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This week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© Simple, fun, fizzy, refreshing, inexpensive do I even need to say another thing? Well not really but please indulge me because I just have to. Today I bring you Lambrusco, say that three times, it just sounds cool. Italy’s coolest red juice and I’m not talking about one of televisions most famous of tag lines “Riunite on Ice, That’s Nice” Yes that’s right your Grandma’s Lambrusco, Riunite, is still claiming to be the biggest selling Italian wine in history here in the United States.
Speaking of your Grandmother I’m not kidding Riunite Lambrusco was launched in the late 1960’s and what now seem like cheesy commercials ran on TV in the 70’s. Cheesy or not that famous tag line is one of the most memorable ever, at least for those of us old enough to remember. But the truth is this brand enjoyed one of the most well executed marketing campaigns ever. That was yesterday and today, well it’s today and Lambrusco has come of age and I’m here to share it with you.
There is not anything to complicated or technical that we need to know in our approach to buying, chilling, and drinking Lambrusco. In fact Lambrusco is rather simple and ultimately the secret to a great one is one that produces a great head of foam when you pour it, yes just like a great beer. Selections will unfortunately be limited on your local shelves unless you live in an area that has a great wine shop. If you live in the east you will have a better shot at a good selection wherever you have a concentration of die-hard Italians like me that secretly love Lambrusco.
More and more you will find a few Lambrusco lovers who are so incredibly passionate about this gem from the Emilia-Romagna region in the heart of Italy that you just have to give it a try. This is what is what I’m suggesting for you to do. This sparkling wine is beautiful in your champagne flute or your white wine glass, remember the rules on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© oh that’s right this is no rules wine fun, sharing, and learning with and from one another. I recommend a flute as it is the type of glass that will allow your Lambrusco experience to be the best that it can be.
So here’s the 411 on Lambrusco as I know it; The Emilia-Romagna region is located between two of my favorite areas in Italy.
Parma which is home to some of my favorite raw cow’s milk cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano, yet another wonder of the world I can not live without. On the other side of Emilia is probably one of the most iconic areas of Italy, Modena.
Forgive me for being such a guy here but we are talking about the birth place of Ferrari. Yes I dream of such things only because it doesn’t cost anything. No I haven’t driven one, but I have touched one and I think that counts for something. Perhaps it counts for good taste which I hope I share with you when it comes to wine and food.
Italian winemakers produce a large range of Lambrusco wines when it comes to Lambrusco. If you shop at a nice specialty shop and they take their wine program seriously it is somewhat safe to assume they have chosen a good selection of wines for you to purchase. The best Lambrusco’s are going to be dry and made in a frizzante style. There are three colors of fizzy Lambruscos: white (bianco), rose (rosato) and the classic red (rosso) that range from sweet to bone dry. If you are familiar with another Italian favorite, Prosecco, Prosecco is mainly produced as a sparkling wine in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) styles. Proseccos are labeled “brut”, “extra dry”, or “dry”, with the brut being the driest. Ask you wine steward of the store you shop in for the driest Lambrusco in a frizzante style that they offer for sale.
Lambrusco is made using the Charmat method rather than the Champagne method, the French method of making sparkling wine. The Charmat method is a second fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in individual bottles. The shorter, tank fermentation is preferable for Lambrusco because it preserves the freshness and the flavor of the grapes.
Unlike Champagne, Lambrusco does not ferment in the bottle consequently the wine goes off or gets old quickly and should be drunk as young as possible, preferably within one year.
What I love about Old World European wine is that they are a function of necessity. The wines in each area are made to work with, match, or pair with the foods that are grown and raised there. Lambrusco is no different and in the Emilia-Romagna region their food tends to be rich, salty and that is why Lambrusco works so well with these foods. Lambrusco wine is lively and bright with fruit, balanced out with naturally high acidity which embraces the beautiful food dishes from this area. Lambrusco like all Old World style wines are not overdone when it comes to percentage of alcohol. This is great so you don’t go into a food and wine coma after indulging in the splendid luxuries of life.
The really terrific thing to note about Lambrusco is that you will be hard pressed to ever find one more expensive than $20.00 and most are just over $10.00. Wow that works in this economy for my pocket-book.
Many bottles will list the Lambrusco grape variety from which it has been produced. I’m not going to bore you with the 13-17 different Lambrusco grape varietals because there are only a handful you need to know. Here is the short list; The most commonly found clones are the Grasparossa, Maestri, Marani, Monstericco, Salamino and Sorbara. The rabid Lambrusco lovers, they love the Sobara version but any of these are ones that you want. If you want to dig in a little deeper here is a link from my friends in Italy and their site devoted to Lambrusco; http://www.lambruscoday.org/facts-or-fiction.html
What to expect from a good Lambrusco; fresh, fruity, dry, tannic, nice acid, beautiful fruity nose, frothy, nutty, grapy, jammy, fun, and refreshing. All this and it’s inexpensive too, really what more could you want? This is a great wine to try that I whole heartedly recommend with all of my love and passion. “Mikey likes it”, remember Mikey on TV? I do if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this in my life I’d be a wealthy man driving the Ferrari and drinking my dry frizzante Lambrusco on my way to get my fresh sliced hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano to have with my Lambrusco.