Every ‘brand’ hopes to be so evocative that an image is in your mind the moment you see or hear it.
That is of course, as long as the image is the one intended, if it’s not then the brand has an awful problem on its hands.
Lambrusco is a name that will either yield no response or the thought of a slightly fizzy white or red wine that is “too sweet”. Unfortunately the image in your head is that of a wine that is produced at a volume of around 125 million bottles from the Emilia IGP in central Italy. The IGP designation is far broader than Italy’s DOC or DOCG appellations and allows for a broader range of grape varieties and vineyard sources in the production – this was taken full advantage of by large producers during the 1980’s to mass produce Lambrusco that made its name in the large UK and US markets.
It doesn’t have to be though, there are still plenty of smaller producers crafting wines that are unique and distinctive in the DOC or DOCG levels at prices that are more than reasonable if you want experiment with something new and different. Lambrusco has no DOCG at this time but it does have a DOC designation which makes up barely 20 per cent of the volume from the broader IGP, but being a DOC the grape varieties allowed are far fewer and the areas of production far more specific – areas that have been uniquely identified for their ability to produce distinctive examples of the wine. This is the Lambrusco that should be filed away in your memory.
If Lambrusco is entirely foreign or you need a refresher then we should flesh out just what it is. Lambrusco is not a place, it is a group of related red grape varieties grown within the Emilia Romagna region of central Italy. They are most notably made in to a sparkling wine that is high in acidity, has a subtle grippiness from the tannins and from tart to ripe red fruits. While they can have some modest sweetness which may vary from the equivalent of a Brut sparkling to something a bit sweeter than most Prosecco, it is there as a balancing mechanism as in any wine and thus you should look at it as you would the sweetness in a Brut sparkling or Prosecco – there merely to serve the purpose of balance, not as the defining feature of the wine.
Made using the Charmat or ‘tank’ method as Prosecco and most inexpensive sparkling wine is, they are not long-lived wines but they do offer unique wines that are perfect for immediate consumption with the foods commonly found in the region – Prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, cheesy tortellini.
Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso DOC – $24
The Lini family founded their winery in 1910, in Correggio which is part of the Reggiano DOC. The wines from this DOC tend to make good use of residual sugar to highlight the bright juicy red and black fruits often attributed to the use of the Ancellota grape. It leads with blackberry, strawberry and cherry, the palate has quite a soft fine mousse with the sweetness helping the fruit to shine. There is a subtle grip of tannin and the acidity is lively, both of which help to give the wine a dry refreshing finish.