Bassano del Grappa gets one star in the Michelin Green Guide, Italy. It deserves that star for its setting alone which is on the River Brenta in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. I have visited Bassano several times, but my most memorable experience was about 12 years ago when I discovered the Poli Grappa Museum and its room dedicated to the smells of Grappa.
On that day, the Alpini (Italy’s specialist mountain infantry) were singing at one end of the beautiful covered bridge that spans the river. Their voices harmonized as they sang their melancholy songs of mountains, mamas, and war. I could have listened to them for much longer, but Nardini, the grapperia at the other end of the bridge, was calling. In existence since 1779, it produces a wide range of grappas and liqueurs. We sampled the Aperitiv Nardini as we strolled around the bar and entered various rooms, some with views of the wooden bridge over the river.
Thus fortified, we explored the town and bought some cheese called Bastardo del Grappa which is produced in the foothills of Monte Grappa. It’s a pretty mild tasting cheese from cow’s milk.
When we arrived at the Poli Museum, I expected to learn about the history of grappa as well as the methods of distilling this unique product. What I did not expect was a room dedicated to “olfactometers” which let you smell 20 different kinds of grappa. How cool is that! Once you decide which grappas you like, you can proceed to the last room and purchase your selected product.
Now many people, my husband included, say that grappa smells like old socks. I disagree as do two or three of my grappa afficionados. The aroma (and the taste) depend on which grape was used in distilling the final product. My favorite is Sarpa di Poli. The website describes it as a young grappa with an “aroma that recalls a basket with red grapes and berries, decorated with a rose.” It has been over two years since I have enjoyed this particular grappa and I cannot vouch for the aromatic description, but it is probably pretty close.
—About Kathleen Fisher—
I lived in Italy for 27 years and raised my kids there. One of them now lives about 5 miles from the home where she grew up. Thus, my husband and I return often to what we consider the mother country to visit her and her family. I worked with Leona’s dad for several years at City Colleges of Chicago throughout the Mediterranean and Germany. He and I shared a love of good food, fine wine, and, especially, GRAPPA! I’m sure he would have appreciated the Poli Grappa Museum.
*Note on the featured image: Kathleen did not have photos of the Poly, but she did have some from its environs, which Alabaster made into the collage. They include: Kathleen’s husband Pete with The Brenta River and the Old Bridge in background, Market in Bassano del Grappa, Aperitivo at Nardini’s Distillery, Close up of Pete with his Aperitivo, The funky bar at Nardini’s, A wall of grappa at Nardini’s.