Lambrusco: Wines to Remember

Emilia Romagna Pavilion at Vinitaly @Vignetocomms

This month, the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel crews, #ItalianFWT, travels to Emilia Romagna with a stop in Lombardy to try a host of wines made with Lambrusco varieties. That’s right, varieties because apparently there are over 60 varieties of this grape, albeit there are around 6-7 that are the most well-known. Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce are some of the most well known. National Lambrusco Day is June 21st so it’s a great time to join us.

My own fascination with Lambrusco probably started in the mid-1980s. Yes I date myself but I do remember the campaign “Riunite on Ice, That’s Nice.” I was young and my palate was not very well-developed and I wasn’t even legal to drink but I know we had that pink, sweet wine and that I liked it.

Fast-forward 10 years and I find myself in graduate school in Bologna. Our local hangouts all served Lambrusco of varying types. I tried many I am sure but again, was not yet a Lambrusco devotee merely a graduate student on a budget in a fantastic city.

Torre Garisenda and Torre Degli Asinelli leaning towers aka Due Torri (meaning Two towers) in Bologna, Italy (vibrant high dynamic range)

A few years later I finally began to understand the complexities of Italian wine in particular while completing the Italian Sommelier Association program in Milan and the particularities of Lambrusco.

Just a look at some of the most well known of the varieties. It is essential to start with Sorbara, one of the oldest of the Lambrusco varieties that grows well in loose soils of sand and alluvial fans. When grown on clay soils it tends to lose it’s aromas yet be higher in color. Lambrusco di Sorbara was given the DOC classification in 1970. It is considered the most prestigious of the various Lamrbusco varieties. It comes from the area around Bomporto, near Modena.  To be a Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC wine, you need at least 60% of the wine to come from Lambrusco di Sorbara. Lambrusco di Sorbara tends to be lighter in color than the other varieties.

Lambrusco di Sorbara

Next up is Lambrusco Salamino di Santacroce which is named for its shape which resembles a small salami. This variety grows around the wonderful city of Modena and specifically the area around the town of Carpi. It is has a lot of color and brings fruity, floral aromas and flavors to the blend. It is also brings moderate alcohol and tannins. For natural wine lovers out there, here’s a Lambrusco made from 100% Salamino di Santa Croce from Luciano Saetti which available in the US from Louis Dressner. Salamino is often grown in the same vineyard as Sorbara.


A third very popular variety is Lambrusco di Grasparossa Castelvetro. It is considered to be a tad less refined than Lambrusco di Sorbara. It makes wines in the frizzante and amabile styles which people usually drink young and fresh. Grasparossa refers to the ruby red color of the stems. The wine is usually deeper in color than a Sorbara. One of the most widely sold Lambruscos in the US is from Cleto Chiarli

There are a number of other varieties of Lambrusco that are very often made into wines and many that are blended together.

How is Lambrusco made you might wonder? Does it go through the charmat or classic method? Traditionally it goes through secondary fermentation in an autoclave or a tank not in the bottle. This is similar to the way Prosecco is made. It works well with the Lambrusco grape variety because it helps to preserve fresh, primary fruit aromas in the wines. There are some producers using the traditional or champagne method of making sparkling wine but they are few and far between.

Lambrusco Grapes

I tend to get strawberry, raspberry and bramble notes from Lambrusco. Depending on the sweetness level it can be dry or sweet. Lambrusco always has a fair amount of tannins and good acidity. The perlage or the mousse tends to be fine, numerous and small. Lambrusco is great as a standalone aperitivo, with appetizers, with pizza, pasta Bolognese or some white meat dishes or even Lasagna. La morte sua or it’s best pairing tends to be cheese and charcuterie for which Bologna is very famous. I will never forget eating Gnocco Fritto with charcuterie instead near Piacenza with heart carafes of Lambrusco.

Lambrusco has so much to recommend it. It’s also very nicely priced, thirst quenching, and fun to bring to a party or the pool. I can’t get enough of this sparkler and I hope you are enjoying a glass this June too.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are saying about the wines they discovered and please join us on June 5th at 11:00am EST on Twitter for our monthly chat. Use our hashtag, #ItalianFWT and let us know what you think of these great wines.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Cantina Paltrinieri Radice Lambrusco di Sorbara 2018 for #WorldLambruscoDay”

Wendy Klik from A Day in the LIfe on the Farm posts “A Dry Lambrusco?! Well, yes please”

Nicole Ruiz Hudson from Somms Table adds “The Lighter Side of Lambrusco” 

Pinny Tam from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings brings “A Dry Lambrusco from Riunite with One-Person Shabu-shabu Dinner #ItalianFWT

Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click! writes “Classic Aperitivo from Emilia-Romagna” 

Lynn Gowdy from Savor the Harvest says “Time for Lambrusco”

Robin Bell Renken from Crushed Grape Chronicles pens “Banish me to Mantua, with a glass of Lambrusco Mantovano”

Gwendolyn Lawrence Alley from Wine Predator suggests “Celebrate Summer with a Dry RED Sparkling Wine: Lambrusco to the Rescue! #ItalianFWT

Deanna Kang from Asian Test Kitchen showcases, “A Gluten Free Brunch Paired with Lini Labrusca Wines”

Terri Oliver Steffes from Our Good Life joins with “5 Things I Learned about Lambrusco and the Best Food Pairings #ItalianFWT

Here at Avvinare I will showcase “Versatile Lambrusco, A Wine For Every Mood”

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