Give lambrusco (wine) a chance
In college, I waited tables at a small family Italian restaurant, where Riunite Lambrusco was featured on the wine list. I remember tasting it and thinking I’d never drink lambrusco again.
Well, it’s my mea culpa moment. Lambrusco, according to Deborah Green, a sales representative for Vin Sauvage, is what rosé was 10 years ago. So, in other words, it’s primed for a renaissance.
Lambrusco is a red sparkling wine from the famous food region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy -- the same region known for aceto balsamico di Modena, prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It can be frizzante, semi-sparkling, or a fully-sparkling spumante and can be seco (dry), amabile (off-dry) or dolce (sweet).
Karen MacNeil in “The Wine Bible” (2015) says that although there are no wines of renown in the region, “what there is, however, is a seemingly endless sea of fizzy lambrusco. In many countries, in fact, lambrusco is among the top five imported Italian wines.”
She says the top versions of lambrusco are not sweet but dry and savory.
“The fizzy, slightly bitter, very fresh and definitively purple wine tastes quite good with the region’s hearty sausages, cured meats and rich, meat-sauced pastas,” MacNeil says. “A number of fantastic small-production versions are easy to find, including Cleto Chiarli, Fattoria Moretto, Fiorini, Francesco Vezzelli, Lini and Tenuta Pederzana.”
As far as pairing goes, what grows together goes together. Green suggests pairing lambrusco with charcuterie — think sopressanta, prosciutto di Parma, mortadella and more.
If you prefer sweet wines and want to try lambrusco, Total Wine offers Sei Amici Lambrusco Rosso (red) and a white version, Sei Amici Lambrusco Bianco. Rebecca Davidson, the wine supervisor at Total Wine & More, said to pour lambrusco over club soda for a gardening wine that won’t make you feel guilty drinking during the day — or make you feel like you want a nap — because the sweeter the wine, the lower the alcohol. You could also use both varieties in sangria or for other cocktails.
One to try:
- Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Vecchia Modena “Premium”: The Chiarli company was founded in 1860 and produces wines made from grapes harvested from 247 acres of vineyards in Emilia-Romagna. Alcohol: 11 percent. Grape variety: Lambrusco di Sorbara. This is a cabernet sauvignon drinker’s sparkler — it has the heft of a red wine with the body of a sparkler. It was almost rust in color with a column of fine bubbles. It’s dry, elegant and balanced with earthiness on the palate. It paired equally well with coq au vin and spaghetti Bolognese. This wine has converted me to the charms of premium lambrusco.