Emilia-Romagno: Lambrusco

This week we head back to Italy to take a closer look at the wine region known as Emilia-Romagna. Located northwest of Tuscany, the highly fertile Emilia-Romagna area stretches across Italy from the Adriatic Sea in the east to its western border with the Liguria wine region. As the name implies, the region is comprised of two separate areas, (Emilia in the west and Romagna to the east) with the capital city, Bologna, located in Romagna. Although the entire area is best known throughout the world as Italy’s gastronomic heart – famous for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the balsamic vinegars of Modena and the dried cured ham known as prosciutto di Parma – they also produce millions of cases of the often slightly sweet, fizzy purple wine simply called Lambrusco.

Lambrusco wine is made from a grape of the same name (although in Tuscany the grape is also known as Colorino), which has been cultivated in Italy for thousands of years, since it is relatively easy to grow and yields enormous amounts of juice per acre. Although over 60 clones of lambrusco have been identified, the most widely planted variety is called Salamino whose name is actually a reference to the grape clusters’ resemblance to the sausage called Salami.

Lambrusco wines are made in a variety of styles and with varying levels of sweetness, depending on the area from where they originate. The most highly rated wines are slightly sparkling (frizzante) red wines that come from the five major DOC (denominazione di origine controllata) regions. Four of the DOC’s are located within the Emilia area, and one is located just over the border in Lombardy. Each region uses unique Lambrusco clones and specific production methods to create their own distinct style of wines. The DOC’s of Lambrusco are as follow:

• Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro – located south of the town of Modena, the region is home to the Grasparossa clone. The wine of this region is typically tannic, dry and full bodied with a deep purplish-red coloring.

• Lambrusco Mantovano – Located in Lombardy, this is the only Lambrusco DOC region outside of Emilia-Romagna. The wines are typically dry, but some semi-dry styles are also made.

• Lambrusco Reggiano – The largest producing region of Lambrusco, wines range from sweet to dry. The DOC allows up to 15 percent usage of sweet Ancellotta grapes, yielding wines that are light bodied and slightly sweet.

• Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce –The wines are typically light in color and body with a frizzante style and are made in both semi-sweet and dry styles. The wines of this DOC must be composed of at least 90 percent of the local Salamino clone.

• Lambrusco di Sorbara – Located near the village of Sorbara, the Sorbara clone of Lambrusco is the highest quality clone, producing the most fragrant and darker, fuller bodied wines. In this wine region only the Sorbara and Salamino clones are permitted, with at least 60 percent needing to be from the Sorbara, as the variety tends to produce the most acidic (and desirable) wines.

We are focusing in on a new favorite, Chiarli Vineyards’ Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco “Enrico Cialdini Vineyard.” This 150-year-old winery is located just north of Modena and has been owned and operated by the same family since it was founded. The wines of Chiarli are beautiful examples of old world style Lambrusco, and this wine is truly exceptional. Our tasting notes follow:

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco “Enrico Cialdini Vineyard” NV

Appearance: intense inky purple

Aroma: strawberry, raspberry and cherry jam with a bubble gum undertone

Flavors: fruit becomes a secondary feature with a lemon peel note pushing through

Finishing Notes: the citrus notes give a balanced acidity to a clean dry finish

Perfect Pairing:

– Lambrusco: this example of the Lambrusco grape is a great accompaniment to a large variety of foods from cheeses to wild game to tomato based pastas, but we think this particular wine is great for an afternoon fall picnic with a variety of cheeses, some goose or duck liver pate and a light bar-b-que!

Weekly Wine Trivia

What was traditionally used to train Lambrusco vines to raise them off the ground away from mildew?

Email your answer to Karl & Jody at [email protected]. The first correct answer in their inbox will receive a complimentary bottle of wine from them. Cheers!

Last week’s trivia: What is the grape Pais commonly called in The United States?

Answer: The Mission Grape

Congratulations to our winner for last week’s wine trivia, and thanks for all the responses! Good luck this week.