What is Lambrusco?

As you know from our post on the Sparkling Wines of Italy, like Champagne in France, Italian sparkling wine has become synonymous with Prosecco – but that’s not all that the country has to offer when it comes to bubbly! That’s right… we’re shining a spotlight on Italy’s sparkling red superstar, Lambrusco!

Italy’s Red Sparkler

As the world’s best sparkling wines are typically produced in cooler climates, it should come as no surprise that there are considerably less amounts of it being produced as you travel further south in Italy. However, the central part of the country is known for the distinct Lambrusco style, which has recently seen a resurgence in both interest and popularity.

But what is Lambrusco, exactly?

In the plainest of terms, it’s the name of a red grape and a red wine made from that grape varietal. 

Historians suggest that the grape has long been grown in the central part of Italy, and in Roman times, Lambrusco vines were highly valued for their ability to yield significant amounts of grapes and therefore, amphoras of wine. 

Lambrusco continues to be produced today from the same grape, mostly in the Emilia-Romagna region of Central Italy (in one of eight Lambrusco DOC’s). Like Prosecco, Lambrusco is produced in the Charmat method, and most wines are only slightly sparkling – so they can be described as frizzante. This point is important, as not all Lambrusco will be capped with a classic sparkling cork!

When you hear “Lambrusco,” you might think of the sweet wines that were popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s – those were once one of Italy’s largest wine exports. But dolce, or very sweet Lambrusco, is just one popular expression – there are various levels of sweetness, including secco (very dry to dry), semi-secco (semi-dry), amabile (off-dry to sweet) and dolce (very sweet, more than 45 grams of residual sugar per litre). Producers also tend to create wines with varying levels of acidity and tannins (such as in the Grasparossa DOC, where tannic profiles are very common for Lambrusco!). You may also find some some Lambrusco in white and rosé styles – cool, huh?

Pairing (Social Distance Style)

Lambrusco, being a red wine, tends to feature the flavours of fresh red fruits. The wine style is generally meant to be enjoyed while young, and tends to be lower in alcohol than other styles of sparkling and still wines. 

It is very versatile, and can be enjoyed in many settings – whether as an aperitif or as part of a meal (which we know you are having with the proper social distance and self-isolation measures in place). 

Our favourite pairing happens to be pizza; but if in these times of self-isolation, if you’re dreaming of a summer in Emilia-Romagna, you can enjoy it with fried gnocchi and salami and squint until you see the rolling hills near Modena or the ancient towers of Bologna. Much like a wonderful summer in Italy, Lambrusco is lively and cheerful. But, we digress. 

Riunite Lambrusco Frizzante

Riunite is a cooperative producer, located halfway between Parma and Modena (which are respectively home to Parmagiano-Reggiano and Prosciutto; two other fine pairings for this lovely sparkling wine style!). They produce a range of premium, DOC Reggiano and Lambrusco Emilia IGT wines. They also produce a number of semi-sparkling, or frizzante wines, from indigenous grapes in the region, which are meant fun, easy drinking wines.

The Riunite Lambrusco Frizzante (now available in the LCBO) evokes the spirit of the brand, and the sweeter style of Lambrusco that has made it world famous. 

It is a red blend, made from Lambrusco and other red varietals, in the dolce style, and you will find luscious red fruit, jammy berries and cherry cola on the palate. It is frizzante – or semi-sparkling in style – and is easy drinking and fun. In these tough, uncertain times, why not reach for something easy and enjoyable, right?

It can be enjoyed on its own as a treat – we can all use a pick me up, can’t we? – or with our favourite food pairing… pizza! A spicy salami pizza will pair nicely, we think!

We’ve even enjoyed it in a cocktail, made with 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce lime juice, a dash of orange bitters and topped with Riunite Lambrusco Frizzante!