Lambrusco is the popular Italian wine grape that produces the commonly mixed wines that are dry (secco) or barely sweet (semisecco) and produced in bubbly, sparkling style; known in Italy as frizzante. Lambrusco is an ancient grape, harvested since 160BC but still popular today.
Most Lambrusco wines are a blend of several grapes which each have a unique taste. It’s thought that lambrusco originates as early as 160BC as the historian Cato mentions them in De Agri Cultura during those years. To drink a lambrusco is to drink a wine that is many hundreds of years older than a Riesling.
Lambrusco wines are usually dry or semi-dry and are produced in the frizzante (sparkling) style. There are 12 different varieties (8 of these are closely related) and all originate from the same area in Italy. Lambrusco wines pair with a large variety of foods from BBQ meat to salads and fruits.
Different styles of Lambrusco
There are 12 common styles of Lambrusco produced in Italy:
Lambrusco has a very ancient origin: a secular tradition that has never faded away, from the medieval feasts to the current tables. In 1971 Lambrusco Reggiano DOC was recognized and production rules were established. This was the consecration and due recognition of the different varieties of Lambrusco from the province of Reggio Emilia, which, thanks to this important event, were protected and received a superior quality. About 25 years later, the name of the designation was changed to Reggiano and the range of grapes that could be included in the DOC was extended.
Lambrusco di Sorbara
It is an aboriginal variety with ancient origins, which comes from the domestication of wild vines, also called ouzelin or ouzelin. The name of the vine comes from the village of Sorbara in Bomporto, near Modena. The mill phenomenon, which produces very small berries due to the anomaly in flowering, makes Lambrusco di Sorbará easy to remember and especially appreciated, which is a remarkable feature compared to other Lambrusco. The vines are energetic but with low yield, and produce a pale ruby red wine, with a pronounced aroma of violets.
It is derived from wild vytis grape plants, which in ancient times were found all over Italy. The name “Marani” was first mentioned in 1825. It is a very energetic vine with abundant yields; it has large, long, pyramid-shaped beams. Lambrusco Marani produces wine with a vibrant ruby red color, an attractive grape aroma and a light and characteristic fecundity.
Medium fertility vines, adapted to mountainous conditions with clayey cultivated soils. The native variety Emile, which grows mainly in the Castelvetro area, got its name due to its characteristic color, which acquires its stem when it matures. It is particularly suitable for the production of semi-sparkling wines with a strong body and good balance.
It comes from the Carpy area northwest of the province of Modena and the lands of Lower Modena. It is a very energetic vineyard, with a good harvest and very compact bunches, cylindrical and conical in shape. It produces a fresh wine, deeply colored, with a pleasant taste of grape. It is best consumed young, even sweet and sparkling.
Ancelotta o Lancelotta
This grape is cultivated especially in the province of Reggio Emilia. It is a vigorous vine with abundant yields. The bales are of medium size and quite loose. The wine, obtained from 100% Acelotta, has a very rich color and is used to produce blended wines known as “Rossimo”. Ancelotta is particularly suitable for the color and sugar content.
This name seems to come from Villa Maestri, which is located in the municipality of San Pancrazio, in the province of Parma. It is an energetic grape that ripens quite late. The product of this grape variety is often blended with other Lambrusco varieties and is valued for its ability to give color and body to the wine.
This name identifies the typical caste of central Italy and belongs to the family of “Greek” vines known as Pignoletto. Thanks to its excellent adaptability to the environment of Emilia Romagna, it can be well considered as a native grape. It is now becoming one of the most interesting white grapes. This vine is energetic, with a medium sized bundle capable of resisting diseases such as mildew and winter frosts. Thanks to its excellent apple acidity, it is able to provide wines not only with a good body, but also with a sparkling and semi-sparkling wine.
It is a white grape variety, especially common in fertile and flat areas of the Romagna. It belongs to the Etruscan vine family in demand. The medium-high strength of this vineyard prefers fertile environments with great water resources. This makes it possible to produce fresh, slightly tanned wines with a neutral taste.
Together with Moscato, it is one of the grapes with ancient history. It represents numerous varieties and offers wines of all types: from dry and structured white wines to sweet dessert wines, including sparkling red wines. This large vine tastes its generosity.
Recently it has been overvalued for its oenological qualities. This vine resists drought, while spring frosts are less resistant. The vine is vinified both in purity and in blends with Lambrusco wines. It is ideal both for new wines and for wines designed for light ageing.
This red grape variety, also known as Fortana, is cultivated in the Po River Valley, mainly in Romagna and the Parma area. Vinified in purity, it gives life to a wine with high acidity but low alcohol content and a distinct tannin component. For this reason, it is often produced in sweet and semi-sweet versions. Emilia Romagna, finds its ideal habitat in the sandy soils of the Adriatic coast, but has also adapted to the fertile environment of the rest of the region.
History of Lambrusco
The name Lambrusca Vitis is probably associated with the Latin poet Virgil, who in his Quinta Bucolica mentions “Lambrusca Vitis”, a wild grape that produces fruit with a sour taste and grows on the edge of the field.
The purpose of this land for wine production is also mentioned by Strabo in the 3rd century BC, who noted that there are more houses in wooden barrels, and Pliny the Elder, who was surprised by the blood red color that the leaves of this vine have before they fall.
On July 2, 1084 one of the most famous battles in the history of Italy, as well as in the history of Lambrusco, took place in the region of Sorbara (Modena). On one hand, the papal thread of Matilda de Canossa, on the other hand – the followers of Emperor Henry IV of Franconia.
According to legend, the troops that besieged the castle, gave themselves to abundant feasts, due to the presence on their tables of good food and good Lambrusco wine, deliberately thrown into their hands by the people of Matilda di Canossa. They fell into such a deep sleep that they were taken by surprise and, unable to fight with dignity, were defeated.
After the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the barbarians on Italian territory, what survived was a type of quality viticulture associated mainly with monasteries and fortified villages. It was a period when the cultivation of classic rows, which we can see today in our village, became widespread.
Wine was indispensable for Christian worship: it was widely used by monks for medical purposes and highly valued by the nascent courts and nobles in all parts of Italy.
The wine was exported all over Europe, often offered to European families as a gift from the Italian nobility. It was during this period that the winemaking, which we know today, was refined and, in particular, Lambrusco, was much appreciated in Europe for its light and brilliant character … the characteristics that make us appreciate it today, centuries later.
After a journey of about 2,000 years, we arrive at this day. The reality of Lambrusco in the area of Modena changed considerably at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the advent of the Social Caves. Carpi was the first to be founded and in 1908, one of the first in Europe, the Modena Social Cellars also appeared. Already in 1934 Lambrusco was appreciated in France, Switzerland and Germany, so experts qualified it as “the best, most important and famous Italian sparkling red wine”.
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