Monday, February 9, 2009

Sometimes a wine is just a wine

During the tasting I had of some sparkling wines I was able to taste a Lambrusco. Lambrusco is the name of both a red wine grape and an Italian wine made principally from the grape. The grapes and the wine originate from four zones in Emilia-Romagna and one in Lombardy, principally around the central provinces of Modena, Parma, Reggio nell'Emilia, and Mantua. The grape has a long winemaking history with archaeological evidence indicating that the Etruscans cultivated the vine. In Roman times, the Lambrusco was highly valued for its productivity and high yields with Cato the Elder stating that produce of two thirds of an acre could make enough wine to fill 300 amphoras.

The most highly-rated of its wines are the frothy, frizzante (slightly sparkling) red wines that are designed to be drunk young from one of the five Lambrusco denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) regions: Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, Lambrusco Reggiano, and Lambrusco Mantovano. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lambrusco was the biggest selling import wine in the United States. During that time the wine was also produced in a white and rosé style made by limiting the skin contact with the must. Today, Lambrusco is still one of the most consumed wines in the US, although there is plenty more Merlot and Cabernet than any other wine.

The Lambrusco I tasted was the Cleto Chiari Pruno Nero Lambrusco NV, from the DOC of Grasparossa di Castelvetro. It was slightly sparkling, not the full bubble that one would expect in regular sparkling wines. It was actually closed with a regular cork and foil, with no cage to hold it.

The smell turned me off. It had lots of sticky sweet liquorish, with little else. When I tasted it my face made such a reaction that it stopped other people as they were lifting the glass to their lips. It was extremely astringent. There was a thin prune juice flavor, kind of like a proem that had too little sugar in it.

Not a great experience, but hopefully I’ll try another Lambrusco soon to show me that good wines can be made from this grape.

1 comment:

Alex said...

If you do get to try another Lambrusco soon make sure you try it while eating food reminiscent of Emilia-Romagna: something like a really good, rich spaghetti bolognese. Could well make all the difference!

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