Grappa and fruit brandy making: a distillery in the Alps

Since the time of the Maritime Republic of Venice fresh fruit was harvested and turned into delicious fruit flavoured grappa. Ever tried  spirits flavoured with fresh fruit?

Recently I visited the distillery ” House of the Captains “ in the Julian Alps. It is a small and well regarded family business which since the end of 1600 from generation to generation has produced grappa and various fruit brandies flavoured with fresh fruit. It is situated between houses and sunny meadows, in the small town of Cabia, a region of Arta Terme (Udine) in the mountains of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Cabia in Friuli

The village of Cabia

distilleria casato dei capitani

The House of Captains distillery

It was lovely walking through the green meadows covered in spring flowers and slowly making my way up to the village of Cabia. The fine and refreshing mountain air was reinvigorating. The small village of Cabia is very pretty and so silent I felt like whispering to avoid spoiling the quiet bliss of the place.

the village of cabia

house of crafts

Fruit flavoured spirits are very popular particularly in the mountainous regions and as the fruit is freshly picked and in season these spirits taste of real fruit (and not of some sort of synthetic powder!) and will give you an aromatic, refreshing and pleasant sensation in your mouth.

For this family the process of making spirits has stayed the same over the centuries.  They also make “elixirs” made from distilled grape and with many types of fruit: strawberry, blueberry, blackberries, raspberries and even cumin! (that’s a delicious one!). Also pear and apple liquors have a sweeter and lower alcohol content for people like me who don’t like very strong alcohol 🙂

Needless to say that with alcohol we always need to be careful. These spirits have higher gradations than wine or beer and if you have a very small glass that’s more than enough! The rule is always the same: never drink on an empty stomach, if you don’t want an unpleasant burning sensation in your stomach and the alcohol to go straight to your head! They are perfect as after-meal digestives to clear your palate after a heavy meal.

It was interesting to learn how the whole process works.

The fruit is picked, crushed and the stalks are removed. It is then stored in large tanks where natural fermentation occurs.

tanks for fermentation

The fermented fruit is then transferred into boilers to be distilled.

The distillery is a very interesting piece of technology: made entirely in copper, the distillation is carried out in part by distillation in small boilers in a water bath at a discontinuous cycle and partly in a continuous loop device; it can distillate up to 50 tons of raw material to make approximately 10,000 bottles of various types of spirits.

the distillery

the distillery

The end product is bottled.. all by hand of course.. into these lovely and pretty bottles. I bought some as gifts for friends and relatives!

spirits in bottles


I enjoyed learning how distillation works! We never stop learning 🙂

I am thanking the distillery Casato dei Capitani for their courtesy and their time.

Distilleria Casato Dei  Capitani

via Cabia 169 -Arta Terme – Udine- Italy

an old church in the area of Arta

An old church in the area of Arta Terme

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8 Responses to Grappa and fruit brandy making: a distillery in the Alps

  1. Linda

    I want to visit….So much beauty and the way you cook is glorious. Always a pleasure. I just subscribed, so I don’t miss a thing.

    • Alida

      Yes, I love the piece of the mountains too. I always try to go up to the Alps whenever I get the chance.

  2. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,
    How interesting and how fantastic! What you learned at the distillery Casato dei Capitani is priceless. I remember going to a winery out where I live on Long Island, years ago and they had something like what you saw for the fermentation of the grapes. But to actually see this in the beautiful scenery of the Julian Alps, is amazing. How clean and shiny everything looks and I love the bottles filled with the elixir of the Gods, as I would call it. They are so pretty with the clear covering and the ribbons. I agree with you that you need to have this drink after eating, as you wouldn’t want it to go to your head, as I do not like strong liquor either. I really enjoy these posts Alida, especially when you go outside the kitchen and show us parts of Italy. I always feel that I am traveling along with you to these places. Plus your photos are awesome! Thank you for sharing this with us…
    Dottie 🙂

    • Alida

      I am pleased you enjoy my “out of the kitchen” posts! I love going around Italy and meet producers and understanding more about their work. It is really interesting. x

  3. Angie (@angiesrecipess)

    I have never been to a distillery…what a great experience! The Cabia village looks so peaceful and beautiful.

  4. Louise

    Hi Alida,
    Every time you do an “out of the kitchen” post, I feel like I go with you to these lovely places. I have seen wine made many times but, to see Grappa actually being distilled is wonderful even if I couldn’t actually be there. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful scenery and your expereince, Alida…

  5. Diana

    Hi Alida,

    I am with Louise! Love your field trip posts. Great post and that first pic is amazing!

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