For the Love of Lambrusco

Lambrusco has a lot of looks. Some are more Chanel—an austere Lambrusco Grasparossa is quite sophisticated. A fun, flirty amabile reads more Betsy Johnson. Lambrusco was very trendy in the 70’s and 80’s, before taking a fall for being overly high on sweetness and low on charm. But it is now showing all its sides, savory and sweet, and pulling itself up again. It's becoming hip with the cool kids, and fashionable for anyone. So, I feel okay comparing it to fashion. I’ve mentioned I have a wine/clothing synesthesia, right? I taste wines and see clothes. If I am to continue this line of metaphor, my first Lambrusco was, I believe, Pronto Lambrusco Secco , and it was a little black velvet dress worn with red high-top sneakers and carrying a tiny white, patent leather, bucket purse. From fashion into wine-speak, it was dry, svelte, and chic, but when served in the traditional white earthenware cup (pretend you are a Roman lounging on your side, stemware becomes difficult). It came to party. It was fun; it was refreshing. I wanted to pour it on my head and bathe in its balsamic raspberry goodness. As it is with Italy as a whole, how Lambrusco is labeled varies. Some Lambrusco labels just say “Lambrusco”, then there are some labelled by variety, some labelled for the region, and some are labelled by both. They may be red, white, or pink. They maybe also say spumante (fully sparkling), or frizzante (lightly bubbling). And then there are the semi-sweet (amabile) and sweet (dolce) Lambruscos. It’s a tricky miasma of meanings. Love you Italy. Never change. Keep the mystery alive. I give you fair warning that Lambrusco cries out for nibbles. After all, many of the best treats come from Emilia-Romagna: true balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, white truffles, and (so this vegetarian has heard) prosciutto di Parma and Bolognese sauce. The capital is in fact Bologna. And that’s not baloney. I don’t know what it is with me and dad jokes recently; I can’t get enough. I guess they’ve been grandfathered into my writing. Eek. Onwards! Lambrusco is most frequently a tank method bubbly; the second fermentation taking place in a tank as opposed to in the bottle, also known as the traditional method. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, I’ve had ones made that way to. Okay, now to break down all those grapes, regions, and grapes plus regions I mentioned. The Grapes: Lambrusco Grasparossa is, to me, the serious scholar of all the Lambruscos. The biggest, most tannic, and savory-est of the bunch. Lambrusco di Sorbara is the socialite of the bunch. Typically light-hued, and light on its feet with enough acidity to let you know it’s not just a pretty face. It is both a grape on its own, as well as having a DOC of the same name. Lambrusco Salamino tends to be blended but see below for the exception. Next, we have our Lambruscos named for grape and region: Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC and Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC. Lastly we have our Lambruscos named for the region: Lambrusco di Modena DOC (or Modena DOC) and Reggiano Lambrusco DOC (or Reggiano DOC). And then there’s Lambrusco Montovano DOC which is actually in Lombardia. I’ve never seen it in the wild. I fear I don’t have one of each of these for you, but think I have a fair representation of what you may find! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Ceci Otello Lambrusco Deep dark purple and hot heck is it gulpable. Smells of cola and quite ripe juicy cherries…a touch off-dry, maybe even semi-sweet? The tannins coast on by; you’d have to think of them to think of them. More cherry cola plus just oozingly ripe sweet raspberries and a light white pepper or some sort of peppery flower (nasturtium?) on the palate. It is not exceptionally complex but I wanted to swill it, and maybe I did. Ca’ De’ Medici’ Terra Calda Lambrusco Deep n dry. The nose somehow made me think of navy rum. Ripe and rare plus spicy, and there is something tropical about it. Deep magenta, it looks swarthy as it smells. The tannins have goodly grip and do a call and response with the plush froth, one registering then the other then back again. On the palate I get more red fruit. It’s like stewed strawberries and tomatoes (yes, at the same time), but the chef was minding the acid levels of this dish because they added quite a kick of balsamic and something almost nutty, like a roasted pecan. This wine and I took a minute to make friends. It wants cheese. Just to warn you. Please keep cheese on the standby. Paltrinieri Leclisse Lambrusco di Sorbara This dry darling burst forth, unprovoked (it had been chilled and stilled for a few days), and I admire its exuberance. Both in the bubbly, overflowing, thank-god-I-was-by-a-sink show, and in flavor. As Sorbaras tend to be, it is light pink in hue. It continues its let-the-bubbles-spray spirit on the nose, full of ripe raspberry raves, orange blossom brouhahas, and oh, aside from the fact that it throws “brouhahas”, it shows its wisdom with a lean mineral and lemon rind streak calling to mind a Sazerac somehow…is that notes of Peychaud’s bitters? 2018 Terraquilia Falcorubens Metodo Ancestrale Lambrusco Grasparossa What fun! A lot of Lambros undergo the second fermentation in the tank; however, this one does it in the bottle. It is “col fondo” aka there is sediment from said fermentation. Smells earthy and like sour plums and violets. Unrefined suede on the palate—it doesn’t quite glide but skips over the tongue filling the mouth with black cherries, umeboshi, wet stones, and cola. At the very end you get just a hint of the bready beery notes and a punch of acid to freshen things up. Surprise hit. 2019 Cleto Chiarli “Cialdini” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Tart AF in a good way this is. It’s a blueberry ballroom in a blackberry thicket, and the tannins are chatty and the acid garrulous. My there is a lot going on at this party, which ends with a sassafras toast to the rest of the night ahead. I almost got a lactic character on it too, but maybe that’s just me wishing (as I do with most Lambruscos) that I had some cheese. Venturini Baldini Marchese Manodori Reggiano Lambrusco What a glorious head of fuchsia froth! This wine will take you to a rave or maybe it is having one in your mouth. Do they even call them raves anymore? This wine is flinging itself around my mouth in no particular order, hitting hard here and there in a way that could be disorienting if it weren’t charming, like a disco ball under a strobe light. And wow how tart on the palate. It’s all plums and a handful of violets and their green leaves even that still have a touch of soil on them, but please trust me, its good. Caprari Cuvee Bollino Rosso Reggiano Lambrusco DOC Tis a brooding moody shade of deep purple. An earthy, like mud after the rain, and slightly floral nose hints at what is to come. Bone dry, with tannins that are holding on like they had a crush on a baby Barolo. It makes sense that out of all the wines I tasted for this column, the one from Reggiano cries out THE MOST for a sliver of cheese to nibble with it. The froth is not plush so much as lively. It tastes of black raspberries, violets, and…purple plums methinks. It has that essence of rocks. Big ones, not the wet river stone type. This wine is a boulder, have fun scaling it. Pietrascura Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile What you wish for when you want a Lambrusco that isn’t sweet sweet but doesn’t suck your gums dry. The small amount of residual sugar is so well integrated it barely registers. Mostly you just get delightfully ripe but still fresh fruit. Tasting all over? Black blue fruit share sage with strawberries, and they are all (again) fresh but just ripe enough. Add to it a zip of seawater and rainbow dew (different than mountain). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Roussillon Ready Hard (Seltzer) Job, Someone Had To Do It Old World vs. New World: Merlot ALL the Wine Cans: Get It 2021 Go Mendocino You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Casleah Herwaldt Wine Situation Final Five! With Matthew Lindsey

