A couple of weeks back at dinner with Michele Dolzan I had the opportunity to taste through some of the different Grappa’s his family produces as well as learn all about their history. Michele is part of the fourth generation and along with his brother’s carries on the family tradition as well as bringing it forward to current times by instituting higher standards, and using modern technology to their advantage.
Villa de Varda produces a wide range of different Grappas. Within their portfolio are single varietal Grappas, blended Grappas and selections aged using different methodologies and vessels. In short all of these things lend themselves to Valla de Varda having a wide ranging assortment of Grappas that offer a variety of flavors and drinking experiences.
They have developed the “de Varda” method which has subsequently been adopted by some other producers. It has three basic steps to it. The first involves the raw materials they utilize. By and large they use their own pomace as opposed to others who tend to buy Pomace from other wineries; this assures freshness. The one exception to this is for their Amarone Grappa. For that selection they have an arrangement with the esteemed Amarone producer Bertani to acquire their Pomace. The second step in their method is related to distillation. The Villa de Varda distillation process is much slower than most and it’s achieved using custom made stills. The slowness of the process helps control evaporation which lends to a more powerful aromatic profile. The third step in the de Varda method involves aging. Their Grappas are left to age in special, sterile stainless steel vessels for a minimum of 6 months. Here are my thoughts on a handful of the offerings in the Villa de Varda portfolio:
This was produced from 100% Pinot Grigio Pomace. The grapes were picked exclusively from hillside vineyards. The pomace used is carefully selected for quality. After distillation it was aged for 6 months in tank. I was immediately drawn to the remarkably expressive nose here. Ripe orchard fruit aromas are of particular note. Taking a sip my senses were immediately wowed by the soft and silky mouthfeel. Stone fruits, white melon and more envelop the senses. The finish is long and pleasing without a hint of discernable burn. A tiny bit of chocolate is present.
Villa de Varda Grappa Moscato 375ml ($50)
It was produced exclusively from Moscato Pomace. All of the fruit came from hillside vineyards in Trentino-Alte Adige. The purest distillate is selected and aged for 6 months in tank prior to release. A gentle wisp of banana wafts from the nose here. The more reticent nose here shows off white flowers and bits of citrus. The palate has a hint of a bite but is still impeccably smooth with tropical and orchard fruit flavors stealing the show. A hint hazelnut emerges on the mellifluous finish which has excellent length.
Villa de Varda Trie Grappa Riserva 375ml ($50)
This offering was produced from the Pomace of Teroldego, Pinot Bianco and Muller Thurgau. The fruit came from three regions in close proximity to the distillery. The purest distillate was selected and aged for three years in French barriques. The lots are kept separate and are blended together after time in oak. The blend on this Grappa varies from year to year depending on which lots shine. Papaya aromas lead the nose along with bits of dried apricot, nectarine and tropical fruits. The palate is studded with stone fruits, and bits of spice and toasted hazelnut. The finish here is persistent and impressive; Madagascar vanilla bean, anise and a touch of dusty baker’s chocolate are all in evidence.
All of the fruit came from the Valpolicella region. Traditional Amarone grapes of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella were used. After distillation of select lots they were aged in medium toast French oak for five years separately and then blended prior to bottling. Orange peel and cherry aromas drift from the nose here. The palate is a bit softer and gentler than the blend but it shows more layers of depth and complexity. The finish is long, lush and almost honeyed in texture but without sweetness, however it gives the impression of sweetness.Michele is part of the fourth generation and along with his brother’s carries on the family tradition as well as bringing it forward to current times by instituting higher standards, and using modern technology to their advantage.
Villa de Varda Grappa Amarone Stravecchia 750ml ($250)
The best parts of the passito from Bertani Amarone are selected for distillation. Traditional Amarone grapes are used. Aging occurred over no less than five years in French oak prior to the separate lots being married. Wisps of marzipan and vanilla bean highlight the immense and welcoming nose of this offering. The palate here is simply remarkable with a depth and profundity that simply wows the senses with wave after wave of delicious flavor. A host of dried fruit characteristics, spices and more are present in droves. The finish is long and memorable with continued fruit, bits of chicory and a final return kiss of marzipan. This is a special expression of Grappa that should be savored among fine company.
These are some exceptional Grappas from Villa de Varda. There is an incredible smoothness, depth and quality to their overall portfolio; all without a single hard edge or harsh note. If you’re used to Grappa that makes you shudder when you drink it, think again. Each of these would make a delicious addition to your bar. Besides these (and other Grappas) Villa de Varda makes a full line of delicious fruit liqueurs that work well by themselves or as a cocktail base.