Off the Charts

I asked where he distlled it, and he said “Giovanni Poli”, a cousin of Jacopo. I exclaimed, “Really? Why?” That’s shipping delicate grape mash from Naples to the Dolomites! He said, “It’s a long way, yes, and I’m thinking of making a change, because we have a wonderful distiller in Sicily. You have to try his Cactus Pear Eau de Vie. It turned out to be Giovanni La Fauci, whom I met the following year at Vinitaly, being formally introduced by the Planetas. That sip was off the charts! Giovanni’s a fanatic: he built his first still when he was 13, and designs and builds individual cauldrons to best extract each type of fruit – apple, plum, cactus pear – and to best separate the heart from the less desirable (read: impure) heads and tails. His artistry is just becoming recognized, so wineries are beating a path to his door. La Fauci is so passionate about Moscato that he contracts the grape pomace from the excellent Piedmont producer Paolo Saracco. Imagine this trip: load the very delicate grape must in Asti; hauld by refrigerated lorry to Campania; ferry to Messina; truck it to the distillery. It must be wet and very fresh; if it’s a tad off you have to throw it away. So you’re making batch distillations round the clock. La Fauci has a window into the still and actually watches the vapour separate from the mash. These products are very pure. When I first came to the industry, Stock Guilia was one of the few artisanal grappas available. Since then I’ve found that there are a few people doing very high quality batch work and rendering it in top fashion. La Fauci is one; Nannoni in Tuscany is another, doing a lot of Brunello work for wineries.

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