Venturini Baldini

Marchese Manodor Lambrusco

Vibrant and changeable, in a pleasantly disorienting way. Tart! Full of plums and earthy violets. — a month ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach the earthy violets are vegan and enjoy kombucha
Trixie

Trixie

@Ellen Clifford Great response! Kombucha is good for us.🌱
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie this is true!

Paltrinieri

Leclisse Lambrusco di Sorbara

Prob should say it’s dry! So Lambrusco doubters will read further but otherwise…Party on! But in a wild yet mature way. It leapt out of the bottle (alas for the spilt bubbles) but I don’t blame it. Holed up in a bottle, it was ready to party like a vaxxed waxxed anyone in 2021. Aside from the exuberant head (insert more jokes about vax n wax here) it was rife with raspberries, orange blossom and citrus peel. But that mineral core keeps it grounded. Party animal? Yes at first but you could also take a hike or something and enjoy each other’s company as much. — 2 months ago

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Severn Goodwin

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I recently bought a different sparkling Lambrusco from the same producer, looking forward to trying it.
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin looking forward to hearing what you think!

TerraQuilia

Falcorubens Lambrusco 2018

Surprise hit, natural wine done fabulous. I want to take this wine on a long hike (earthy, it feels at home in nature) ans. have deep conversations with it, seeing as the more we talk, the more it has to say. Up front it is damp potting soils black cherries and cola and it only gets more serious from there. Not a party animal but definitely the friend to take on a hike for some savory thoughts to ground you. It’ll give you a genuine hug before saying goodbye. — a month ago

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Cleto Chiarli

Vigneto Cialdini Da Una Singola Vigna di Grasparossa Lambrusco 2019

Blueberries blackberries and…root beer? — a month ago

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Ca' de' Medici

Terra Calda Lambrusco

Dry n spicy and the froth plays off the tannins deeeeelitefully — 2 months ago

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Caprari

Cuvee Bollino Rosso Reggio Emilia Lambrusco

Brooding and tannic it brings the thunder. Tastes of all the dark fruits and boulders. — a month ago

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Cantine Ceci

Otello Lambrusco

Gulpable like a refreshing cherry cola that also has a hint of white pepper. — a month ago

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Severn Goodwin

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@Ellen Clifford I think the delectable regulars are on to you... I also finally got around to drinking my bottle of Paltrinieri (I think you'll know how to find my notes) 😋
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin oh excellent! Looking forward to your thoughts!