Italy's greatest distillates from Capovilla.
Vittorio Capovilla, who lives in the tiny village of Rosà in Veneto, makes Italy's finest fruit distillates - potions not to be confused with grappa. "Grappa is a by-product, made with the leftovers of wine making," he explains. "Fruit distillates are noble, made with fruit, not just skins and seeds."
Vittorio hunts in the wild for his ingredients, which include both the conventional varieties of fruit, such as plum, apple, apricot and cherry, and also stuff that sent me running to my dictionary: sloe, rowanberry, cornelian, hawthorn. While the wild specimens are usually smaller and less attractive than their cultivated cousins, they are also more flavorful.
The fruit he gathers is crushed and fermented, then distilled with a bain-marie still (which employs a sort of double-boiler arrangement) instead of the more commonly used discontinuous still. The process is slower, but lower heat means a deeper flavor and a smoother liquor without the harsh burn of many grappas. When the distillate is ready, Vittorio dilutes it to 41% alcohol with pure spring water (instead of the demineralized water that most distillers use), bottles it and ages it for as long as four years. It takes as much as 40 kilograms of fruit to make one liter of distillate.
At the 1995 Austrian Distillata Fair, the Olympics of fruit distillates, some 300 producers submitted 1,250 entries. Vittorio, who was awarded five gold medals, two silver and four bronze, placed second overall in the competition - a feat unheard-of for an Italian in this Austrian-dominated event. He even earned two perfect scores, for his cornelian and sloe distillates.
Vittorio's distillates, which are served at many restaurants in the Bassano area, can also be purchased at the distillery. Contact them if you plan to be in the area anytime from late summer through the fall and would like to learn about the distilling process firsthand.
Capovilla Distillati, via Gardini 12, Ca' Dolfin, Rosà, tel./fax +39 04245812220.
November 3, 1995