Sparkling wines never go out of style. There’s always a celebration, dinner, special event, or completely ordinary day for a bottle of bubbles, and no restaurant or retailer has ever had a problem selling them. France is the motherland of sparkling wines of course, and the Champagne category is well-represented by a vast array of styles, quality levels, and price points. You’ve no doubt explored (or are at least aware of) the deliciously fun category of sparkling rose, and have realized the overabundance of joy that comes from having both rose and bubbles in the same glass! Austria, France, the U.S., Italy, and many other countries have capitalized on this and have become well-known for their pink bubblies, but one region that should never be forgotten for their pink—and more importantly red—sparkling wines is the region of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy.
Yep—we’re talking about Lambrusco. Once known only for its low-quality, sweeter-styled sparkling red wines, today Emilia-Romagna has been reborn as a producer of a wide spectrum of styles of Lambrusco. Traditionally dry and dark red in the glass, it can also be made in a sweeter amabile style, rose, white (which still uses red grapes but uses just the clear juice of the grapes—not the skins), and even the unfiltered style—an unconventional version that has swept curious drinkers off their feet.
Lambrusco is the name of both the style of wine and the grape. There are a ton of clones in the Lambrusco family of grapes, and all of them are red. A few you might see most often include Lambrusco grasparossa, Lambrusco salamino, and Lambrusco di Sorbara. And whether the choice is to make a red, white, or rose Lambrusco, it will always be from the Lambrusco group of grapes.
Of course, there are a few terms that are helpful in deciphering what you’re getting into with Lambrusco. Brut is the term used for a dry wine, and amabile is code for a semi-sweet style of Lambrusco. Generally speaking, the higher the alcohol, the drier the wine has been fermented. There are also two terms to know concerning the level of carbonation: frizzante is used for wines that are fizzy but not fully sparkling, and wines that are fully sparkling (think proper Champagne) are designated spumante. It’s not guaranteed that all Lambrusco will have one of these terms on the label but if you see it, now you know what to expect!
So how do you drink Lambrusco? Luckily, Lambrusco comes from one of the food capitals of the world. Emilia-Romagna is world-famous for all the foods we love best from Italy: Parmigiano, Parma ham and Prosciutto, ravioli and other stuffed pasta dishes, beautiful balsamic vinegars, and a slew of other traditional dishes. It hardly needs mentioning that the most perfect wine for any regional dish is that which comes from the same region, but the beauty of Lambrusco is that because it “transcends” several different wine styles it makes for a ridiculously versatile food pairing wine. It does the job of a red wine with its bold flavors and slightly tannic qualities, the job of a white wine with the chilled temperature on it at service, and the job of a sparkling wine with the carbonation cutting through heavy, rich foods. Try out Lambrusco with your favorite comfort foods: cheeseburgers, pizza, pulled pork… the sky is the limit. Also keep Lambrusco in mind when hemming and hawing for the perfect wine to pair with the dozens of dishes served at Thanksgiving.
Every year restaurateurs, sommeliers and wine buyers predict that “this year is the year of Lambrusco.” We’re delighted to say that it’s finally happened. This is most definitely the era of new, good, and exciting Lambrusco.
Lini Labrusca 910 Lambrusco Rosso // $19.99 – Ruby red with youthful purple hues, this traditionally-styled frizzante Lambrusco has aromas of blueberry and raspberry. The body is fairly full and intensely flavorful with a slightly tannic finish. This is a great example of classic, well-made, dry red Lambrusco and a great place to start if you’re new to the category.
Puianello ‘Borgoleto’ Lambrusco // $16.99 – The Borgoleto is a great crossover between the brut style and the amabile style, and is described as being “semisecco,” or very slightly sweet. It’s got a thick, purple foam that sits on the top of the wine and plump, ripe aromas of black fruit and raspberry jam. The ultimate foil for parmigiano reggiano, a heap of salumi, and crusty baguette with a coaster of good balsamic vinegar.
LIGHTLY SWEET LAMBRUSCOS
Puianello Lambrusco Rosso Amabile // $11.99 – Clocking in at a modest 8.5% alcohol, this tasty little number cuts the grease on a hot summer afternoon next to grilled pizza. It has an aromatic bouquet and perceptible sugar on the palate, but the sweetness is balanced out by cleansing acidity. Medium-to-full-bodied on the palate, with intense, fresh fruit flavors.
Lini Labrusca 910 Rose // $19.99 – This attractively deep-pink Lambrusco is made from 80% Lambrusco Salamino and 20% Lambrusco Solara. It’s fermented dry and is frizzante—that gently-bubbly quality that’s both easy to drink and extremely refreshing. It has intense aromas of rose petals and ripe cherry, and a crisp, fresh palate and nicely balanced acidity.
Cantina di Carpi Piazza Grande // $13.99 – Affectionately called the “Large Pizza” wine by the France 44 staff, this has quickly become the new favorite in the Italian bubbles section. (It also goes supremely well with pizza, unsurprisingly.) This spumante brut rose Lambrusco is delicately floral with fresh notes of red cherries, strawberries, and blossom combined with a creamy mousse and delicate acidity.
Puianello Lambrusco Ancestrale Rose // $18.99 – This past week we had the homecoming of one of our all-time favorites in the Lambrusco section: the Puianello Ancestrale. This dry-styled rose Lambrusco is unique in the fact that it remains unfined and unfiltered, giving the wine a pretty pink, opaque ballet-slipper color. Aromas of wild strawberries and grapefruit accompany hints of bread crust, with vegetal notes of mint and sage.