Lambrusco: A Lively Italian That Loves The Heat

The Wine of the Week: Lambrusco

by Annette Tomei

NV, Cantina Formigine Pedemontana, Rosso Fosco, Amabile, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC, Italy

What’s Italian for red, bubbly, pleasantly grape-y, and perfectly delicious with spicy foods? Lambrusco, of course.

Like its distant relative, Prosecco, Lambrusco has risen in stature from the soda-like sweet fizz that was popular in the 70s and 80s to a millennial favorite. A new consortium of forward-thinking producers, new standards governing production, and a few new DOC-status subregions have even long-time growers rethinking their practices and production. Even the sweet styles are garnering respect… and the Italian descriptor “amabile” is infinitely more marketable than the term “sweet.” (Amabile translates to loveable, by the way. And what’s not to love?).

Lambrusco is both a variety of grapes and a region within Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy. Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC is located just south of Modena (home of balsamico). It is named for the variety of Lambrusco grape that dominates the wines produced there (85% minimum in a blend). The Grasparossa di Castelvetro variety has the highest tannins of all the Lambrusco grapes. And it typically produces a well-structured wine.

NV, Cantina Formigine Pedemontana, Rosso Fosco, Amabile, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC, Italy

About this Wine

This wine has a deep inky red-purple color and fuchsia-red tinted foam. It is intensely aromatic – a treat for the nose and the palate. Bursts of dark berries, violet candies, and sweet baking spices roll into ripe plums and fresh juicy grapes. The tannins are balanced by the delicate mousse and pleasant amount of sweetness – not sticky sweet at all. And, it is super-low in alcohol at only 8% ABV.

Lambrusco, like other sparkling wines, should be enjoyed cold. This particular wine is a perfect storm of crisp and fruity, delicately sweet, and low in alcohol – the best possible pairing for spicy foods. I was first introduced to it at Daddy-O, a great neighborhood spot in the West Village of NYC famous for a few spicy specialties. My favorites: Buffalo-style chicken wings and gourmet hot dogs with a spicy beef hot sauce (think chili, elevated). The Lambrusco was the perfect pairing for both. I also recommend trying it with fragrant Indian dishes or other aromatic Southeast Asian foods.

The Verdict

Cantina Formigine Pedemontana is a collection of regional producers of a variety of styles of Lambrusco. The Rosso Fosco is their middle-upper end.  It also comes in a dry (secco) version that I look forward to trying soon. At under $15/bottle, this wine is a great choice to bring along to a barbecue with friends. Or for taco Tuesday at home.

 

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