Forget the cloying sweet fizz from the 1980's. Lambrusco has made a comeback. It was deliberately off my radar for two decades, but I have recently been discovering lots of exciting, lively Lambrusco wines. If you haven't tasted any in a while, maybe now is the chance to give this sparkling wine a second chance.
For those not so familiar with the wines, Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine from Emilia Romagna in Central Italy, and is made from the local Lambrusco grape, of which there are many different clones. The mousse is frothy with a more gentle effervescence than most sparkling wines. Good Lambrusco is crisp, fairly light-bodied, with red berry and floral aromas and flavors (think wild strawberry and violets), and if dry, a refreshing slightly tart kick on the finish. Gaining popularity these days also is Lambrusco Rosato – a paler rosé version.
Official Designated Lambrusco Areas
Lambrusco is a designated DOC wine – in fact there are four separate DOCs within the official designated area. So if you are browsing the wine aisles these are the names to look for on the bottle:
- Lambrusco di Sobara
- Lambrusco Grasparossa
- Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce
- Lambrusco Reggiano
As well as the DOC versions, you can also find Lambrusco labelled as an IGT (wider regional) wine, if the vineyards happen to fall outside the official designated areas.
Dry or Sweet
Apart from the dry styles, the semi-sweet styles are still widely available, which is labeled 'Amabile'. Dry styles are labeled secco'. While technically 'dry' these are not bone dry, but have about 8 to 10g residual sugar/l. Alcohol levels for Lambrusco are fairly low from 10.5% to 11.5%.
A sparkling wine, Lambrusco is made using the Charmat (or Tank) method, whereby the second fermentation occurs under pressure in a sealed tank to produce the CO2 bubbles.
Lambrusco wines are not for cellaring, and are best enjoyed young when they are fresh and fruity.
While there is certainly a fair amount of anonymous, industrial Lambrusco churned out there truly is an increasing number of quality-conscious producers making exciting wines – as I have been finding out.
At the Table
Serve Lambrusco chilled. It is fairly light bodied, so it makes a great spring or summer apéritif. Crisp and low in tannin, at the table it is fantastic with cured or fatty meats such as Mortadello sausage, prosciutto, hamburger, pizza, meatballs & spaghetti and of course it is no surprise that it pairs perfectly with the region's most famous cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Delicious Dry Lambruscos To Try
• Zucchi Lambrusco di Sorbara Rosato,10.5%, $15 – Pale rose color. Lively medley of wild strawberries, raspberries and hints of violets. Refreshing and frothy.
• Puianello Primarosa Lambrusco di Sobara Rosato, 11%, $12 – Another rose style. Strawberry cream mousse, redcurrants and flowers on the palate with a tangy, dry finish.
• Puianello Lambrusco Grasparossa, 11%, $12 – Crisp, strawberry, cherry-berry compote with hint of tarragon. Lively mousse, vibrant finish.
• Lini 910 "Labrusca" Lambrusco Rosé NV, 11%, $16 – Crisp, wild cherry-berry flavors and a creamy, lively frothy mousse.
Until next week enjoy.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Mary Gorman)