This week on Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana I’m talking about Lambrusco. Why you might ask? Because today, June 21st, is Lambrusco Day in Italy, and Lambrusco is one of the best wines to enjoy with food. Simple, fun, fizzy, refreshing, inexpensive, need I say more?
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, today 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 Lambrusco is one that produces a great head of foam when you pour it, 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 on the east coast you will have more choices better selections. Wherever you have a concentration of die-hard Italians like me that enjoy Lambrusco retailers will show this sparkling gem from Italy some love.
More and more you will find Lambrusco lovers who are so incredibly passionate about this frizzante wine from the Emilia-Romagna region in the heart of Italy that you just have to give it a try.
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 cannot live without. On the other side of Emilia is probably one of the most iconic areas of Italy, Modena, and the birth place of Ferrari exotic sports cars.
Italian winemakers produce a large range of Lambrusco wines. 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) ranging from sweet to bone dry.
Prosecco is another Italian favorite that 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 in the region or area. 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 the indigenous foods of the area.
Lambrusco wine is lively and bright with fruit, balanced out with naturally high acidity which pair perfectly with the rich salty food dishes from this area. Lambrusco like all Old World style wines are not overdone, featuring lower percentage of alcohol which is also conducive to being a great wine to pair with food.
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 many are $8.00-$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 which is solely devoted to Lambrusco; http://www.lambruscoday.org/facts-or-fiction.html
Here’s what you should 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.
This particular Lambrusco is a fantastic example of just how special Lambrusco can be. The Cleto Chiarli E Figli is made from Grasparossa and Sorbara grapes resulting in an intense red Lambrusco with a delightful fruity bouquet. This Lambrusco is produced in the heart of the best Sorbara Lambrusco region.
My recommendation for the perfect pairing; if you haven’t had the pleasure of Lambrusco and pizza get on the phone now and order the pizza. This Italian Lambrusco and pizza, well you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Enough said…