the sly by fans of the strongly flavoured transparent brandy, which is made from the pulpy mass of skins, pits and stalks left in the wine press after the juice of the grapes have been extracted to make wine. ''The tradition has hardly disappeared,'' the senators said of moonshine liquor production. The aim of the bill is to bring home-made Grappa production out into the open and to outline a code of hygiene, while safeguarding the business of authorised Grappa producers. Under the terms of the bill, home-made grappa could only be drunk by the producer or served to guests if the producer runs a holiday farm.

Grappa was given a European Union seal of approval protecting it from inferior clones in 2005. In some parts of the Alto Adige region, authorities tolerate people 'enriching' professionally made Grappa with herbs, watercress, cherries and even snakes, all of which are left to infuse in the drink. Grappa leads the Italian spirits market with almost 20%, and there are some 140 grappa distilleries in Italy.