Posted by: tomciocco | January 16, 2014


When the topic is fizzy Italian reds, the first name that pops up is usually Lambrusco. Lambrusco, which is made from a host of sub-varieties of grapes named “Lambrusco” with a qualifying name suffixed (Mantovano, di Sorbara, etc.), comes from the northern region of Emilia Romagna, and stylistically can vary from sweet to semi-sweet to bone-dry, and it comes in both red and pink hues too. And though so much of the total volume of bubbly reds from the Italian peninsula is represented by the rivers of Lambrusco produced in Emilia-Romagna, there are lots of other “minor” spritzy reds to be found along the length and across the breadth of the peninsula, and this really cool wine from Campania is one of them.

Gragnano is actually a sub-zone within the Penisola Sorrentina D.O.C. which in Italian means “The Sorrento Peninsula” which as the name implies is centered around the justifiably famous and truly beautiful little city of Sorrento on the southern end of the Bay of Naples, which has for centuries been subject of song and landscape painting. This general area is host to a veritable cornucopia (literally scores) of local vine varieties, many of which are to be found only within this finger of land that extends out into the Tyrrhenian Sea. This region, from its sweet climate and vine-friendly, rocky volcanic soil, produces great white wines as well as reds, but somewhat surprisingly the reds have the (very slight) edge both in terms of quality and quantity. Most wines from this area, whether red or white, are blends and this one is no exception, made from 50% of the subtly aromatic Piedirosso, 30% of arguably the south’s most serious and nobly austere Aglianico, and 20% of one of those aforementioned obscure local varieties called Sciascinoso (pronounced sha-shee-NOH-zoh), a light and fresh red-skinned grape typically used to leaven bigger and bolder varieties and so it is used here in this fun but surprisingly complex and refined effervescent red.

Wines like this go very well with richer, simpler dishes, so in keeping with that propensity, I matched this wine with a classic Campanian appeztizer – fritto di scamorza  (slightly dried mozzarella enrobed in a fried crust of flour, egg and breadcrumbs – the original mozzarella sticks!), followed by fried sausages that I subsequently braised with smothered Savoy cabbage, red wine, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano and bay leaf.











Iovine Penisola Sorrentina-Gragnano Rosso Frizzante 2012

Very deep blackish purple color. Elegant nose of blackberry, strawberry preserves, pink grapefruit zest, saline minerals, violets, freshly-cut aromatic herbs, topsoil and a hint of molasses. In the mouth  the wine shows a light and tiny-bubbled fizz, and ever-so-slightly sweet medium-full body, spunky acidity and medium-polish tannins and a beautiful balance of flavors of black cherry, lime syrup, black raspberry, clove, cinnamon, wood smoke, cocoa and rosewater. Complex but clean bitter orange finish. Very nice stuff indeed.




  1. “…a host of sub-varieties of grapes named “Lambrusco.”” Actually, Sorbara, Grasparossa, Marani, Salamino, Maestri, Ruberti, Montericco, etc. are individual indigenous grape varieties. “Lambrusco” is the ‘collective’ name for these autochthonous grapes.

    ‘Mantovano’, ‘Emilia’, ‘Castelvetro’, ‘Santa Croce’, etc. refers to Lambrusco DOCs.

    The Lambrusco of choice in Emilia-Romagna and Mantova has always been and continues to remain ‘secco’ (min. 11% alc.). Amabile may have 30g to 50g/l RS. You’ll find a few 30/35g/l amabile versions in the area of production, 50g/l RS versions outside of Emilia-Romagna and Mantova and 60g/l to 80g/l (3% to 8%) versions are manufactured for export markets.

    • Thanks for the clarification – now I know why you won an award! Sure, it’s something like the “Trebbiano” phenomenon in that it’s to some degree a question of semantics. Some varieties that carry the name are kin and some aren’t, and some members of the “aren’t” group are believed to be related amongst themselves. The name “Vernaccia” presents a similar stickiness, as does “Bonarda”.

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