Central Europeans have been distilling fruit for centuries, creating an outstanding array of eaux-de-vie from cherries, pears, apples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots and plums, to name but a few.
Fruit eaux-de-vie are derived from perfectly ripe fruit that has been fermented and distilled. Quality eaux-de-vie are clear, with an intense nose and palate evocative of the base fruit: they are always dry, smooth and well-rounded. They should be served in snifters to appreciate their distinct aroma and should be chilled, but never iced. They are often enjoyed on their own, especially after rich meals, but can also be poured into coffee or mixed into cakes.
Grappa is a smooth Italian product often distilled from Moscato or Nebbiolo pomace, but also from Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and even ice wine.
Marc is the French term for grappa; the Burgundians, Champagnards and Bordelais all have their own versions. In Charente Maritime they produce Pineau de Charente where two thirds grape juice is added to a third marc, making a refreshing apéritif: they do something similar in Champagne.
Berries are often used for eau-de-vie, with Alsatians, Swiss, Austrians and Germans producing particularly flavourful and smooth berry distillates. Austrians and Germans also produce some fine apricot eaux-de-vie and, although the French, Spaniards, and northern Italians also produce this heavenly distillate, which is always called by its German name, Kirsch. In Switzerland cherries are grown in most of the country’s 25 cantons but in particular Schwyz, Uri, Luzern, Vaud, Valais, Geneva, Bern and Basel, where some really beautiful Kirsch is made.
Poire Williams is a pear eau-de-vie. Some distilleries market pear brandy with a pear in the bottle; growing the pear in the bottle is a laborious and costly process and as such these products command a high price.
Slivovice is a plum brandy, generally made in Slavic countries.