Wine Profile: Lambrusco
If you hear Lambrusco you may be thinking only of a sweet purple, slightly sparkling wine that is more or less the equivalent of wine soda. And if you were ordering Lambrusco in the 1980s or early 90s that would be exactly what you would get. But, now you can find some truly interesting examples of the wine. But, even 30 to 40 years out, it’s tarnished reputation from the wine boom of the 1970s, has left a lingering bad taste in many people’s mouths.
BIZZ FOR THE FIZZ
Lambrusco is made from its namesake grape varietal Lambrusco. Actually, to be more exact, the extended family of grapes under the Lambrusco category. It can be made in a number of styles from dry to sweet, but today the best examples are dry (secco) or barely sweet (semisecco). It is made in a style that Italians call “frizzante” or slightly fizzy. Very different from the bubbles in Champagne or other mèthode champenoise sparkling wines. In fact, the process is different as well. Instead of the secondary fermentation happening inside the bottle as it does with Champagne, Lambrusco gets its fizz in large pressurized tanks.
NOT FOR WINE BUT…
Lambrusco is from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Emilia Romagna is essentially Italy’s ultimate food region. And that is really saying something in Italy. Some of the most famous Italian delicacies are from this region including balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Prosciutto di Parma.
However, part of what makes this area so culinarily rich is also the reason there aren’t a lot of renowned wines that come out of this area. As we have discussed many times before, grapevines need some level of stress in order to produce great fruit. However, Emilia Romagna sits in a valley with plenty of water and tons of nutrients. Factors that are excellent for food crops, but not so great for grapevines. Lambrusco is the main wine produced in this area, while it may not have the same prestige as Nebbiolo or Chianti, Lambrusco is actually still the leading Italian wine in the United States.
STYLE HAS A NAME
Within the family of grapes that are used to produce Lambrusco, there is a range of styles and characteristics. Lambrusco di Sorbara produces light and delicate wines, more pink in color than purple. These wines are typically dry but have sweet aromas of flowers and citrus. Lambrusco Grasparossa makes some of the darkest, boldest versions of the wine. These wines are full of juicy black fruits and medium to high tannins. Lambrusco Maestri produces very purple wines that tend to be more grapey and creamy in flavor with notes of milk chocolate. But, Lambrusco Salamino produces highly aromatic wines with notes of cherries and violets. This wine is the most likely to be produced in a sweet style.
LET’S PLAY THE MATCH GAME
When thinking about food pairings for Lambrusco, look no further than where it is produced. Trust me, if it’s good enough for the Italians it’s good enough for us. Put together a cheese plate that features delicacies from the region and you’ll be in business. Aside from that, Lambrusco can also be great with Thai food or Indian cuisine. It’s also good with fennel sausages, lasagna, and even BBQ ribs. Surprisingly, some of the sweeter examples can actually be magic with burgers. Our advice, use this unique style of wine to your advantage. Buy it, taste it, and use it to make your meals even better!