Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lambrusco is only 100% Lambrusco (the wine) when made from at least 85% Lambrusco (the grape)

The Hills of Castelvetro
True Lambrusco, Italy's most important varietal wine, is made from Lambrusco grapes.

As a matter of fact, Italian wine law stipulates that your bottle of True Lambrusco wine must be made from a minimum of 85% Lambrusco grapes.

Lambrusco is a typical example of a good relationship between a group of grapes and its territory: Fertile alluvial plain stimulate vigour, yield and characteristic quality traits of the vine.

How can you tell if you purchased a True Lambrusco or just a bottle wine with bubbles?

The label of a True Lambrusco wine will list the words 'Lambrusco...DOC (or DOP)' or 'Lambrusco dell'Emilia IGT (or IGP) (Lambrusco Emilia IGT or IGP)'. If none of these particular definitions appear anywhere on the front or back label, you purchased a "red wine with bubbles" but not a bottle of True Lambrusco - even though the word 'Lambrusco' (the grape) may be listed on the label. Most true Lambruscos are blended with a maximum of up to 15% of Ancellotta, aka. Lancellotta, Malbo Gentile, Fortana, and/or Marzemino grapes - which are not Lambrusco grapes.


Lambrusco is not only the name of a particular TYPE of wine but at the same time it is also the name of the grape that was used to make this type of wine.

Lambrusco (the type of wine) is a slightly fizzy (frizzante in Italian) red wine with high acidity and fresh fragrances, produced in a particular area of Italy. Specifically, in a region called Emilia Romagna even though the wine can only be made in Emilia and not in Romagna. Why? It's not only "the law" (DOC regulation) but also due to the special climate (continental) and special (very moist) soil of Emilia; another proof that there's a very strong relationship with a particular varietal and its territory.

And that's why you'll find all of the vineyards planted with lambrusco grapes in and around the major Emilian towns of Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Modena. According to various references over 60 different authochthonous Lambrusco GRAPES (falsely referred to as 'clones'), have been identified each with its own unique name. For example, one of the most important Lambrusco varieties is 'Salamino'. It may be listed as Lambrusco (the grape), Lambrusco salamino, or simply 'salamino'.

BTW, I must have read that "there are over 60 different Lambrusco grapes/clones" a hundred times, but I have never come across a list that actually lists the names of these 60 plus Lambrusco grapes. In the meantime I have done a little search on google and have actually come up with 24 clone names. If you know of another Lambrusco clone, please email me. I will be more than happy to add it to the list below:

(This list is wrong; see below)
1. Lambrusco dal Peduncolo Rosso, 2. Lambrusco Barghi, 3. Lambrusco dei Vivi, 4. Lambrusco La Termarina, 5. Lambrusco-Rossina, 6. Lambrusco Viadanese, 7. Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata (also Lambrusco-FF), 8. Lambrusco del Caset, 9. Lambrusco di Fiorano, 10. Lambrusco Gentile, 11. Lambrusco Maiolo, 12. Lambrusco Oliva 9, 13. Lambrusco Oliva 12, 14. Lambrusco di Alessandria, 15. Lambrusco Benatti, 16. Lambrusco Casetta, 17. Lambrusco d'German, 18. Lambrusco Pjcol Ross, 19. Lambrusco Salamino, 20. Lambrusco Marani, 21. Lambrusco Grasparossa, 22. Lambrusco di Sorbara, 23. Lambrusco Maestri, 24. Lambrusco Montericco

While writing this piece I've been in contact with Stefano Meglioraldi who works for the Lambrusco Consorzio in Reggio Emilia. He has pointed out that my Lambrusco list is only partially correct. (Confirming once more that lots of specific online information is wrong.)

There are "only" 13 (confirmed) Lambrusco grapes (NO CLONES! The reference about "60 clones or sub-clones" is 100% incorrect! Unfortunately, this erroneous information has been and continues to be repeated over and over again in wine books and online!):

1. Lambrusco Salamino, 2. Lambrusco Marani, 3 Lambrusco Grasparossa, 4. Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Maestri, 6. Lambrusco Montericco, 7. Lambrusco dal Peduncolo Rosso, aka Pjcol Ross, 8. Lambrusco Barghi, 9. Lambrusco Viadanese, 10. Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata (aka Lambrusco-FF), 11. Lambrusco di Fiorano, 12. Lambrusco Oliva (or Lambrusco Maiolo), 13. Lambrusco Benetti, 14. Lambrusco Corbelli (DNA not established yet), 15. Lambrusco o uvalino (DNA not established yet), 16. Lambrusco Vittona (DNA not established yet), 17. Lambruschetto (DNA not established yet).

