Lambrusco Wine Region Guide

Rediscover Lambrusco: Italy’s Revitalized Sparkling Gem


Last updated: May 11, 2024


It’s tough to talk about Lambrusco – Italy’s seminal sparkling red wine, now the butt of jokes from here to Shanghai – and not snigger. Decades of bastardization, largely from the Italians themselves, have done the category’s reputation immense damage; there is also much confusion surrounding Lambrusco and the geographical origins of this age-old style. The term Lambrusco encompasses more than 60 varieties that, although genetically similar, are considered individual grapes. Additionally, the tradition of Lambrusco originated in the plains of Emilia Romagna (with Modena still producing the most vivid wines). However, many grapes classified under this umbrella term are also cultivated in Lombardy, Piedmont, and even Basilicata in the south.

Naysayers will tell you that Lambrusco is a one-trick frothy pony, but they’re wrong. The dichotomy between authentic, high-quality Lambrusco and its bargain-basement cousin is mind-blowing. To quote wine buyer Steve Daniel, the latter is “to syrupy-sweet for its own good,” made via the charmat (tank) method in industrial conditions. Exporters shipped this cheap-and-cheerful interpretation of Lambrusco to the US and northern Europe in vast quantities during the 1970s and 1980s. Yet, while it generated considerable revenue for Italian producers, it also ironically alienated a more discerning audience who came to regard Lambrusco as fizzy pop. After that, consumers turned away in their droves.

The former, however, can be mesmerizing: a delicious, low-alcohol sparkling wine that is both dry (secco) and perfect with rich Emilia Romagna cuisine. Of course, there is still some confusion, and the mass-produced article dwarfs the number of traditional method examples. But that’s a feeble argument for not giving Lambrusco a second chance.


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James lawrence

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