Lambrusco: la bevanda perfetta per l’estate

Please, regardless of what you’ve got lined up to drink before the weather turns cold again, do yourself a favor and add Lambrusco† — now! Go down to your favorite fine wine shop, pick up a bottle (rosso preferably), take it home, get a pizza, crack open the wine, and … I think you can handle it from here.

My original favorite was the Medici Ermete & Figli Concerto (Reggiano DOC), one I discovered in Italy last year at Salone del Gusto. So when my wine tasting group decided to do a night of central Italian wines in July, I opted to try another one, in hopes of enlightening more wine connoisseurs to the beauty of Lambrusco.

And I’m glad I did because my favorite wine discovery of the summer was the Lini 910 Lambrusco line — both the rosso and bianco. (I still need to try the Rosato.) I had ordered a bottle of the Lini 910 Lambrusco rosso from K&L Wine Merchants but the day before the tasting I realized they’d sent me the bianco!

It certainly wasn’t the end of the world but it wasn’t what I had been hoping for.  Having never had a white Lambrusco before, I didn’t feel confident in being able to convert my wine compatriots to the enlightened side with a white one! Wine people come with high expectations when you’re talking white and sparkling together. But I had no choice and brought it anyway.

Well I will tell you, the reviews were mixed but I loved it!

If I hadn’t known what it was I would have thought it to be some sort of whacky effervescent Grenache blanc (& I do like Grenache blanc).

Lini 910 Labrusca (bianco). Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC. Lambrusco Salamino 100%. Refermentation in temperature controlled pressurized stainless steel for over 3 months. Golden yellow. Peach and golden apple aromas come forth, followed by honey, vanilla, and a light hint of yeast. It’s fresh, yet slightly earthy, giving the wine depth, not rusticity. The foam level is good but could be higher. (I’m wondering if i Lambuschi tend to lose their fizz during the trip across the pond.) ★★

K&L Wine Merchants, being the reputable shop they are, was more than happy to send me a complimentary bottle of rosso when I wrote to them explaining the mix up.  So with the rosso in hand, I made the opportunity for a pizza night because pizza is the best food pairing for Lambrusco rosso.

My first and best ever Lambrusco experience was while Jeff and I were staying in Mantova during Vinitaly 2008. We had allowed ourselves to be lured into a (touristy?) pizzeria off one of the main streets. Sometimes you’re just too tired to fight it. While the inside was nice, quaint, and smelled of fresh hot dough and melting mozzarella fresca, it couldn’t have been any less than 90°F inside the restaurant. It’s difficult for me to eat when it’s that hot but I was starving and the pizza was going to go down somehow. So I ordered a half carafe of their house red and what I got was my key to survival and enjoyment in that eating establishment: ice cold, sparkling Lambrusco rosso.

You have not had Lambrusco until you’ve been sitting in the sweltering hot of central Italy, trying to wash hot pizza down your gullet.  It’s a match made in heaven.

This summer, my Lini Lambrusco rosso experience took me right back to that night three years ago in Mantova. It was perfect.

Lini 910 Labrusca (rosso). Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC. Lambrusco Salamino 85%, Ancellota 15%. Refermentation in temperature controlled pressurized stainless steel for over 3 months. On the nose you get black plum, black cherry, a hint of mint, sweet jam, and minerals (think cold, wet, river cobble). The texture is foamy, or as the Italians say, frizzante, and is everything “pleasant” can be. The fruit is dark and rich but the tannins, acidity, and temperature keep the wine light. This wine is perfect with salty pizza toppings like pesto and peperoni and really holds it’s own against tomato sauce, even spicy stuff. Sono in paradiso! ★★★

† … and I’m not talking about that Riunite stuff! For a little background on real Lambrusco, Lettie Teague’s article, “Riunite Was Nice, but There’s More to Lambrusco” is a great read. For technical information about Lambrusco in Italy, you can visit the Terre di Lambrusco site.

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