21st of June is Lambrusco Day, and it’s indeed a happy day for casual wine lovers and connoisseurs alike. Lambrusco is an Italian wine, and it’s considered an entry-level libation — one that lures non-wine drinkers into the extraordinary world of wine.
Yes, Lambrusco is a bubbly, sweet red wine, and it’s effortless to drink - no one says no to a glass of that sweet, ruby-red fizzy wine. Here’s what you need to know about Lambrusco, the wine, the grapes, history and tradition. Lambrusco might be sweet and fruity, but it’s sophisticated as well!
What is Lambrusco Day?
Wine lovers celebrate Lambrusco Day every year, often during the Summer Solstice, and that’s because the fizzy red wine is the perfect wine for summer. Lambrusco is unique in more ways than one. Semi-sparkling (or frizzante) red wine is rare enough already. And pleasingly sweet wine made with red grapes is equally rare.
Wine enthusiasts started commemorating Lambrusco day in 2011; although the wine style has been prevalent for at least 50 years, and the wine style is much older than that. Lambrusco Day is a day to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. No, Lambrusco is never overly complex or sophisticated, but it’s crowd-pleasing delicious!
What is Lambrusco?
Lambrusco is an Italian wine style protected by its own DOC or appellation of origin. In fact, several wine regions specialise in the style, all in Emilia Romagna, Central Italy - just north of Tuscany.
As for the grapes used, Lambrusco is actually a family of grapes, probably with dozens of variations. The most prominent is Lambrusco di Sorbara. Interestingly, producers can make dry red wines with Lambrusco grapes, and although these wines rarely find their way to the international market, they’re delightful! Of course, the most attractive Lambrusco style is frizzante or slightly sparkling and sweet.
History of Lambrusco
Lambrusco is one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. Archeological evidence suggests people already cultivated the red grape in the Bronze Age, and it was pretty popular in the Ancient world.
In fact, the term “Lambrusco” comes from the Latin term for “spontaneous plant,” meaning the vines probably grew everywhere before being domesticated. There’s no doubt the vine has its spiritual home near Modena, in Emilia Romagna, where you can still find the most incredible diversity of Lambrusco grapes.
In the 1970s, Italy began exporting large amounts of wine to America. Most of it was a sweet version of Lambrusco — of course, the easy-to-drink style became fashionable instantly, and the wine topped the popularity charts for many years. Lambrusco’s popularity eventually led the wine to fall out of fashion, but new generations are rediscovering the fizzy red wine, and it’s now back in full force!
Wine-Producing Regions for Lambrusco
Lambrusco is the name of a family of grapes, and it’s also the name of a wine style. Still, only wine made in delimitated regions in Emilia Romagna can be labeled as such.
There are three DOCs, or Italian wine regions specialising in the style: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetra. These are source of the finest Lambrusco, which can be sweet or dry, still or fizzy.
Most of the Lambrusco in the market, though, is labeled under the less ambitious Modena DOC. Lambrusco can be an easy, everyday sipper and a contemplative wine worthy of any cellar.
Lambrusco Wine Styles
Lambrusco Rosé. AKA Lambrusco Rosato must be made with a minimum 60% Lambrusco di Sorbara, with other Lambrusco subvarieties making the rest. This style can be produced at any sweetness level.
Lambrusco Rosso. Also made with Lambrusco varieties. This is a still red wine, and it can be dry or sweet. The dry versions have great versatility on the table.
Lambrusco Spumante Rosato. The pink version of everyone’s favourite fizzy wine. The wine can be frizzante with an alcohol volume of 10.5% or spumante with 11%.
Lambrusco Spumante Rosso. Red sparkling wine, either spumante or frizzante, with the exact alcohol requirements as described above. Most wine in this style is sweet, but dry versions exist.
Food Pairings for Lambrusco
Lambrusco comes in a wide variety of styles, but there’s no doubt the most popular is the red and sweet frizzante. Let’s talk about pairing this lovely wine with food.
On its own. Lambrusco is a fun wine for summer, especially if served chilled. It is easy to enjoy on its own, and it never disappoints.
Chocolate. Lambrusco pairs well with chocolate and chocolate-based desserts, from ice cream to chocolate cake.
Fruit. Lambrusco is particularly compatible with berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Desserts with berries and other fruit are also a good pairing for Lambrusco.
Fresh cheese. Fresh and soft-rind cheese contrasts Lambrusco’s sweetness beautifully. Goat’s cheese, burrata and Brie are good examples.
Salty food. Lambrusco’s residual sugar can balance salty food, including sausages and dry-cured meats, from mortadella to prosciutto. Beef jerky and other salty foods are good matches as well.
Sweet & Savory. Sweet sauces can make savory food compatible with Lambrusco. Think of sticky barbecue ribs, roast turkey with cranberry sauce or glazed ham.
Pizza. Pizza is the ultimate comfort food, and it’s a brilliant partner for the most pleasing wine, Lambrusco. The sweet wine counters the tangy tomato sauce, and if topped with pepperoni or other meats, the pairing will be even more successful.
Happy Lambrusco Day!
Now that you know all there is to know about Lambrusco Day and the wine in question, including food pairings and styles, it’s time to get your hands on a few bottles of fizzy red and put on a party. Lambrusco Day is a celebration after all!
Lambrusco is easy to love, even by non-wine drinkers, making it a universal wine style that never lets you down. Enjoy Lambrusco chilled on its own on a sunny afternoon, or pair it with your favourite food. Lambrusco is back, and it’s more popular than ever! Let’s celebrate the Italian wine as it deserves, with friends and family!