"Difford's Guide" is the preeminent authority for spirits and cocktails on the internet. They have reviewed basically every spirit or liqueur, and for over a decade have been a massive resource for anyone interested in or working with spirits or cocktails.
Based in London, the site's content is slightly Eurocentric and the incredible quantity and quality of the content is driven by access to so many fantastic bartenders and producers. If you're curious about a bottle in your bar, chances are that Difford's Guide has covered all of your queries.
That said, it was exciting to finally see the grappa equivalent of Shark Week on Difford's Guide. There are new articles exploring with extraordinary detail the history, styles, production and social history of the spirit. The feature articles detail the first evidence of grappa in Italy in the 1300s and the rise of up to 200,000 distillers one hundred years ago, to the present day where only 130 producers still exist.
And it's about time. Grappa remains the most immediate, truthful-of-terroir, and still highly-relevant expression of a living, fermented beverage distilled into spirit. Without incredible attention and care in making it, the quality of any grappa will drop from potentially profound, to almost undrinkable. And for this reason, grappa is still an unknown frontier for multinational producers.
Difford's says: "While there remain many unremarkable grappas, thanks to better production practices, there are now some superb grappas." Yes, but like anything, don't be fooled to think that modern equals better, or that unremarkable equals good.
Romano Levi grappa is special within it's own kind. The process of making grappa at Distilleria Levi Serafino has remained immutable in the face of industrialisation, and this process is now protected by a legal agreement between this historical village of Neive, and the distillery itself.
Starting with the vinacce sourced exclusively from DOC & DOCG growers, a slow fermentation on-site in concrete is followed by distillation by direct-fire - the still is heated directly by flames from burning dried vinacce from the previous year. Yes, the distillery is completely energy-neutral - vinacce and water are all that come in, and grappa and love are all that go out.
The spirit passes through a seven-plate copper alembic column and into a small water-cooled condenser. Judging by the sound of the spirit cooling, the distiller cuts the heads before allowing the rest of the run to drip straight into waiting barrels, which are then rolled into the the small ageing houses on-site. The left-over and completely expended solids are then pressed and dried in order to fuel the fire the following year.
Levi is unique in maintaining a still that was built in 1933 and modelled after the ancient, portable stills that generations of Levi distillers used in previous centuries. We at Spirit People think that you can taste, and feel, this heritage and care.
For us, the intrigue of grappa is that attention simply must be paid in production, and every quality producer has a completely unique approach and method.
Romano Levi is not grappa that needs a slim, tulip-shaped glass, for the spirits have nothing to hide. Levi grappa can be enjoyed in a wide-mouthed Burgundy glass that allows the beautiful aromatics of only high-quality grapes to escape the glass and be appreciated.
With good spirits, quality is easily judged by your level of enjoyment of the drink.
Explore, taste, and you will always come back to quality.