A strange couple: grappa and cheese

16 July 2023

Over the years, at Cheese we’ve gotten accustomed to experimenting with unusual and daring pairings. Cheese and tea, for example. Or rum with blue cheeses. But what about grappa and cheese?

Thanks to the presence of the Consortium for the Protection of Piedmont Grappa and Grappa di Barolo at Cheese 2023, we can explore this curious pairing and see how this spirited beverage can interact with different cheeses, complementing and enhancing their characteristics.

To introduce the world of grappa and its consumption we speak to Bruno Penna, the director of the Consortium.

The Consortium for the Protection of Piedmont Grappa and Grappa di Barolo: Origins and Philosophy

“The Consortium is relatively recent,” he explains, “although its roots are much older.” The Consortium was officially established in October 2017 but originated from the Piedmont Grappa Institute, a previous union of distillers founded in Asti in 1993, which itself evolved from other associations that have identified and shaped the sector throughout history.

The two distinct geographical indications identify, on one hand, grappa obtained from distilling grape pomace from grapes grown and vinified in the Piedmont region, produced in facilities located within the region; on the other hand, the product obtained from distilling pomace derived from the vinification of grapes for the production of Barolo DOCG, in compliance with its disciplinary regulations, distilled and processed in facilities located in the Piedmont region.

The numbers

There are 19 companies in the Consortium, distributed throughout a significant part of the Piedmont territory – from the hills of Monferrato Alessandrino and Astigiano to Roero and Langhe, Northern Piedmont, and Turin. The Consortium’s main aim is to promote a product that represents the regions and its culture, as well as being an increasingly important economic sector.

Four million bottles are produced each year, with a substantial quantity destined for export – primarily to various European countries but not exclusively: around 350,000 bottles of Barolo grappa and approximately 550,000 bottles of Piedmont grappa. “The growth,” as Penna tells me, “is steadily progressing.”

The Taste Workshop: Close Encounters of the Cheese Kind: Grappa and Cheese – September 16

A meeting to delve into grappas produced in small quantities, derived from indigenous and lesser-known grape pomace, and cheeses from the same territories, including washed-rind and blue cheeses. The grappas available for tasting are: young Arneis grappa, young Erbaluce grappa, aged Timorasso grappa, and aged Malvasia grappa.

How grappa is consumed today

One of the Consortium’s goals is to contribute to evolving the image of this spirited beverage. The results are visible: it is a product that is increasingly appealing to a younger audience. “In recent decades, grappa has been transformed. It is no longer associated with the roughness it had for a long time. On the contrary, it is being increasingly recognized as a high-quality distilled spirit. It is no longer just a coffee corrective or an absent-minded after-dinner drink but, in many cases, it is becoming a contemplation beverage, like rum.”


It has also become an ingredient in cocktails crafted by established bartenders. “In reality, grappa as an ingredient in cocktails appeared long before, in futurist mixed drinks. The most well-known might be the Diavolo in tonica nera, composed of 2/4 orange juice, 1/4 grappa, 1/4 liquid chocolate, and a hard-boiled egg yolk. Today, this spirited beverage is making a comeback in mixology. As a Consortium, we published the book La grappa nello shaker in 2018, which reintroduces three historical futurist recipes and includes seven other drinks created by young bartenders working in Piedmont establishments.”

This innovative approach is gaining favor with the younger generation and also attracting the attention of women who are generally more inclined to smoother beverages.

Pairing with cheeses

Grappa and cheese

The world of pairing is another chapter, and while it is usually associated with dark chocolates, at Cheese, we’re going to tease you with some original proposals.

The Taste Workshop: Grappa and Cheese: An unexpected pairing!i – September 17 in Pollenzo

  • Barbera grappa paired with braciuk, a cow’s milk cheese aged in Barbera grape pomace.
  • Dolcetto grappa paired with a butter and anchovy panino.
  • Nebbiolo grappa paired with testun ciuc, a cheese with a washed rind covered in Nebbiolo grape pomace, acquiring the typical aromas of the wine.
  • Moscato grappa served with a panna cotta enriched with a Moscato sauce.

Come and explore this strange pairing at Cheese!

by Silvia Ceriani, [email protected]

Cheese 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra from September 15-18. See you there! #Cheese2023

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