For winemakers in the Trentino region of Northern Italy, distilling grappa and eaux-de-vie is a delightful pastime. And it's with great pride we at Pojer & Sandri produce spirits which have attracted connoisseurs from around the world.
There's a long and storied tradition here in the hills above Trento for distillation and it's the home of coppersmith Tullio Zadra as well as local distillation guru Giuseppe Versini (who's from the local wine and viticulture school, the Institute of San Michele near our winery).
We began our distillery using a small Alambic still. In 1982 we were able to purchase a "Tullio Zadra" copper alembic still which features a bagnomaria-type function (a water bath). After a decade of using this machine and thirsting to keep improving our distillates, we've spent time visiting distilling colleagues in places such as Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France searching for refinements and comparing notes.
In 1992 we began tinkering with the mechanics of our distillation. After three years of working on this project, testing this and testing that, we think we've automated the process to achieve a grand and satisfying result.
We've figured out a system to electronically control the temperature and, not only that: but we have devised a refinement to electronically monitor splitting the "heads and tails" of the distillation on an automated basis. No "trial and error" factor as we've removed the human element from the process in an effort to achieve perfection.
We've also added a device to prevent the foaming issues which can be detrimental to the quality of a distilled spirit. We want the surface of the liquid to remain "calm" and "mirror-like" during the distillation and this can be a challenge with wine or the juice of various fruits which tend to be foamy.
Also, by using Carrara marble in a filtration process, we can conquer problems of sulphurous off-aromas as a result of yeast by-products during the fermentation.
Another innovation we've worked on is reducing the level of acetaldehyde in the spirit. This is an organic chemical compound widely found in nature. It occurs, for example, in coffee, bread and ripe fruit. When it oxidizes in the presence of ethanol (alcohol), it's thought to be a cause of hangovers. We found it contributes a note reminiscent of green grass and so we set out to minimize its presence in our spirits since it detracts from the essence of the fruit or wine we distill.
We have been paying a lot of attention to the fermentation and preservation of the pomace: using small bins, closely monitoring pH and temperature. We've recently been dealing with the stems and seeds from the grape pomace, for one thing. Further, we seek to press the skins in an oxygen-free environment, either from the CO2 which occurs naturally as a by-product of the fermentation, or by adding CO2 to retain as much fresh and intense fruit character as possible in the distillate. This requires significant labor and attention to detail, as we work to distil everything within about 10 days following the harvesting of the fruit. It's a small item, but we feel it contributes another tier of quality to our spirits.
Pojer & Sandri have always been forward-thinking pioneers in wine and distillation, as we've been leaders in making single varietal grappa, as well as distilling fruits such as raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, elderberries or sorbo dell’uccellatore (rowan berries).
In 1986 we made our first batch of wood-aged brandy, controlling the entire process from vineyard to winery to distillery. We set out to make a brandy which we'd patiently cellar in barrel for a decade.
An off-shoot of this is another Pojer & Sandri innovation: a special product called "Merlino." This is unique in Italy and some have likened it to Portugal's Porto or France's Banyuls or Maury. We've used the brandy to arrest the fermentation of a Lagrein wine, creating a wonderful accompaniment to chocolate and chocolate desserts.
Azienda Agricola Pojer e Sandri di Sandri Fiorentino & C. - Via Molini, 4 - 38010 Faedo (Tn) - Tel. 0461650342 - Fax 0461651100 - P.I. 00488460221