The Wine Cellar
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Region: Emilia-Romagna


To Europeans, Lambrusco is best known as a summer wine and is available in several varieties. The Lambrusco grapes are grown on the low, flat plains of the Emilia region, predominantly around Modena and Reggio, where there are DOC under four appellations. The wine is heavily exported to the United States, which represents the largest consumer.

With one exception, all Lambrusco types are lightly bubbly (Frizzante) and will produce bubbles by natural fermentation in steel tanks (Metodo Martinotti), though bottle-fermentation is sometimes seen.

The production process has undergone a significant evolution since the 1700’s, when corks and bottles were used to withstand excessive pressure from the wine but it was no sooner than the 1950’s that large cement tanks or barrels were used for the fermentation process. As winter temperatures stopped fermentation, the wine was processed several times to remove the precipitate, and in early spring the wine was bottled and further fermented with the help of the remaining sugar and yeast residues.

The process, however, was very difficult to control. If there were a lack of residual sugar in the must, the producers often added must from other regions in Italy, typically from the south. The lack of control resulted in a myriad of exploded bottles and the wine itself would even have an odd smell because of the slightly uncontrollable content of residual yeast.

As the pressure tank method (Metodo Martinotti or Charmat) of the 1950s became popular, the process was easier for the Lambrusco producers:

The dry wine is poured into a tank, and then grapes are added, together with yeast (produced in an controlled environment in the laboratory). The tank is kept closed, which renders an extra pressure. The wine is then filtered and bottled in an ingenious system that maintain a constant pressure, resulting not only in the traditional dry version, but also in sweet, white and rosé varieties – all refreshing, slightly acidic berry-flavored, delicious sparkling wines.

What is interesting is that when most foreign consumers prefer the sweet or slightly sweet version, consumers on the domestic market prefer the dry version enjoyed with bits of the authentic local Reggiano Parmigiano cheese.

Unfortunately, quality is highly volatile and certain wines, especially the cheap ones available during summer months in supermarkets, are simply undrinkable. It’s a pity, especially for the red, dry types that go well with much food. The fresh acidity of Lambrusco makes it a perfect companion for sausages, pork roast or for spaghetti with meatballs.

An advice is to take a good look and avoid buying the cheapest Lambrusco you can find. The reward is an often interesting and positive experience. 

Read more about the wines from Lambrusco-vinene by clicking i the top menu in the right side.