What is Lambrusco wine? Italy's Iconic Red Bubbly

Lambrusco Wine: The sparkling red wine from Emilia Romagna, Italy, includes complex and elegant bottles. Read about the appellations's evolution and learn about how and where Lambrusco is made, its best use and parings.

By Lucie Robson
Apr 21, 2022
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Lambrusco Wine ( Grapes) in 30 seconds

  • Lambrusco is a black grape producing lightly sparkling rosé and red wine. Less commonly, Lambrusco is made in a white style.
  • It’s famous for being sweet but Lambrusco comes in dry and off-dry styles too.
  • Its home is Emilia-Romagna. Lambrusco also grows in Puglia and Lombardy.
  • The Lambrusco family encompasses a range of related varieties. 
  • The two most important Lambrusco gapes are Lambrusco Grasparossa and Labrusco di Sorbara.
  • Lambrusco displays red and black fruit and florals.
  • It has a light to medium body, medium tannins, and medium to high acidity.
  • It typically has 10–11.5% abv.
  • It appears in around 10 DOCs.

 

What is Lambrusco wine?

Lambrusco is a frizzante wine made in the Emilia-Romagna region. It has a reputation for being very food-friendly and excellent value. 

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Learn about Lambrusco

Lambrusco has a reputation for industrial-scale production of sweet (amabile), easy-drinking, and even uninteresting frizzante wines. This isn’t entirely fair because there are some very fine examples of Lambrusco made with the same care that goes into any fine wine.

 

Lambrusco covers a family of closely-related grapes from Emilia-Romagna, specifically: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa (di Castelvetro), Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Salamino, and Lambrusco Viadanese (aka Lambrusco Mantovano).

This grape mostly grows in Emilia-Romagna but also appears in Lombardy and Puglia.

 

Is Lambrusco dry or sweet?

Lambrusco ranges from light to full-bodied and displays red and black fruit, violet, and sometimes bubble gum. Aromas and flavors depend on the specific Lambrusco grape and its vinification. For example, Lambrusco di Sorbara is light-bodied with violet, red currant, strawberry, and plenty of acidity. At the other end of the spectrum, Lambrusco Grasparossa (di Castelvetro) is full-bodied and tannic with black cherry, plum, and notes of almond. It’s a good idea to serve Lambrusco slightly chilled to enjoy its flavors fully.

 

Is Lambrusco always red?

Lambrusco is a rosé or red frizzante (lightly sparkling) wine. It’s made in dry, off-dry, and sweet styles.  Occasionally it’s made in a white style.

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What food goes well with Lambrusco?

With such a wide range of Lambrusco grapes, food pairing possibilities are broad. The adage “what grows together, goes together” suits Lambrusco perfectly. Emilia-Romagna is the region of Modena balsamic vinegar, Bolognese sauce, Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, and Lambrusco matches all of these to a T. Its high acidity also makes it ideal for pairing with fatty foods.

 

To get a good snapshot of what good Lambrusco food pairing looks like, let’s home in on the two most important grapes and styles; Lambrusco Grasparossa and Lambrusco di Sorbara. 

 

Lambrusco Grasparossa Food Pairing

Lambrusco Grasparossa creates deep, concentrated, bold wines that display plenty of dark fruit. It has firm tannins and is usually dry. Food pairing suggestions include:

 

  • Appetizers: Prosciutto di Parma; black olives; sardines.
  • Entrées: Confit duck; Italian-style sausages with fennel; sausage pizza; meat or vegetarian lasagne; steak; hamburger. 
  • Dessert: Dark chocolate desserts.
  • Cheese: Grana Padano; Parmesan-Reggiano; Pecorino.

 

Lambrusco di Sorbara Food Pairing

Lambrusco di Sorbara is light rose in color with red cherry, strawberry, and floral aromas like violet or orange blossom. Try these ideas:

  • Appetizers: Charcuteries; spicy roasted potato skins; sardines; oysters.
  • Entrées: Grilled tuna; Italian-style sausages with fennel; grilled chicken; lamb kebabs; pizza; meat or vegetarian lasagne; pulled pork; seafood; Indian or Thai cuisine; creamy pasta dishes. 
  • Dessert: Peach pavlova; fruit salad; milk chocolate desserts (for the lighter amabile styles). 
  • Cheese: Mozzarella; Ricotta; Buratta; Mascarpone.

 

Lambrusco is an excellent food wine and it also works well as an aperitif.

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What region does Lambrusco come from?

Emilia-Romagna dominates Lambrusco production. It also grows in Puglia and Lombardy.

 

Well-known appellations include: Casteller DOC, Colli di Parma DOC, Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa DOC, Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC, Lambrusco Mantovano DOC, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC, Modena DOC, Reggiano DOC, Trentino DOC, Valdadige / Etschtaler DOC, Valdadige Terradeiforti / Terradeiforti DOC.

 

Where does Lambrusco come from?

The Lambrusco cultivar has its roots in the ancient Roman era. Owing to how easily it grows and its robustness, armies and travelers took Lambrusco with them in their travels. Lambrusco is even referred to in the work of Roman philosopher, Pliny the Elder and poet Virgil. 

 

While it has a reputation for making sweet, mass-produced wines, Lambrusco is experiencing something of a renaissance. Today vintners are polishing their winemaking methods and producing drier, savory styles of this great value wine.

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How is Lambrusco made? 

The majority of Lambrusco is made with the Charmat (tank) method. This is how that other popular Italian bubbly Prosecco is made. The wine sees a double fermentation inside a large, pressurized tank and the emphasis is on promoting a fruity profile in the wine. A smaller number of ambitious wineries produce Lambrusco through the traditional method which is how Champagne is made. In this complex method, a second fermentation occurs in the bottle.

 

What Kind of wine is similar to Lambrusco?


Fun facts

  • Lambrusco is one of Italy’s oldest grape families.
  • There are around 60 types of Lambrusco grape.
  • Lambrusco has its own day of celebration on June 21st.
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