Grapes that were DNA tested and found to be not genetically linked to Lambrusco grapes:

Perla dei vivi, Termarina, Lambrusco Rossina, Lambrusco del Caset, Lambrusco Gentile, Lambrusco d'German, Lambrusco di Alessandria.


- A fizzy wine labeled "Reggiano Rosso DOC" (Note: The word Lambrusco is missing) is produced from 50% to 60% Ancellotta grapes and therefore NOT a True Lambrusco (wine). It is a fizzy wine made from Ancellotta/Lancellotta grapes and blended with 40% to 50% of various other grapes, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Malbo gentile, and Lambrusco grapes.

- A fizzy wine labeled Lambrusco/Merlot on the front (Note: Neither a 'DOC' nor an 'IGT' is indicated) is NOT a True Lambrusco (wine) but a sparkling red wine blend made from Lambrusco (grapes) and Merlot (grapes). The back label points out that this is a blend of 60% Lambrusco and 40% Merlot (if none of the grapes is at least 85% of the blend the percentages of each varietal used in the blend have to be listed on the label).

To obtain the truest of True Lambruscos look for the following appellations on the label:

Typical Lambrusco vineyard
True Lambrusco produced in and around MODENA:

Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a miniumum of 85% Grasparossa (Lambrusco) and a maxiumum of 15% of Fontana and Malbo Gentile (two blending grapes)

Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 60% Sorbara (Lambrusco) and a maximum of 40% Salamino (Lambrusco)

Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 90% Salamino (Lambrusco) and a maximum 10% of Ancellotta and/or Fontana (two blending grapes)

Modena Lambrusco DOC (DOP)
Changed to a DOC from an IGT/IGP in 1999.
Must be made from a miniumum of 85% of either or a combination of Lambrusco Grasparossa, ~ Salamino, ~ di Sorbara, ~ Marani, ~ Maestri, ~ Montericco, ~ Oliva, ~ a Foglia Frastagliata (FF), and a maximum of 15% of Ancellotta, Malbo gentile, and/or Fortana.

True Lambrusco produced in and around REGGIO EMILIA:

Reggiano Lambrusco DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 85% of either or a combination of Lambrusco Marani, ~ Salamino, ~ Montericco, ~ Maestri,  ~ Sorbara, ~ Grasparossa, ~ Viadanese, ~ Oliva, ~ Barghi, and a maximum of 15% of Ancellotta, Malbo Gentile, Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata, and/or Fogarina

Reggiano Lambrusco Salamino DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 85% Lambrusco Salamino and a maximum of 15% Ancellotta, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco di Sorbara and/or Malbo Gentile

Within the Reggiano DOC appellation it is possible to label specific "hillside vineyards" that are planted with specific Lambrusco grapes as follows:

DOC Colli di Scandiano e Canossa and Reggiano
Colli di Scandiano e Canossa
("Hills of Scandiano (town) and Canossa (town)")
Lambrusco Montericco DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 85% Lambrusco
Montericco and a maximum of 15% Lambrusco
Marani, ~ Grasparossa, ~ Salamino, Malbo Gentile,
Ancellotta and/or Croatina.

Colli di Scandiano e Canossa Lambrusco Grasparossa DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 85% Lambrusco Gasparossa and a maximum of 15% Lambrusco Marani, ~ Montericco, Ancellotta, Malbo Gentile, and/or Croatina.

Colli di Scandiano e Canossa Lambrusco DOC (DOP)
Must be made from a minimum of 85% of either or a combination of Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Barghi and a maximum of 15% Malbo Gentile, Marzemino, Croatina, Sgavetta, Termarina e Perla dei Vivi.

Lambrusco dell'Emilia IGT (IGP)
Must be made from a minium of 85% of either or a combination of Lambrusco Salamino, ~ di Sorbara, ~ Grasparossa, ~ Marani, ~ Maestri, ~ Montericco, ~ Viadanese, ~ Oliva, and a maximum of 15% of other grapes.

(Important Note: Lambrusco labeled "Emilia IGT" (or IGP) is often - but not always* - of very low quality -- yet it's still a True Lambrusco. (* if made by a top-quality producer - NOT a bottler.)

A list of some of the best and not so great Lambruscos available in the USA will be posted soon. At this time about 100 different Lambruscos (the Cellar Tracker list contains a number of double entries) are distributed. The list will include the percentages of grapes used and if the wine was pasteurized ('cooked') to 'kill' any left-over live yeast cells.

The easiest way to spot a TRUE Lambrusco:
Locate the alcohol percentage on the bottle. Real Lambusco (dry and sweet) has to have a minimum of 10.5% alcohol - by law.

(updated/corrected on February 10th, 2011 and February 14th, 2011 and July 16th, 2012)

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