Grappa Berta - Unlike Brothers Follow in their Parents' Footsteps

 

 

Grappa was not always the upscale pomace brandy it is today. Its reputation as farmer’s fare was based on its being produced from fermented grape residue. In the past, the good grapes were used by the rich to make wine – the waste, grape pomace, was left for the poor. Only after Italy was united did grappa advance the ranks to become the national liquor. Over time, more sophisticated methods of distillation were developed, leading to its eventual status as a gourmet item. In the meantime, the denomination grappa has been protected in the EU along with Barolo and Parmigiano and, in some countries, is currently the “must have” spirits to offer your guests.

Paolo Berta, the founder of Destillerie Berta, improved on the then prevailing distillation technology. This provided the basis for a business that has now been in existence for over 60 years. Meanwhile, his sons Gianfranco and Enrico have taken over the business. The two, at least visually very unlike, brothers share the work between them. The bearded, introverted Gianfranco is in charge of production, while Enrico, with a cell phone glued to the end of his long arm, is responsible for sales. Yet they have more in common than one might suspect at first glance. Both studied accounting. Both adhere to their parent’s strong commitment to quality, albeit with innovative sales and marketing strategies. And they share a passion for SUVs.

The distillery lies ensconced in the gentle hills that surround Asti, nestled amidst vineyards that radiate beautiful colors as far as the eye can see. Their two Range Rovers (Gianfranco: Sport, Enrico: Classic) are on display in front of the gates of the estate. The high entrance hall is decorated in traditional country style and the impressive window front offers a wide vista of the magnificent Italian countryside.

We process the original product as little as possible in order to retain as much of the pure, unadulterated flavor.

Innovation despite traditional values

The family’s traditional farming heritage favored the conservative distribution of roles that was established in the business from the start. The women ran the household, the men ran the business. Despite these enduring values, innovation and tradition do not seem to be at conflict here; instead, they appear to stimulate each other mutually.

Only he who knows his own history well is able to correct his mistakes.

Industrial distilleries are able to achieve high returns in a broad market by pumping money into advertising. Artisanal manufacturers like Gianfranco and Enrico Berta depend on word-of-mouth advertising and invest their revenue straight back into the enterprise.

A passing trend doesn’t guarantee success in the long run. We always have to come up with new reasons for clients to choose Berta.

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Indubitably, one of those reasons is their quality. Recognition value and singularity are other factors that have contributed to the worldwide reputation of the Berta brand. The distillery uses a bottle shape that is normally found in scientific laboratories, thereby visually setting their product apart from their competitors.

A symphony in the wine cellar

Before being processed the grape pomace is kept moist in special hermetic containers. After distillation, the liquid is filtered out. Part goes into silvery, ceiling-high tanks where it is stored for one year. After this, it is bottled and sold: clear, colorless grappa. The rest is stored in wooden barrels in the enormous wine cellar at the estate. Below lit vaulted arches we are shown thousands of barriques and tonneaux. These casks of old French oak give this grappa its amber color. Classical music is piped in through ceiling loudspeakers, and, instead of replying to our obvious question, Gianfranco counters by proposing an exercise. Close your eyes, be still, breathe, become aware.

The music alternates between lively and quiet. The lights flicker through closed eyelids and the smell of moist wood is pungent in the nose. We hear the others breathe, sense the grain of the wood, perceive slight movements. Then, after a few minutes, Gianfranco’s voice can be heard in the dark. “What we’re feeling now is what the grappa feels, too – it must be allowed to live in order to be able to thrive.”

“If cows that listen to classical music give better milk, why shouldn’t grappa mature better to classical music, too,” he mumbles on the way out. He appears somewhat resigned and not all too surprised that his exercise has not converted us on the spot. Reaching the end of the wine cellar, he pulls out an over-dimensional cork stopper from an opening. The strong spirits seem to have been eagerly awaiting this opportunity to escape their cage and immediately release an aroma of vanilla-soaked tobacco into the cellar.

It will take years before the contents are ready to be bottled. Roccanivo and Tre Soli Tre, both grappas, are stored for eight years. The longest storage lasts twenty years. That being how long it takes for founder Paolo Berta’s Riserva to mature.

Cherish your roots

The family business’ products could only be manufactured thanks to the grapes that were harvested on the surrounding lands. Deeply rooted in the region, the Bertas feel almost an obligation to cherish the natural resources around them. Other regions and their brands do not really interest them. Gianfranco is mainly inspired by local products and confesses a passionate delight for food products that are not overly refined.

Being able to detect the provenance of a product with my taste buds is what I like.

It is only fitting therefore that supreme happiness to him consists of a chunk of bread, some salami, and a glass of Barbera. E basta!

Take Love, Bread, and a Dash of Enthusiasm

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Comments (1)

Jujun | 26.03.2013

Antonella from Italy, December 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM L'Hotel Berta e8 una struttura molto cairna, situata in una zona tranquilla da dove e8 comunque facile poter raggiungere luoghi in cui fare shopping e trovare locali. La cortesia e la formula servizio in camera sono sicuramente due cose che abbiamo apprezzato notevolmente. Veramente ideale per staccare la spina dalla routine quotidiana, rilassarsi e trascorrere un piacevole week-end.

 


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