Bourazani - Stopover at Tsipouro Distillation

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Bourazani - Stopover at Tsipouro Distillation

From the middle of autumn to the end of the year, Tsipouro will also be distilled in the region of Bourazani, which, according to Giorgos, normally requires a special license for the producer.

However, it is also an open secret that countless "amateur distilleries" exist, some of them with a long history, even if, depending on the region, they only cover the "familial" consumption, however defined, as Giorgos shows us in a neighboring village. For that purpose we went up into the mountains, as we should learn a little later, going to the last village before the border with Albania. The border crossing to Albania lay deep below us, which here lies on both sides of the river Aoos.

Tsipouro - traditional, high-proof schnapps from pomace

Tsipouro is a traditional, widely distributed high-percentage alcoholic beverage produced throughout Greece and in northern Greece, especially in the Macedonia region. This high percentage schnapps is the product of the two-time distillation of the pomace or pulp remaining after the pressing of red or white grapes, in particular various white varieties such as Roditis, Athiri and Assyrtiko, which are distilled twice (sometimes three times). The production of the pomace brand Tsipouro is basically based on the production of wine on the one hand and the art of distillation on the other.

Distillation art in its development

While winemaking is much older, researchers now believe that distillation art was discovered in Persia. Reports on the first simple distillation equipment originate from the year 400 AD (Zosimos of Panopolis). Especially in the Arab world, the art of distillation has spread rapidly, mostly for medical purposes.

Technology passes to Europe by the Crusades

Around the 11th century, with the onset of the Crusades, scholars brought this new technique to Italy, where it was especially spread by the Jesuits. From the same time the first documents describing the distillation of wine exists. Whether Tsipouro really, as supported by a relevant theory, first burned in a monastery on Athos in the 14th century, may be left open. In any case, the traditional "liquor of the poor people" (which is certainly also due to the non-optimized distillation techniques: by the direct firing the pomace could easily burn) since ever and ever great popularity.

"Liber de arte distillandi" by Hieronymus Brunschwig

The bad reputation of pomace brandies is probably the reason why the pomace brandy was not mentioned in 1507 standard work of distillation "Liber de arte distillandi" by Hieronymus Brunschwig. First regulations for the production of pomace distillates exists from the year 1636, as these are still derogatory referred to as "raw materials with alcohol basis".

Finally, around 1800, distillation was invented with indirect firing; just from this point onwards a gentle distillation was possible with the help of a water bath, which is considered a basic requirement for modern pomace brandies.

Distillation of the fermented pomace in the copper kettle

The pomace is distilled with the aim to obtain a liquid with a higher alcohol content. To "burn" or distill Tsipouro, the marc must contain enough juice and undergo alcoholic fermentation, which lasts about 30 days. This fermentation time can be significantly reduced by the pomace which is fermented together with the must (which is quite common among other things in the context of the utilization of harvest surpluses). The distillation is carried out by heating the fermented pomace in a controlled manner - except for one outlet in the lid hermetically sealed - boiler controlled. The resulting vapors escape from the outlet in the boiler lid and are passed through a - also hermetically - connected pipe (cooling coil) through a cooler (usually a water basin), the vapors condense and flow out as distillate at the end of the cooling line.

With the first fire you get the "Souma", which is also consumed in many regions (eg Crete). In the second distillation, the product of the first distillation, either alone or together with various aromatic ingredients (anise, mastic, fennel, etc.), is redistilled, with the result that it is purer, more aromatic and tasty.

Distiller and Distillation Technique for Tsipouro

Most components of the (traditional) stills are made of copper except the cooler, which is usually made of stainless steel. The advantages of copper are that it is easy to work with and is a good conductor of heat. At the same time compounds with undesirable sulfur compounds form the transition to the distillate is thus avoided. If the distillation is carried out by amateurs, care must be taken to ensure that the end product does not contain high levels of methyl alcohol (wood alcohol), the consumption of which can cause serious damage to health.

Sensory properties of the Tsipouro

The color of the Tsipouro can vary from clear to pale yellow, analogous to aging. In its aromas, flowers, spices and fruits can be perceived, with both the grape varieties play a role from which the pomace comes, as well as the technology of the distiller.

Serving suggestions with its side dishes

Tsipouro is served in small glasses and either as an aperitif (especially when it is cool) or together with nuts, but usually with appetizers (eg olives, meatballs, gürkchen, dakos, pickled meat, etc.) and consumed in the all-known "Tsipouradika". In many restaurants, it is customary to present it for free with fruit or sweets as a present from the owner. Often - especially when the temperature is low - it is ideal to mix it with honey and enjoy as warm honey raki. Apart from its gastronomic properties Tsipouro is considered as a remedy for stomach upset, but also colds.

Please read as well:

Bourazani at Pindos - A water mill to wash the carpets
Bourazani - walk along the Aoos river



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