Friday, January 28, 2011

WSJ: "Lambrusco may be one of Italy's most confusing wines."

Enjoyed reading the great article about true lambrusco in the Wall Street Journal. As a matter of fact, we can't read enough about this Italian original. To further 'un-confuse' and demystify lambrusco we would like to add the following personal comments, notes, corrections, and observations:

1. WSJ:  "...There are six different clones of the Lambrusco grape, with six different, multipart names, grown in subregions all over Emilia Romagna in the very heart of Italy. There's Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, home of the Grasparossa clone, where the wines are mostly big and dry. There's Lambrusco Reggiano, the largest region, which is also home to the famous cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano). It produces both sweet and dry wines, and mostly frizzante ones. And there's Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce - a clone said to resemble salami, in fact. Salamino wines tend to be simple and light...."

TL: Actually, there are 13 to 17 different indigenous Lambrusco grape varieties, not clones. Most Lambruscos are made from the following six: Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Sorbara, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Monterrico. (More: Even though the wine region/state is called Emilia Romagna, Lambrusco cannot be made in Romagna - by law.

Grasparossa (lambrusco variety) di Castelvetro (a town in Emilia), Lambrusco Reggiano (Lambrusco from Reggio Emilia) and Salamino (variety) di Santa Croce (town) are zones, better known as DOCs (DOPs). The forth one, not mentioned in the story, is Sorbara (town and name of indigenous grape variety; named after town). While 3 of the DOCs have 'lambrusco grapes' in their denominations, Reggiano refers to the zone/region of Reggio Emilia. The number of Lambrusco DOCs is now at 8 to 12 (More:

Grasparossa is not only planted in Castelvetro; Salamino not only in Santa Croce. All classic lambruscos are 'frizzante' and produced throughout the region.

The two most famous still red wines made from lambrusco grapes, 'Moro del Moro' and 'Vigna del Picchio' (both made by Paola Rinaldini), are actually from Reggio Emilia.

Every lambrusco can be 'darkened' by adding Ancellotta (a.k.a. Lancellotta) - if the DOC/DOP allows it. Ancellotta is NOT a lambrusco variety.

Almost all sweet and even some dry lambruscos (especially those destined for export) are pasteurized. Most, but not all. A fact that should be known to consumers. (To find out if your sweet/dry lambrusco was 'cooked', contact the producer, bottler or importer.)

2. WSJ: "...the 2008 Opera 02 from Modena, was very dark and aggressively tannic. "Lambruscop is a fun wine - it shouldn't be so fierce," Mike said."

TL: Believe it or not, THIS IS the preferred style of most lambrusco drinkers in Emilia. What's 'fierce' to one person may be 'fun' to drink by another. Sure, 'firece' lambrusco is not everybody's cup of tea - you can count us among those - but it's certainly not a 'flaw' or 'fault'.

3. WSJ: "...It doesn't have foam," was the first thing he said when I poured him a glass. "A good lambrusco has to have foam.""

TL: The amount of 'foam' (or froth) in a glass of lambrusco is not indicitative of the quality of any lambrusco and not comparable with a beer head. As a matter of fact, the effervescent froth in a glass of lambrusco should start to dissipate as soon as the glass if filled.

4. WSJ: "...This sparkling lambrusco is a bit lighter and a bit earthier and a bit funkier than the other four wines (it's also an organic wine, made without the addition of sulphites)...."

TL: 'Funkiness' in a wine is a wine flaw in any 'normal' or 'organic' wine. Wineries that produce 'funky organic wines' produced 'funky normal wines' before they turned 'organic'.

5. WSJ: "...His one Lambrusco is [a] Bianco, which he likens to Prosecco - but unlike Prosecco, it's no easy sell..."

TL: Lambrusco is a RED wine. White lambrusco is as much a lambrusco as white zinfandel is zinfandel.

Want to drink a 'white fizzy wine'? Emilians have more than one which they will proudly serve to you: Malvasia frizzante, Ortrugo frizzante, Moscato frizzante, Spergola frizzante...but they'll NEVER serve a 'white Lambrusco' at home.

'White lambrusco' has not tradition and was strictly 'invented' for the sweet white wine drinker in the USA (a majority consumed white wines back then) and dirt cheap wine drinkers in England in the 70s.

Are there people who enjoy white zinfandel? Yes, of course, and may they continue to enjoy them; the same goes for 'white lambrusco' drinkers. But it doesn't change the fact that zinfandel and lambrusco are both classic RED wines. By the way, 'white lambrusco' is as 'rare' as 'white zinfandel'.

A side note: A review of a bottle of lambrusco should always include the percentages and names of the lambrusco varieties used in that wine (pronto: 30% salamino, 30% marani, 30% maestri, 10% ancellotta and if the wine is estate bottled or was made by a bottler). This is the only way consumers can learn about the subtleties and differences of the various lambruscos on US retail shelves. Frizzante wines made mostly from Ancellotta (not a lambrusco grape) or other non-lambrusco grapes are not at all lambruscos but 'vino frizzantes' or in plain English: Red wines with bubbles.

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