Lambrusco - It's Better Than You Think
|Either use the text links provided, or click on the images below to see a bigger gallery with larger Lambrusco-related photographs|
|Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro|
|Lambrusco di Sorbara|
|Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce|
|In line at the winery|
|The Lambrusco foam|
'Lambrusco, Pinot Noir rate a "Eureka!"'
It read on Sunday, September 11, 2005 a title on The Oregonian wine section. The piece was by Matt Kramer, one American wine writer I respect.
'Lambrusco - It's better than you think"
Stated another title on the Wine Lovers Page web site recently.
As a Modena, Italy native, I glow while reading these headlines. As many other grapes in Italy, Lambrusco is a regional staple, actually grown exclusively in part of Emilia, the northwestern part of Emilia-Romagna, and Modena is the heart of that area. There are few varieties of Lambrusco and the best, such as Grasparossa di Castelvetro (Red Stem from Castelvetro [a town whose name means Glass Castle]), Sorbara (name of a town), and Salamino di Santa Croce (Little Salami from Santa Croce [a town whose name means St. Cross]), grow around Modena, in fact, Castelvetro, Sorbara and Santa Croce are all in the province of Modena.
So, while I was growing up Lambrusco was the ubiquitous wine, though not in my family, who being of Bolognese roots favored white wines made from Trebbiano Emiliano, Albana and Alionza grapes. This is so typical Italian. As you move even just a few miles, from town to town, the food and wine changes. What one can always count upon, from the Alps to the north all the way down the boot to the plains of Apulia and the coast of Sicily, is the extreme quality of the ingredients, the pride in local specialties, and the great Italian welcoming hospitality.
Sometime in the 1960s, Giacobazzi from Nonantola and Cantine Riunite from Reggio Emilia started exporting Lambrusco to the US, producing a version of a sweeter, reduced alcohol content wine especially for that market. Back home that Lambrusco Americano, more of a wine cooler than a real wine, became a joke.
Unfortunately, those first Lambruscos, made according to what the Italian producers thought the US consumer wanted (and actually did and, in part, still do), ended up creating a very bad rep for this ancient, delightful, good red sparkling wine.
Here is the opening of the Wine Lovers article:
"Back in the '70s, when a lot of us were first learning about wine, two fancy "imported" wines seemed like the height of sophistication. One was the Portuguese rosé wine that came in intriguing, old-fashioned bottles: Lancer's and Mateus. The other was an Italian wine called Lambrusco. Red, sweet and a little bit fizzy, the ubiquitous Riunite and Cella Lambrusco brands went great with pizza and, well, just about everything."
"Years went by, our tastes matured and became more sophisticated, and nowadays many of us who can remember that generation look back on these once favored wines with a mix of embarrassment and disdain."
And here is what Kramer says in his article:
"Corleto Lambrusco, Villa di Corlo: I know what you're thinking: Lambrusco? The guy is off his tasting nut."
Since moving to California about 10 years ago, I have always thought that the Lambrusco would have been a perfect wine for this place. Its low alcohol content (10.5% - 11%) makes it perfect for picnics on the beach, in the woods, or served at the beginning of a barbeque. The fact is that, whoever heard of Lambrusco before in the US, must be re-educated about it. Here, in the words of Kramer, I couldn't have said it better myself:
"Forget everything you thought you knew about Lambrusco, which is really to say forget about the one Lambrusco wine everyone knows: Riunite. Now, nothing's wrong with Riunite. It's sweet, fizzy and inoffensive. It was modeled on traditional Lambrusco in the way that, say, some of Picasso's portraits were based on life models. You couldn't tell from the result. Ditto for traditional Lambrusco and Riunite."
Here is a bit of Lambrusco's story, which is both the name of the grape variety and the wine.
It is one of the oldest known grape and, as the noble Sangiovese, it is believed to have been domesticated by the Etruscans in pre-Roman times. Whereas the Sangiovese produces the long lived Brunello di Montalcino and excellent Chiantis, the Lambrusco is an intensely fruity red wine with a bright, penetrating acidity, and ;ight bubbles (what the Italians call vino frizzante). It must be drunk young. When first poured into a glass, the wine froths in a lively fashion before settling right down. I remember many times in summertime, opening bottles straight from the cellar or even slightly cooled bottles, and just pouring right out of the bottle a bubbly red fountain (to stop it just insert the small handle of an espresso spoon in the mouth of the bottle. I don't really know why, but they do this back home and it works).
In Emilia-Romagna, they claim that Lambrusco – pronounced 'Lahm-BROOS-coe' – goes with everything. In fact, the wine pairs wonderfully with the rich Emilia-Romagna cuisine, the region that gave the world tortellini, mortadella (a.k.a. Bologna), balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, zampone, and dozens of other specialty foods. You may drink Lambrusco with salami, a good sausage, cheese, a creamy pasta, lasagna and, of course, tortellini.
In addition, it's a given with pizza, and some professional tasters swear by it to pair with such non-traditional matches as fiery Asian fare, as spicy rendition of chicken with hot brown bean sauce and chile peppers, or a four-chile-pepper chicken dish.
To find out more, please check out the Consorzio Marchio Storico dei Lambruschi Modenesi (Historic Brand Consortium of the Lambrusco from Modena).