Lambrusco is more than just wine, it is a family in every respect. Produced in the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Parma and Modena the name ‘Lambrusco’ covers a variety of different types of fizzy red wine with lively, effervescent bubbles, violet or fruity aromas, a pleasant tartness and a moderate alcohol content.
There are seven main branches of Lambrusco, which come in secco (dry), amabile (mild) and dolce (sweet) versions: Sorbara, Grasparossa, Salamino, Marani, Maestri, Montericco and Ancellotta.
As regards the area where Lambrusco is produced, alongside minor varieties, the Lambrusco grape varieties are mostly grown in the areas surrounding the cities of Reggio Emilia and Modena, which have long been rivals for first place.
Never having been the capital of a kingdom, like the neighboring cities, Reggio Emilia has remained sober, while its fertile countryside has taken on the appearance of a large and bustling rural metropolis. Today the agricultural province of Reggio Emilia is traversed by a revolutionary ferment, which from the vats full of must is spreading among farmers, restaurateurs, local administrators to the point of infecting the entire population and blunting everyone's thoughts. This ferment is called Lambrusco.
The production specification drawn up by the Consortium for the Protection of “Reggiano” and “Colli di Scandiano and Canossa” wines establishes that the “Reggiano Lambrusco” can be composed by more varieties of grapes, however belonging to the great Lambrusco family. The varieties of Lambrusco Salamino, Sorbara, Maestri, Marani, Montericco and Ancellotta are vinified; as regards the DOC Colli di Scandiano and Canossa (recognized in 1971), the varieties that can be used are Lambrusco Grasparossa and Lambrusco Montericco.
Therefore, each producer can, while remaining within the varietal frame, compose his own picture; distributing brushstrokes of scents and colors, giving shape and character to the wine he has in mind. As a jazz musician, he has the freedom to improvise according to his talent, creating variations on a musical theme that through tradition has become a classic.
In the glass, Lambrusco from Reggio Emilia has an intense ruby color, with violet reflections, while the aromas remain the pleasant, fine, fruity and fragrant ones typical of the varieties. It has a round and full-bodied flavor with a light foam, perfect to be enjoyed with cold cuts or first courses typical of the Emilian tradition, such as tagliatelle, tortelloni, agnolotti, cappelletti and lasagna, rigorously seasoned with delicious meat sauces.
There are many "historical" vines of the Parma hillside viticulture with the PDO denomination "Colli di Parma", such as Malvasia di Candia aromatica, Sauvignon blanc, Barbera, Bonarda. In more recent years, other vines have been included in the revisions of the disciplinary following 1982. This is the case of Pinot nero, Pinot bianco, Pinot grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and also Lambrusco.
These varieties, and Lambrusco most of all, in fact turned out to be perfect for the pedological and climatic characteristics of the Parma hilly area, but also for their tendency to acquire particular and specific peculiarities in relation to the cultivation soils, characteristics not found elsewhere for these same vines.
Lambrusco Colli di Parma must include at least 85% of the Lambrusco Maestri variety, with the possibility of blending up to a maximum of 15% of black berried grapes suitable for the PDO, present in the vineyard within the company. The Lambrusco Maestri variety returns a wine with a characteristic intense ruby color and is characterized by a red and lively foam (in the sparkling type), while the nose defines a perfume of violets, suitable for accompanying important first and second courses (in particular boiled meats ).
Many imagine that Lambrusco and bubbles are one and the same. But to discover the secret behind how this wine is made, we need to take a step back and analyse the traditional wine-making process used, known as springtime secondary fermentation.
Firstly, it is important to understand that the bubbles in Lambrusco occur naturally. At one time, vintners took advantage of the huge variation in temperature in winter, which would interrupt the fermentation process, to restart the fermentation once more in the following spring, after the wine had been bottled: this is how secondary fermentation in bottles was once achieved. The carbon dioxide in the wine was retained, and once the bottle had been uncorked, the bubbling foam would emerge.
Nowadays, most wine-makers use the Italian patented Martinotti-Charmat technique and stimulate fermentation by mixing natural, selected yeasts in the wine in autoclaves. When combined with the sugars in the wine, the yeasts produce the wine's characteristic bubbles.