Tuesday, August 22, 2023

New End of the Summer Favorite: Lambrusco!

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 SorbaraLambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani and Lambrusco Montericco grapesEach 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.

My recommendations:

I have tasted and loved the wines of Cleto Chiarli for years, these are just three of their classic line up, that received awards in the 2023 Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Wine Guide:

*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. 


 #thoughtsoflawina #lambrusco #italianwines #italy #CletoChiarli

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Bodegas Otronia, Wines from the Very End of the World

Most of us are very familiar with the great Malbec wines that Argentina successfully produces and exports, but today I would like to direct your focus further south, to the province of Chubut, where very interesting wines are coming into shape.

This province of Chubut, in the Argentinean Patagonia, is located 2,000 km from Mendoza (the Napa of Argentina), its location at 45º latitude south puts this province at the very limit where viticulture is still possible. The province as we can see in the map below, is surrounded by the Andes in the west and the Atlantic in the east.

Here, near the town of Sarmiento and facing Lake Munster, is the location where Bodegas Otronia, a certified organic wine producer, planted 50 hectares of vines divided in two distinctive plots.

Of course, every great wine is the result of the perfect combination of a unique soil and climate. The climate in Chubut is very cold but also very dry and sunny, with an average yearly temperature of only 56º Fahrenheit and less than 200 mm of rain per year. Frost is often an issue, sometimes arriving in the middle of the growing season, and then, there are the raging winds, some as strong as 100 km/h coming from the Pacific Ocean that are truly felt in the vineyards. This happens, because the Andes that act as a barrier in Mendoza, where they reach well above 6,000 meters, reach only 700 meters in Chubut, allowing the winds to come through. In an effort to protect the vines from these fierce winds, Bodegas Otronia planted poplar trees all around their vineyards to shield them.  And then, there is the soil, a magic combination of 4 different ones, as the plots are located on what used to be the riverbed of a lake, featuring Lacustrine (lake clay) eolian sands, alluvial loams and fluvial and gravelly deposits from the Senguer river.












Location of the vineyards, photo courtesy of Bodegas Otronia.


During his visit to New York a week ago, Enologist Juan Pablo Murgia presented three of his wines, and explained in detail the uniqueness of the terroir behind them and how this translates into very focused wines with purity of fruit and elegant acidity.  A believer in minimum winemaking intervention, he ferments certified organic grapes with native yeasts in concrete egg- shaped containers, and ages his wines in untoasted French oak foudres that can contain 2,500 and 5,000 liters for 12 to 20 months. 

My 3 recommendations are the wines shown by Bodegas Otronia during their presentation. By the way, the winery’s name Otronia, means “land of Otron” which is the name that the natives used to give to Lake Munster.

*Otronia 45 Rugientes Corte de Blancas 2020, $39.95

Refined white made from a blend of 48% Chardonnay, 27% Gewurztraminer and 26 % Pinot Grigio. Murgia explained what each variety contributed to this blend, Chardonnay provides the texture and weight, Gewurztraminer the delicious floral notes and Pinot Grigio its vivid acidity. Very elegant indeed! A fragrant and crisp wine that boasts attractive jasmine floral notes, with citrusy lime and grapefruit nuances. Glossy on the palate with a mineral finish.

*Otronia Block I Pinot Noir 2020, $89.95

Ethereal red, featuring plush raspberry and bright red cherry notes with forest floor tones and super silky and spicy tannins. Memorable and delicious, made from fruit planted in Block I, where clay soils predominate.

*Otronia Block III and IV Chardonnay 2020, $89.95

Classy! This wine shows zesty acidity, a characteristic of fine cool climate whites, featuring juicy white peach and green apple peel with thyme and chamomile nuances. Simply delicious and mouthwatering with a persistent smoky finish. Very much reminiscent of fine Chablis and my fave of this trio. Cheers! Silvina


#thoughtsoflawina #drinkupamerica #Chubut  #winesofargentina #bodegasotronia