Wines of Lombardy: Lambrusco Mantovano DOC


Continuing on our tour of Lombard wines, today’s topic is Lambrusco Mantovano. The area is on the right bank of Po River, in the lower Eastern Po valley.  In 1987, Lambrusco Mantovano was awarded DOC status although the Lambrusco grape was cultivated in this area many decades before. The Consortium was founded in 2012. As in many other regions, monks were responsible for promoting and maintaining viticulture. Benedictine Monks from 11th-18th century lived in the Polirone a San Benedetto Po monastery in Mantova. These monks demanded their tenants pay a tax in the form of wine. While there were grapes grown here in 1100, they were reintroduced to the area post-phylloxera, in the 1900s.

Lambrusco Mantovano DOC must be made from 85% Lambrusco Viadanese ( Grappello Ruberti), Lambrusco  Maestri ( Grappello Maestri), Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Salamino alone or a blend of them together, with 15% Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa (Grappello Grasparossa), Ancellotta and Fortana.

The grape makes wines that have nice acidity, low alcohol and notable tannins, both a still and a frizzante version. The grape prefer fresh, deep soils with good sunlight. These medium sized grapes make wines that are ruby red in color and are generally used as table wines rather than wines to cellar. I found it a little more brooding and intense than some of the Lambrusco I have had from Emilia Romagna, although again, there are many different versions of those wines as well.


The grape gets its name from Viadana, a muncipality in the province of Mantova where this grape is widely grown. Ruperti is the last name of an agronomist named Ugo Ruperti who was a proponent of the variety. The two areas for growing this variety are Viadanese Sabbionetano and Oltrepò Mantovano. In addition to the DOC wines they also make IGT wines: Sabbioneta, Quistello Alto Mincio, and Provincia di Mantova. Sabbioneta, a famous local town was founded by Vespaiano Gonzaga in the late 16th century. In 2008, was Sabbioneta given UNESCO World Heritage status as a perfect example of the practical application of Renaissance urban planning theories. Sabbioneta is also known for it historic Jewish Ghetto and Synagogue and in particular for its Hebrew printing press.


The first Lambrusco Mantovano was from Azienda Agricola Pagliare Verdieri. The family has 15 hectares near Oglio in the Po river valley. Since 1986, Mimma has been working with her mother-in-law on their farm which is certified organic from ICEA. They grow a host of crops, among them, wine grapes. Education for young kids and groups is very important to this team and is a core part of their mission. Their wine is made from 100% Lambrusco Viadanese. The grapes undergo a prolonged maceration on the skins, where primary fermentation takes place at controlled temperature. The wines are made in the ancestral method where they ferment in tanks and then finish the fermentation in the bottle. The wine has 11% alcohol and has an SRP of around $16. I had tried. I liked it a lot and so did the people in my seminar on Lombardy that I gave at the Society of Wine Educators conference three years ago. People hadn’t really heard of this particular Lambrusco. I love introducing people to new varieties that they haven’t tried before, hence my series on Italian indigenous varieties that has been running now for about 11 years. This wine is imported by Jan d’Amore, a New York based importer and is sold here.

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Mantova is a beautiful city which I have visited and has wonderful food, art and much to recommend it in addition to these lovely wines. Many people are familiar with Mantova thanks to the famous architectural wonder by Giulio Romano which is filled with fantastic paintings and frescos, Palazzo del Te.  I highly recommend the wine and Mantova as a place to visit on your next trip to Italy.


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