It’s Lambrusco time!
Lambrusco is the name of both a red wine grape and an Italian wine made principally from the grape. The grapes and the wine originate from four zones in Emilia-Romagna and one in Lombardy, principally around the central provinces of Modena, Parma, Reggio nell’Emilia, and Mantova.
The history of Lambrusco goes back a very long way and includes the allure of the earliest testimonials penned by the poets and writers of the Classical Age (Virgil, Cato and Varro) who in their works refer to a “Labrusca vitis”, a wild vine variety that produced fruits with a bitter taste that commonly grew around the edges of the fields. Lambrusco, a red wine that can be more or less sparkling, spumante or frizzante, distinguished by a brilliant ruby red color, and served from 12-14 °C in order to take full advantage of its distinctive fragrance and olfactory notes, was created in Modena and from there it has spread to be marketed in the rest of Italy and the world.
Lambrusco’s reputation was damaged so badly in the ’70s and ’80s with the cheap, low-alcohol versions sold in the UK and the USA … but now it’s the right moment for the real Lambrusco that is secco, dry, earthy and slightly bitter yet joyous and refreshing.
Because it’s delightfully refreshing, with a sparkle-enlivened bouquet that can vary from fruity with pleasant vinous overtones to floral with hints of violets and heather. On the palate it is zesty, with nice fruit flavors and a clean finish. Since it is relatively acidic, it goes especially well with foods that are oily or contain mayonnaise (grilled sausages, potato salad, etc). It is great to enjoy with typical local cheeses: Parmesan and Parmesan-Reggiano.
It is used in the preparation of dishes like cotecchino, or pasta and risotto.
This type of wine is also used in cocktails, and mixed with other alcohol and fruit and served as an aperitif. It is also used in the wine therapy for its preservation properties of the skin.
One important thing to keep in mind is that Lambrusco can be either dry or sweet (the characteristics of the individual wines will remain constant from year to year). Obviously, grilled chicken with a dry sparkling wine that leaves the palate clean will be quite different from the same chicken with a sweeter sparkling wine that would go better with a peach.
Fortunately, the label does come to your assistance: Secco means dry, while Amabile means sweet. So read carefully and if you’re in doubt taste a bottle before buying several for your picnic.