For many years Lambrusco had a poor reputation internationally as a fizzy, sticky-sweet mass-produced wine. But it is not only Italians who appreciate today’s higher-quality dry style.
Lambrusco varieties: confusing diversity
Lambrusco is a very old grape from the Emilia-Romagna wine region. The Etruscans already drank Lambrusco wines. Many grape varieties that were selected from wild vines and then cultivated were designated Lambrusco. It is still used in the names of many grape varieties that for the most part are not even related – as is also the case with Malvasia, Muscats and Trebbiano for example. Lambrusco is also included in DOC designations.
Lambrusco used to be a mass-produced wine that was drunk in virtually every Italian bar. In the 1970s and 1980s, sweet Lambruscos were very popular in the USA especially. For a time, cans of reduced-alcohol Lambrusco were even exported to the USA to compete with Coca-Cola.
Lambrusco: both still and sparkling wine
In the meantime, however, the demand for quality has risen. The main growing region is Emilia-Romagna, which also produces the best Lambrusco wines. The dry, still red wines made from the Lambrusco grape variety are the most popular in Italy. However, it is also vinified as white wine and rosé – from dry to semi-sweet – and as sparkling wine. The better quality examples are produced using the Charmat process where secondary fermentation takes place in tanks and is interrupted by cold shock once the desired residual sugar level is reached. Bottle fermentation – as used for Champagne – is employed very rarely when vinifying Lambrusco.
Wine made from Lambrusco is multifaceted
Wine from Lambrusco can be drunk chilled or at room temperature, and its tannins are more or less perceptible depending on the drinking temperature. It harmonizes well with many dishes – cold or hot, pasta or meat. Lambrusco is also a good choice with barbecued food. A usually light Lambrusco wine is ideal when the weather is warm, especially as it is also a pleasure to drink chilled.