Versatile Lambrusco for the Holidays

Lambrusco is often overlooked for the holidays I find. It’s delicious, tends to have lower alcohol, pairs well with many foods and is fun to have at your table. I always find it cleanses my palate and cuts through fatty foods. Whether serving roast beef or Lasagna or goose for your Christmas feast, Lambrusco can fit in nicely. I love Emilia Romagna, the Italian region where Lambrusco comes from. It’s a region I know well and lived in when I went to graduate school in Bologna.

While it seems to be one of the lesser known regions of Italy, Emilia Romagna has everything: valleys, hills, coastline, the plains and the Apennine Mountain range. It also is home to wonderful art cities and thermal spas, as well as great food and wine. I love this church, San Luca. I used to walk up there with a friend during graduate school.

Among Emilia’s most famous wines and grape varieties are the host of Lambrusco varieties. Lambrusco was of course our drink of choice during graduate school. While we all drank Lambrusco, which Lambrusco to drink was always up for debate. There are many and I’ve written numerous posts on the different Lambruscos. the most famous and considered the most prestigious is Sorbara.


Emotions run deep in Lambrusco land apparently and I’ve had many a discussion about Lambrusco with people in person and online. Sorbara is one of the oldest of the Lambrusco varieties and grows well in loose soils of sand and alluvial fans. When grown on clay soils it tends to lose its aromas yet be higher in color. Lambrusco di Sorbara was given the DOC classification in 1970.  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 the Lambrusco di Sorbara variety. The one in the picture from Francesco Vezzelli is lovely, relatively inexpensive at around $17 and is available in the USA. Check out wine-searcher here.

I learned recently that in order to grow well, Lambrusco di Sorbara, needs Lambrusco Salamino to be a pollinator. Salamino is the most widely planted of the Lambrusco varieties.


Then comes Lambrusco Grasparossa del Castelvetro which hails from the areas around Modena and Reggio Emilia in the province of Emilia Romagna like almost all of the other Lambruscos.  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. One of the most widely sold Lambruscos in the US is from Cleto Chiarli. That winery was founded in 1860. Grasparossa makes wines with the most tannin and that are the darkest in color of the Lambrusco clan.

There are over 60 varieties of Lambrusco that are known, perhaps even more, but only six or seven of them are considered the more prestigious ones. Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce 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 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.

I’ve written many posts on Lambrusco which can be found by clicking on the varieties listed below.

Lambrusco di Sorbara

Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce

Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro

Lambrusco di Alessandria and Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata

Lambrusco Montericco

Lambrusco Oliva

Lambrusco Viadanese

There is also a Lambrusco from Mantova that should be mentioned and which I wrote about here:  Lambrusco Mantovano. Lambrusco Mantovano DOC was created in 1987 and the wines must contain a minimum of 85% Lambrusco Viadanese, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani and/or Lambrusco Salamino grapes. I found a number of wineries making wines from this variety, such as that of Azienda Agricola Miglioli Angelo. According to their website this is an ancient clone of Lambrusco and their family took cuttings from the property of Principe Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna. I used a Lambrusco Mantovano from Azienda Agricola Pagliare Verdieri. at my Lombardy seminar at the Society of Wine Educators conference in 2017 thanks to my friend, Jan d’Amore, an importer of wonderful Italian wines in New York. I wrote a long post about it here

Lambrusco is a great pairing wine with fatty foods, with finger foods, with pizza and lasagna and with chili. It’s great in a group and tends to be less expensive than some other sparkling wines. I’m a huge fan of these versatile wines and think they would be perfect at a holiday table.


  1. I have only ever had Lambrusco from Cleto Chiarli. I am so grateful for having all of your posts to reference for Lambrusco. I remember it being in our home for special occassions when I was very young and love to reminisce with a bottle. I would love to explore more of these wines and now, you have given me the resources to do it! Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Oh man…I love the Lambrusco family! And Cleto Chiarli is truly one of the best! I love to showcase the diversity between their Sorbara and Grasparossa (both of which I sell) along with their traditional method lambrusco. As you said, it’s truly a diverse group of family members that is totally meant to be paired with fatty or rich meat foods. Love it! All your information was (& is) truly valuable.

  3. Robin and Marcia mentioned Cleto Chiarli, both their Grasparossa and Sorbara are available one of Italian restaurants in Bordeaux and thankfully it’s pretty good. You are my source for anything Lambrusco! I’d love to find a Mantovano DOC bottle.

  4. I’m a huge fan of lambrusco too, and I love how you highlighted all the different varieties. I just wish they were more readily available in the US. I probably would drink it way more than other sparklers if I could find them and it was more popular in stores!

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