Nardini, a company known for grappa but which produces a range of liqueurs and amari as well, is headquartered in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, and dates to 1779. I had the chance to visit the company this past fall and wow!
We started our tour in the distillery, or rather, one of the distilleries. The distillery and offices are fronted by Bolle, a building finished in 2004 to celebrate the brand's 225th anniversary.
The building is shaped like bubbles, has a pond underneath it, and the building continues underground. You can see peepholes into the lower level.
This building has an auditorium, meeting space, and laboratory testing space just to embrace the sci-fi look. When you're inside the building it doesn't look Coke bottle green as it appears in these pictures.
Then we left the Bolle and went into the actual distillery. This distillery in Bassano makes the batch distilled products, another one in Treviso (closer to Venice) has column/continuous stills and waste processing facilities.
We then went into Bassano proper. The town has a famous wooden bridge. One end of the bridge is the Nardini Grapperia (the bridge is embedded in the building) - the original distillery site. On the top level there is a tiny grappa shop, but the building goes down several levels. A 360 Google map of the little shop is here.
This first picture is from Wikipedia.
We had aperitifs here and a chance to try some of the products.
Then we walked uphill through the ridiculously charming Bassano city (the cocktail bar you see wasn't open or we'd have stopped in).
Then we hit our third Nardini venue that day, Nardini Garage. It's a restaurant and bar and event space where we had lunch.
Making Grappa at Nardini
There was so much to see on my visit to Nardini (and we didn't even get to the second distillery) that there wasn't as much time as usual for me to geek out on production. So my notes on grappa production are going to be super brief.
- They use a variety of grape pomace including merlot, tokai, and pinot grigio
- The pomace is covered and sealed and left to ferment in cement vats. No yeast is added.
- Distillation is via steam in air-tight stills (so it can be done at a lower temperature). [Note - as covered in my baijiu posts, baijiu is also distilled with steam as a solid.] The steam passes to the distillation column next, where the alcohol and water are separated. It is then redistilled in a rectifying column.
- Grappa made at the two different distilleries is blended; I'd imagine much like rum with column still providing the bulk and discontinuous still grappa providing more of the flavor.
- demineralized water is used to reduce
- Aged grappa is aged in Slovenian oak
- The grappa is chill filtered at -10 Celsius
- Then they filter with "fossil flour" (which I think is diatomaceous earth) to remove oil. The oil comes from the seeds of the grapes and apparently it's not great for you - contributes to head and stomach aches. Then it's filtered through cellulose.
- The oil is recycled and used for the cosmetic industry and grape seed oil; the grape skins are used for cattle feed.
- Nardini produces unaged and aged grappas bottled at 40, 50, and 60% ABV
- Rue-infused grappa (rue is apparently a bitter plant that was once used as a vermicide like wormwood)
- Tagliatella liqueur- grappa cherry distillate, bitter orange, herbs and spices
- Mandorla - almond essential oil plus marasca cherry distillate
- Acqua di Cedro in citron
- Ginepro is juniper berries with cumin and other herbs
- Mistra is star anise
- They also have a fernet, elixir china (quinine), rabarbaro, amaro, and red gentian drinking bitters.
- Mezzoemezzo is a blend of the rhubarb and gentian bitters