Now that some of the kinds of Lambrusco that aren’t store-brand fruit soda with a shot of alcohol have made their way onto the shelves of liquor stores everywhere (or at least here in NJ/NY), when I see one from an importer I know, or one that just looks good, I grab it.
If you’re not in the Lambrusco habit, or have never even had it, and are looking for something that is both fun and challenging under the same cork, you should grab one…Lambrusco’s obviously fun because it’s not only a vivaciously sparkling red, it also kicks up a froth that can and should stand up violet cotton candy pink in the glass with a character ranging from a champagne-like perlage, to nearly the density of a Belgian Trappist Ale. And, while there are a few BONE dry Lambruscos (and quite a lot of fairly sweet ones, usually labeled amabile if semi-sweet, and dolce if fully sweet), most Lambruscos are gulpably tartly off-dry.
But, (good) Lambrusco has a funky side…Whatever Lambrusco “is” or turns out to be genetically within the grand scheme of the grape vine family, most researchers agree that the Lambrusco group of grapes (there are a slew of Lambrusco sub-varieties) are either a very early offshoot from the main vitis vinifera trunk, or possibly the result of the ancient crossing and husbandry of vitis vinifera with other wild vine species. The upshot is that Lambrusco can have a distinctive but intriguingly brooding, earthy pungency that some folks find a little offputting, but for me it is this very aspect, along with those aforementioned, that make (good) Lambrusco a unique treat. And because Lambrusco is searingly acidic, generous on the palate, and low in alcohol, it not only makes a great companion to all the rich and flavorful foods of Emilia-Romagna (Lambrusco’s home region), but with vividly flavored “non-wine” cuisines like Indian, Chinese, or Thai.
This great and expressive little wine went rather well with a bowl of ricotta and spinach tortelloni with a mushroom and sage cream sauce, and then a “reddened” Chicken Francese – my own riff on the classic dish with rose` replacing the usual white wine, and the juice from half a pomegrante I had in the fridge as the understudy for the lemon juice…and smothered broccoli.
Barbolini “Lancillotto” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro NV
Opaque deep purple color with rosy tones at the rim. Decently persistent, medium-grain pinkish-purple foam. Penetrating nose of mocha, wild berries, loam, stones, pencil lead, dark honey, and dried red flowers. The chewy, medium-weight body has pleasantly small bubbles and carries just a touch of sweetness along with properly zippy flavors of black cherry, medicinal herbs, and root beer notes. Great bitter/tart finish.