Lambrusco: The Effervescent Wine of Italy's Emilia-Romagna Region

With one last column before Christmas and New Years, I would like to continue talking about the wonderful sparkling wines of Italy. This four part series started with the wines of Asti in the Piemonte, then we explored the Franciacorta’s of Lombardia, and the last column discussed the ubiquitous Proseccos of the Veneto. All of these will make tasty and affordable additions to your holiday festivities.

In this article, I want to explore a wine that may be one of the most misunderstood wines not only in Italy, but anywhere. That wine is Lambrusco.

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The name brings up connotations of sweet frothy inexpensive supermarket jug wines. Yet, there is another side of this wine worth exploring.

Lambrusco is made in Emilia-Romagna, which is in the central part of Italy lying south of the Veneto and north of Tuscany.

Emilia-Romagna is not one of Italy’s premier wine regions. It may, however, be the premier food region. This is the home of Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, Balsamic vinegar and Prosciutto ham. Over time, this frothy slightly acidic wine became a great accompaniment for the local foods slightly salty, slightly dried foods. The rich, fruity style matches the food of the area perfectly. Lambrusco cuts through the food with its acidity. The bubbles aid in the digestion of the rich cream sauces and fatty meats.

Lambrusco is the name of a grape varietal. It is a prolific grape that produces good if not spectacular wines. It was known in Roman times as Labrusca and written about by Cato the Elder. Cato wrote that the grape was so productive that a half an acre could yield 300 amphorae of wine. Pliny the Elder also wrote about the use of these grapes in a bitter concoction for medicinal purposes. It became known as Lambrusco in the 18th century.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Historically, like Moscato d’Asti in the Piemonte, Lambrusco was a wine made for local consumption and especially for the grower’s own personal use.