Lambrusco Primer

Posted by CrushWine

Lambrusco's acidity and bubbles make it the perfect complement to the rich, largely pork-based cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, which is generally considered some of Italy's best. The acidity, bubbles and low tannins make Lambrusco a great partner for cheeses and spicy Asian foods as well. Overall, it's very versatile at the table.

Commonly thought of as just one grape, Lambrusco actually refers to a great big family of similar varietals growing mainly in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, though there are also plantings in Lombardy and elsewhere. The vine originated in the wild before it was domesticated; it now boasts more than 60 strains, the most common being Sobara, Salamino (its grape bunches are said to look like salami,) and the red-stemmed Grasparossa. Sorbara is prized for it's lightness and elegance, while Grasparossa is the fullest and most powerful, and Salamino falls somewhere between the two.

Slightly more confusing, Lambrusco zones often share their names with their area's most common strain: In the area of Castelvetro it's Grasparossa, in Santa Croce it's the Salamino strain, and Sobara is associated with the plains north of Modena that surround a village of the same name. A fourth area, Lambrusco Reggiano, is home to a lot of bulk production and is extensively planted with high-yielding strains and Salamino.

Classic Lambrusco can be made either dry or amabile, which means off-dry or just slightly sweet. While typically red, there are both rosés and whites based on Lambrusco grapes as well.

The wines can be made sparkling through either the Charmat method (secondary fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank) or through the more traditional method where secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle.