Lambrusco may struggle to regain the popularity it enjoyed in the 1970s, when it was the top imported wine in the U.S., but it remains a light, refreshing wine excellent for pairing with heavy, rich food. Most alternatives come from Lambrusco’s native Italy, but international counterparts work as well.
Lambrusco is actually the grape, of which there are more than 60 varieties, rather than the wine itself. Hailing from the Emilia Romagno region of northern Italy, an area famous for culinary delights such as Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, Lambrusco wines range from sweet to dry and lightly fizzy to sparkling.
Lambrusco has a bright purple to ruby color. Typically a summer wine, it's meant to be served chilled. The variety of flavors across the board makes it unwise to generalize about common characteristics.
- The oldest of the Lambrusco wineries is Cleto Chiarli, which produces a sweet wine with red fruit flavors, including hints of rhubarb. It's adept at countering salty dishes, whether cold cuts or pizza.
- Opera label wines bring a peppery aroma and black cherry notes, while Cavicchioli is darker, with a dry, floral aroma. For plum flavors, assertive tannins, and hints of bitter almonds, go for the Medici.
The character of Lambrusco is shared most commonly by other sparkling Italian wines.