Fall is upon us! The air is crisp and the days are getting shorter. It’s the time of year for bonfires, apple picking, tailgating and big pots of chili. It’s also the season when we say au revoir to light, summery wines and shift to styles with a little more substance. And nothing pairs better with the flavors of fall than a sparkling red wine like Lambrusco.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Sparkling red wine is good. Really good. What’s not to love? It’s fizzy, fruity and my current obsession for fall. To be fair, there was a time when red bubbly had a reputation for being syrupy sweet and cheap (read: the stuff of hangovers). Not these days. The category has come a long way over the last 20+ years and is undergoing quite the revival.
Easily the most complex category of the red sparklers, Lambrusco is both the name of the grape and the name of the DOC region where the wine is made in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Lambruscos are usually semi-sparkling or frizzante, made in the Charmat (tank) method similar to Prosecco. There is typically less pressure in the bottle, so there won’t be a big POP like with a bottle of Champagne.
There are three sweetness levels: Secco (dry), Amabile (off-dry/semi-sweet, basically in the middle) and Dulce (sweet). TIP: When trying to determine if a wine is sweet or dry, look at the alcohol content listed on the bottle. As wine ferments, yeast eats the sugar and converts it into alcohol. Wine that has a lower alcohol level (5-6%) will have more residual sugar and be sweeter. Conversely, wine with a higher alcohol level (11-13%) will have less sugar and be dryer.
Flavors to Expect
Light styles such as Lambrusco di Sorbara have a delicate body and flavors of strawberry, rhubarb, raspberry and floral notes, while richer, bolder Lambruscos such as Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetra and Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce boast darker fruit flavors like blueberry, blackberry, black cherry and notes of violet.
Wine & Dine
The wine is from Emilia-Romagna, home to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar and tortellini pasta, to name but a few, so these foods, in their varying forms, are a natural pairing for Lambrusco. Think creamy pasta, rich cheeses, charcuterie, sausage, stuffed shells and pepperoni pizza.
Although red sparkling wines are made from red or black skinned grapes, many other “clear” sparklers also use red grapes in their blend. The traditional Champagne cuvée, for instance, uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Remember: it’s skin contact from the grapes that turns a wine pink or red. When the skins are removed, the wine remains clear!
From the esteemed Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC, this luscious Lambrusco is a gorgeous dark purple with crimson-tinted bubbles. It’s lightly sparkling with notes of strawberry, raspberry and violets. In the mouth it has plum, blackberry and black cherry. An “amabile” off-dry style, it’s well-structured and creamy without any heavy sweetness. So refreshing! Although I’m happy drinking this by itself, it would be lovely with any of the classic Lambrusco food pairings. And if you want a little something sweet, try it with blueberry pie!
You have probably tried and loved other bubblies in varying shades, but if you haven't tried sparkling red, you are missing out! Trust me, you are going to be reaching for Lambrusco all fall.