Marolo – A quick visit during Grappa Tour 2017

Capturing the Heart of Piedmont in a bottle.

In the summer of 2017, I visited the Marolo distillery (formal name “Distilleria Santa Teresa Fratelli Marolo”). It wasn’t the largest distillery I visited on that trip, nor was it the smallest. It was a medium size distillery doing, as I found out, big things.

Paolo Marolo founded the distillery with his brother in 1977, inspired by his vinicultural studies and his love of Piedmont. Moreover, he had a desire to make artisanal, single-varietal grappa. This was a new, revolutionary trend in making Grappa, a heretofore “utilitarian” beverage drunk more for effect than for taste. One last note on the founding, the name “Santa Teresa” comes from Saint Teresa D’Avila, an inspirational figure in Paolo’s hometown of Mussotto. A more in-depth historical description is needed, perhaps the subject of another post?

The distillery is located about ten minutes outside of the city of Alba, a nice-sized city with hotels, restaurants, shops, and museums. A nice place to stay if you are visiting Marolo, but I diverge. The distillery can be easy to miss, I drove past it once, ignoring my GPS. I’ve included a picture of their sign so you won’t miss it if you go.

On arrival we were greeted by the son of founder Paolo Marolo, Lorenzo. He is continuing the family tradition his father started, and building on it, having studied not only oenology (like his dad) but also business. Looking at pictures of the two of them, the love and family pride is obvious.

Since it was summer (early August) the Distillery was not in production mode, Lorenzo was alone as far as I could tell. He is a charming person who is thankfully skilled in English and passionate about the work being done at Marolo. Not just the making of Grappa, but the making of authentic Piedmontese Grappa. Marolo is doing that in a major way, as I was to find out.
Our tour began at the distilling facility, of course. It’s a medium-sized facility where the Grappaioli can attend to the details of their art. Lorenzo’s passion for making Grappa was effusive, and palpable. His eyes were alive as he described how the various pieces of equipment were used to create the final product. He described the great efforts made to keep the pomace fresh, one of the keys to properly express the grape in the Grappa. Marolo only sources high quality pomace from the Piedmont region of Italy. The same goes for the wood used to age the Grappa in.

Moving on to the warehouse where the Grappa is aged, we could see the weep marks on barrels where temperature variations caused small amounts of Grappa to leak out and then dry in between barrel staves (“Angel’s Share” is a phenomenon common to all aged distilled spirits). This “breathing” in and out of the wood barrels imparts some of the wood’s characteristics to the final product.

Finally, to the tasting room. There were many bottles on the table. Lorenzo selected this and that for us to taste, as a painter with his palette. His pride in this finished product was obvious, and it was justified. “The proof of the pudding is in the taste” is an old English phrase I’ll remake to “The proof of the Grappa is in the taste”. All the Grappas we tasted told us both of the fruit that they started from as well as the wood they had been aged in. But most importantly they told us of the care and expertise with which they were made. These were all remarkable expressions, but I had my favorites. I even brought a couple of them home. Next time I go, I’m bringing an extra suitcase!

Marolo Sign
This is the Marolo sign on SR29, “Corso Canale”
Marolo Distillery Exterior
The exterior of the Tasting Room and offices
Marolo Still
This is where the Magic happens!
Lorenzo Marolo With Still
The Artist with his tools.
Marolo Barrel Aging
Note the “weep marks” on the barrels, they breath and the Angels get their share.
Marolo Tasting Table
So much Grappa, so little time!
Lorenzo Marolo Pouring
He enjoys pouring it *almost* as much as you will like drinking it.

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