Emilia Romagna, located in north-central Italy is the home of many food delicacies, including Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, Mortadella (known in the US as Bologna) and my favorite salad staple: Modena Balsamic Vinegar. It is also the home of a very special wine I’m drinking this summer: Lambrusco.
Made from clones of the variety of the same name, Lambrusco wines were a huge success during the late 1970s and 1980s. Back then, Riunite Lambrusco was one the most imported and consumed wines in the US. As the years went by, Americans chose to move to other styles, yet, Lambrusco still has a fandom of consumers who love its fruitiness, its frothy style, crisp acidity and off-dry sweetness. Above all, Lambrusco is a fun and refreshing frizzante wine to have in warm weather, I normally put it in the same category as Brachetto d’Acqui or Beaujolais Nouveau, in the sense that all of them are fruity reds that are served chilled.
Lambrusco is mostly produced by cooperatives located to the west of the city of Bologna, specifically in the provinces of Modena, Reggio nell’ Emilia and Parma. Most of its vine plantings are spread on the fertile plains of the Po river valley, but serious Lambrusco come from vines planted at the many hills (colli in Italian) of the Apennines, located to the south of Emilia-Romagna. Mass produced Lambrusco is usually sold as IGT Emilia, yet there are a few DOCs in the area too. As always, if what you want is quality, choose the DOC wines, coming from these appellations: DOC Modena, DOC Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, DOC Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro and DOC Reggiano.
What to expect when tasting a Lambrusco?
First of all bubbles, these come from their second fermentation in pressurized tanks, using the Martinotti (Charmat) method. On the nose and the palate expect red fruits such as watermelon, strawberry, cherry and raspberry but also floral notes such as roses or violets. Dryer versions will show mushroom, mineral, herbal and even vegetal notes. Above everything Lambrusco is a lot of fun, and quite affordable too! Expect also high acidity that will counterbalance both fruitiness as well as sweetness. It’s this acidity that cleanses your palate and makes Lambrusco wines a perfect match to all kinds of foods.
Lambruscos are usually a blend of some of the more than 12 native clones, the most important are Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani and Lambrusco Montericco grapes. Each of these will yield a different wine style:
*Lambrusco di Sorbara is the lightest and most elegant of all Lambruscos, not only in body, but also in color. It features aromas of watermelon, orange blossom and cherries. It’s also very floral, featuring violet notes. Match these with spicy cuisine, such as Asian or Indian.
*Lambrusco Grasparossa is the biggest style of all the wines, in body, tannins, alcohol and color. It features deep purple tones and often shows black fruits, such as blueberries, plums and black currants. Match these with grilled sausages, barbecue and creamy pasta.
*Lambrusco Salamino is made from cylindrical grapes that look like salami (hence its name), this variety is also the most planted variety of Emilia-Romagna. It has the aromatics of Lambrusco di Sorbara with the structure and color of the Grasparossa. Ruby red in color, these wines show fruitful notes of raspberry, cherry and strawberry. Match these with hamburgers, charcuterie, and cheeses.
Lambrusco also comes in different levels of sweetness, from dry to slightly sweet, so check your label for these terms: secco (dry) semi secco (semi dry) and dolce (sweet); as always, when in doubt, ask your wine sales person to point you to the right style. Ideally consume Lambrusco chilled, and within 2-3 years from vintage, while their fruit is still vibrant and super fresh.
*Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sorbara Brut Frizzante 2022, $20
*Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco del Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara 2021, $22
*Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa Di Castelvetro 2021,$20
Hoping you will give these a try soon, cheers! Silvina
picture courtesy of Cleto Chiarli.
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