THE CUISINE OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA: A JOYFUL EXPRESSION OF TASTE AND CULINARY TECHNIQUES AND PREPARATIONS
Zootechnics is the common thread linking the two Italian areas of Romagna and Emilia - we often think of them as being one single area, but in actuality, they are two distinct geographic zones commonly associated with societal civilization, fertile terrain, and a virtual explosion of regional agricultural specialities. Pork products reign supreme in Emilia-Romagna, whereas Romagna pays more mind to sheep.
A direct result of centuries worth of culinary history and reputation-building, today’s primary gourmet products are commonly associated with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Mortadella (cured meat), Parma ham, and Culatello - all of these fabulous products are clear representations of the area’s dominance in the world of Italian gourmet products.
The list of specialty items doesn’t stop here, however. Also making an appearance are Coppa Piacentina, Salami with Garlic from Ferrara, Piadine Romagnole, Squacquerone and Raviggiolo cheese, Balsamic Vinegar from Modena and Reggio Emilia, eel and fresh fish from the Adriatic Sea.
Emilia-Romagna has a clearly defined, and easy-to-prove reputation as being one of the planet’s most delicious areas, thanks to its firm credo of “being well at the table,” and the clear appreciation of food and wine’s innate pleasures. The gourmet treats born locally are shining examples of the people of Emilia-Romagna: humble, hard-working, and exuberant, particularly as you head in the direction of the Riviera Romagnola, yet at the same time, always polite, serious, and enthusiastic.
More so than just about any other Italian locale, the concepts of typicality and tradition, of the union between ancient and modern times, unite seamlessly. Why would this be? Because locally, food and wine are truly felt and lived as a cultural experience, a genuine lifestyle and image of the self.
From cuisine set to music in Parma, to the satisfaction of a family meal in Reggio Emilia, to the noble elegance the city of Modena transmits to all facets of local culture, particularly at the dinner table, to Romagna’s exquisite street foods, Emilia-Romagna is a riot of taste and culinary histories. The ensemble of exquisite culinary products gives rise to the region’s culinary autobiography, sometimes piloted by the skilled hands of rézdore, the women who traditionally ruled the family table and once the driving force of the Emilian agrarian and middle-class society. Inspired by simple elements, these women crafted authentic masterpieces like tortellini, cappelletti, anolini, lasagne, tortelloni, passatelli, tagliatelle, maltagliati, strozzapreti...
LAMBRUSCO: EMILIA’S ICONIC WINE GAINS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION
The tendency in Emilia has always been to drink either sparkling wines, semi-sparkling or even Spumante-style wines (those featuring more of a carbonic acid). The provinces of Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Parma tend instead to favor a grape that is the indisputable actor in a remarkably varied viticultural universe: the Lambrusco grape.
From the Latin Vitis labrusca, the grape was given this name as an indication of the wild vines that used to grow on the outskirts of cultivated agricultural fields. The grape was so prized, we even have documentation of its characteristics dating back to the 1500s, when Andrea Bacci is recorded describing the grape, with “its white and red bunches produce spicy and fragrant nectars, which make a delicious foam when poured into the glass.”
The Lambrusco grape has many different faces, ranging from the pinkish version to the ruby-red version with deep violet tones. One version reaches deep, darker colors, almost purple in tone, and another version is light and tasty, with violet scents and strawberry and cherry-like flavors.
Yet another type features lively foams, while another highlights aromas recalling wild fruits, with more structured body and concentrated tastes. We can also find a sparkling version made with the Charmat method, and crafted following classic methods like disgorging, and bottle fermentation, of which the latter belongs to the most ancient local wine production methods.
Dry Lambrusco selections are enhanced by strong flavours and fruity sapidity that make it the ideal wine for classic Emilian dishes, that tend to be quite savory and heavy. Lambrusco wines with more significant body are perfectly suited to roasted meats, salami and charcuteries, and meat-based sauces. Lighter Lambrusco selections instead, with lively and simple characteristics, are terrific with Mortadella and a local favorite, pork pettitoe (pig trotter).
Lambrusco wines coming from the Reggiano, Colli di Scansano, and Canossa ares are finely represented by the Moro, Cà de' Medici, Medici Ermete, Lini Oreste e figli, Lombardini, Emilia Wine, Fantesini and Venturini Baldini wineries.
Lambrusco selections instead from the Grasparossa di Castelvetro and Modena areas are perfectly reflected by the selections produced by the Cleto Chiarli, La Battagliola, Pederzana, Fiorini, Fattoria Moretto, Ca' Berti, Corte Manzini, Le Casette, Opera02 and Pezzuoli wine estates.
Finally, Lambrusco di Sorbara, probably the best known Lambrusco selection, and Salamino di Santa Croce give our palates a thrill with the vintages produced by the Cantina della Volta, Paltrinieri, Zucchi, Francesco Bellei, Cavicchioli, Marchesi di Ravarino, Il Borghetto and Sergio Campana wineries.
Dating back to recent times, the end of September 2020, the Lambrusco wine producers are now operating under a single Consortium that unites all the different styles and production methods, and ensures top-tier quality from each and every producer crafting Lambrusco wines. The function of the Consorzio is also to help the wineries speak a single common language amongst themselves, and to promote the Lambrusco wines, with their individual facets, styles, and interpretations to a global marketplace.
This history-in-the-making process was one of the goals of the ambitious younger generation of Lambrusco wine producers, who proudly combine their wine-making audacity with a healthy dose of building-block production knowledge and know-how. This is how the Lambrusco Renaissance will evolve into a hopefully large-scale movement.
SANGIOVESE DI ROMAGNA: A TALE OF WINE CIVILIZATION
The Romagna area belongs without a question to the reign of the Sangiovese grape, which occupies more than 70% of the vineyards in Romagna. However, the wine produced locally also reflects the strength and warmth of this land. The notes of softness are a direct reflection of the sensitivity of the local population as well, and the red wines produced here, with their red berry fruits and floral bouquets, are clear examples of excellent structural balance finesse evolving from the presences of tannins.
The terroir from specific areas in the Romagna region are varied and feature varying characteristics. In Bertinoro, also known as the Balcony of Romagna, the soil is locally referred to as “spugnone,” and is composed partially of sandstone, an element that gives the wines produced here considerable volume, freshness, and consistent tannins. For the best examples of these wines, be sure to check out the Sangiovese selections from the Tenuta La Viola, Maria Galassi and Raffaella Bissoni estates.
The higher hill areas of Predappio and Modigliana provide a fascinating wine exploration based on minerality and its effects on the fabled Sangiovese grape. Here, winemakers like Noelia Ricci, Tre Monti, Condé, Podere dal Nespoli, Fattoria Nicolucci, Villa Papiano and Drei Donà specialize in the creation of wines with vigorous tannic textures, and when young, wines that veer away from heavy fruit influences.
The hillsides near Faenza, instead, features a Sangiovese grape with complex connotations, typically supported by a healthy acidic vein. If you’re looking for softness, roundness, and some sweeter sides to the Sangiovese grape, look no further than the hills surrounding coastal Rimini - don’t miss the vintages from the Enio Ottaviani winery for sublime selections reflecting these elements.
As you can imagine, the Emilia-Romagna region is not the only Italian region to boast spectacular gourmet treats and visit-worthy wines. For lots more ideas and where to go, how to eat, and what to drink, check out the Mamablip Article Index for lots more insight into select Italian regions. Heard of the Abruzzo region? Don’t miss a peek at the Masciarelli family and their wine estate for true Abruzzo-style character and determination. The Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini d'Abruzzo is also firmly entrenched in spreading the word about these representative Italian wines to the world!
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