Lambrusco(s) Wine Profile
Pronuciation: Lam-broo-skoh; Italian Lahm-broo-skaw ]
Lambrusco is the wild child of Italian wines, and like most wild things, it’s complicated. Starting with its name, which is derived from ancient Roman and translates as ‘wild vine,’ named because of its ability to grow anywhere and its high yields. But the Romans also applied the name to any grapevine that grew outside of cultivated vineyards, so many varieties selected to plant from ‘wild vines’ and bred further were named Lambrusco. This makes it neither a single grape variety nor a family of grape varieties, but a term used for countless arrays of grapes. The many vines bearing the name Lambrusco are mostly unrelated and adding to the mix, there are currently 60 identified as Lambrusco.
Thankfully, they have a lot in common. They all originated from the central-eastern Italian region of Emilia. They’re all red. They’re all either made frizzante or spumante. They’re all labeled either secco – dry, amabile – slightly sweet, or dolce -sweet and most are blends of various Lambrusco grapes with the Ancellotta grape to adds natural fruit sweetness.
Frizzante v. Spumante
Frizzante comes from the Italian word frizzare, which literally means to prick. Spumante comes from the Italian word spumare, which means to foam. So, what’s the difference between frizzante and spumante sparkling wines of Italy? The biggest difference between them is the levels of effervescence or bubbles produced in each bottle. Technically speaking, frizzante wines are semi-sparkling wines with mild bubbles, where spumante wines are fully sparkling wines with vigorous bubbles.
Given the Lambruscos’ many sparking personalities, it’s hard to know where to begin, so for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on the five most common styles.
Lambrusco di Modena is the basic level of Lambrusco, sourced throughout the Province of Modena, home of balsamic vinegar.
Lambrusco di Sorbara is also made in the Province of Modena around the village of Sorbara. This wine is traditionally made dry, with cranberry, pomegranate and reflects the region’s terroir.
Lambrusco di Grasparossa di Castelvetro is made in the southern Modena Province from a darker-colored grape with more tannins, more structure and deeper dark-berry fruit.
Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce is farther west from the province of Emilia Reggio. It’s the most widely planted and adds color and acidity in blends. It has raspberry and cherry fruit with a light tannic structure.
Lambrusco Reggiano is the primary source of off-dry/semi-sweet blended Lambrusco labeled amabile and dolce and is known to be crisp and pungent. It’s also the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
The Structure, Taste & Style of Lambrusco Wines
With these styles and flavor profiles of Lambrusco(s) reading the label is crucial to find a wine for our tastes and culinary complements. However, there are a few things that you can expect from all quality Lambrusco wines. In the glass, it should be deep ruby with purple tints with a pink froth while expressing aromatics of lilac, violet, rose, pine, licorice and leather. In terms of taste, expect sour cherry, black cherry, pomegranate, elderberry, raspberry, black tea, orange peel and black olive.
Pairing Lambrusco With Food
Lambrusco is an incredibly versatile food wine, but as with most wines from a specific region, “what grows together goes together”- Emilia-Romagna, the home of salami, prosciutto, mortadella, bresaola Bolognese Ragu, tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni and PIZZA! Other matches are Strawberry Arugula Salad with Balsamico, grilled chicken, lamb, hamburgers, steak, Tokyo-style ramen, Asian orange chicken, General Tso’s chicken and Korean BBQ ribs. Cheese-wise try it with pecorino or Parmigiano Reggianon, Grano Padano. It even complements hard to match dark chocolates.
Current Countries Producing Lambrusco:
Notable Lambrusco Producers:
NV Zanetti Villa di Corlo Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Corleto
NV Cantina Puianello Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa Grasparossa Secco Lambrusco
2017 Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Villa Cialdini Secco Frizzante
2017 Alberici Amilcare Lambrusco Dell’Emilia Rosso I.G.P. Emilia IGT
2014 Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Modena Grosso Brut Lambrusco di Modena DOC
2016 Fiorini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Becco Rosso
NV Caprari Lambrusco dell’Emilia Osteria Emilia IGT
2013 Cantina Della Volta Rosé Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC Lambrusco di Sorbara
NV Lo Duca Reggiano Rosso Dolce Emilia Romagna Lambrusco
2011 Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vigna del Cristo Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
NV Venturini Baldini montelocco Emilia IGT Lambrusco
2009 Camillo Donati Lambrusco Tenuta S. Andrea Emilia IGT
NV Medici Ermete Reggiano I Quercioli Dolce Lambrusco
2017 Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
NV Donelli Lambrusco Lambrusco di Sorbara Vino Secco Frizzante Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
2011 Lo Duca Reggiano Rosso Dolce Emilia Romagna Lambrusco
NV Rota Lambrusco di Modena 27 Villa Castellazzo – Via Romani Lambrusco di Modena DOC
2018 Tenuta Pederzana Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Semi Secco
2009 Francesco Vezzelli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Rive Dei Ciliegi Red Blend
2015 Cantine Ceci Otello Nero di Lambrusco Emilia IGT
2017 Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara Leclisse Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
2019 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce Rosso Viola Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC
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Written By Jeff Bareilles
Jeff or “JB” is a native to the San Francisco Bay area and wants to live in a world where wine is served with every meal. As a beverage and food professional with more than 20 years of experience, he’s contributed to The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine; The Pho Cookbook (James Beard Award Best Signal Subject 2018); Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life (James Beard Award Lifetime Achievement Award 2018); Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Happiness is on the Plate: Episode #1; Wine Spectator; Wine Enthusiast; The Wall Street Journal; San Francisco Chronicle; and GQ Magazine. When he’s not “tasting” and eating he’s writing about food and beverage or developing recipes in his laboratory (AKA: kitchen).