Explaining the Differences Between Italian Wine and Grappa

You’ve heard about grappa but you haven’t given it a try.

The thing is…

Everything you’ve heard kind of makes it sound a lot like Italian wine! For example, you likely know that the drink is made using grapes. That’s an easy parallel right there. You’ve even heard that grappa connoisseurs are quick to tell people that the quality of the grapes and the land on which they’re grown all play integral parts in the quality of the resulting drink.

Again, sounds an awful lot like Italian wine.

Even the distillation processes can vary to create different types of grappa. And what’s more, the drink has official protection from the European Union, just like many wine regions do.

So basically…

Grappa is the same thing as wine, right?


Though there are a lot of similarities in terms of how the two drinks are produced, and the ingredients used to create them, grappa and wine are two very different drinking experiences. In this article, we’re going to cover the main differences between the two types of drink so that you can have a better idea of whether grappa is something that you want to try.

Difference #1 – Grappa Can Only Be Produced in Three Places in the World

Unlike wine, which any country can produce, grappa is a much more limited drink that can only be made in three distinct regions.

Italy is the main country of origin for grappa, as it is the country where the drink was invented. As such, any Italian producer can make the drink, though it tends to see its heaviest production in the northern parts of the country. On top of this, grappa can also be made in the Italian parts of Switzerland and, strangely enough, in San Marino.

The point.

You won’t see French or Spanish grappa. It’s an Italian product through and through, with its EU protection ensuring that nobody outside of the three territories mentioned can produce it and officially call it grappa.

Difference #2 – The Use of the Grape

Generally speaking, Italian winemakers use the pulp, or flesh, of the grape to make their products. 

Grappa is different, as it uses the skins, seeds, and stems. To many, this has led to the insulting, and incorrect, assumption that grappa is little more than a waste by-product of Italian wine.

That isn’t the case at all.

Though a producer may use the same batch of grapes to make wine and grappa, the processes utilised are very different. This is simply the Italians showing that they can make full use of the grape. And what’s more, many argue that the skin of the grapes is where its flavours are most intense. As such, grappa becomes a more intense representation of the grape than the wine.

Difference #3 – Grappa Has a Much Higher Alcohol Volume

The average bottle of Italian wine clocks in with an alcohol volume of about 12%. The exact amount will vary depending on the wine, with some, such as Amarone, going up as high as 15%. But generally speaking, about 12% is what you’ll see on the label.

Grappa is much closer to a spirit in terms of its alcohol volume. 

Depending on the producer, a bottle of grappa could have anywhere between 35% and 60% alcohol volume. On average, it tends to come in at 37.5%. But there are producers who specialise in making the versions with much higher volumes, which they achieve through rigorous fermentation processes.

For perspective, most spirits, such as vodka and rum, tend to clock in at about the 40% mark. As a result, grappa has more in common with those drinks, at least when it comes to pure alcohol volume, than it does with Italian wine.

Difference #4 – Many Italians Consider Grappa a Digestif

For Italians, wine goes with almost every occasion. It’s an aperitif, a complement to the main meal, and simply a drink that can be enjoyed on its own.

Grappa is treated much differently.

Generally speaking, Italians treat grappa as a digestif, which means it’s something that they’ll sip on slowly after a large meal. Whether the drink actually has digestive properties is up for debate, but this is the most common usage of it.

However, it’s not the only one.

Some people do drink it straight, with others mixing it into cocktails. These sorts of practices are particularly common outside of Italy, where grappa isn’t revered to quite the same extent as it is in its native country. But at the same time, many Italians won’t limit themselves to only drinking grappa after meals. Still, it’s strong flavours, coupled with its intense aroma, tend to make it difficult to combine the drink with food in the same way that you’d select a wine to complement a nice meal.

Difference #5 – The Grappa Glass

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that we’ve talked about the various types of Italian wine glasses before. You’ll typically look to vary the type of glass you use depending on the wine you’re drinking. Sparkling wines are at their best in a flute, for example, while reds become more expressive in wider glasses.

Grappa has a preferred style of glass too, though it’s a little different to the glasses used for wine. A grappa glass is typically tall and narrow, almost giving it the same qualities as a flute. However, it tends to open up wider than a flute, which allows the drink’s aromas to be enjoyed.

Difference #6 – No DOC Regulation

Though grappa is protected by the EU and production is fairly strict, there is no DOC in place to regulate quality. As such, there’s always a possibility that the grappa you choose won’t meet your standards, which is far less of an issue with Italian wine.

Having said that, grappa producers tend to take pride in their product and aren’t especially likely to put out a poor-quality product. As such, you can generally feel confident that you’re buying something you’ll enjoy.

And that’s especially the case if you buy your grappa through Xtrawine. Our team selects only the best examples of this gorgeous drink for you to enjoy. So, if you’re looking for a new drink that’s related to wine while offering a completely different experience, check out our grappa selection today.


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