The Truth About Lambrusco Big Wine Wanted To Hide From You Forever:

“Italy’s best-kept wine secret is dry Lambrusco [Lambrusco Secco, min. 10.5% alc.].”

Matt Kramer, Los Angeles Times, 1996

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Chinese proverb from Chapter 64 of the Dao De Jing ascribed to Laozi, although it is also erroneously ascribed to his contemporary, Confucius.

Judgement of Verona

I didn’t know a thing about Lambrusco – real or otherwise – but fell in love with Lambrusco (Secco) on my very first sip at Vinitaly 1994.

And then introduced it everywhere in the USA over the next 10 years: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Portland, Seattle, Aspen, Denver, Boulder, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Santa Fe, Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, New York, Houston, Miami, Hawaii, Burlington, and lots of other towns (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and places (wine festivals).

The message was the same over and over and over again:

(Real) Lambrusco is NOT sweet (semisecco/abboccato, amabile or dolce) BUT secco (0 to max. 15g/L sugar), frizzante (never spumante), red (never white), minimum 10.5% alcohol (never 4-10%), and twice fermented (not only once like a pet-nat) in tank (charmat) or bottle (rifermentazione ancestrale).

These are all facts that have been known in Emilia since 183 BC but are only recently (2018) being openly shared and discussed by Lambrusco producers:

It all paid off in the end, because by the year 2000 an unbelievable number of top restaurants in San Francisco and New York were pouring Lambrusco (secco) by the glass. It did help that Lambrusco (secco) is one of the world’s most food-friendly wines and Italy’s coolest red.

“This… is the kind of Lambrusco that I’ve otherwise found only in the area of production. The shipper had a clear model in mind: not the commonly seen sort of Lambrusco, but one like the original artisanal version.”

Matt Kramer, Los Angeles Times, 1996

Lambrusco Revolution

Finally the ‘Real Lambrusco Revolution’ (1994-2010) was in full swing! Not initiated by Big Wine, “Big” or “Small” Lambrusco, the region of Emilia (-Romagna), an Italian wine consortium or organization. No, it was the work of a few great sommeliers of a few great S.F. [L’Osteria del Forno (1994), Rose Pistola (1996), Sociale (2005)] and NYC [Felidia (1996), Becco (1993), Babbo (1998), Lupa (1999), Otto 2003), Del Posto (2005)] restaurants and an importer of Italian wines made exclusively from local indigenous grape varieties by very small producers (1985).

As a matter of fact, it would take another 14 years (2014) before restaurants in Rome and Milan would be introduced to Lambrusco Secco, and only because it had become quite obvious that Big Wine was no longer able to hide the truth from sommeliers, restaurateurs, specialty wine retailers and discerning wine consumers in Italy, London und the USA by 2012.

Importantly, the “Lambrusco Revolution” has given about 300 completely unknown true artisanal Lambrusco producers a voice for the very first time in history and access to international wine markets which had been completely monopolized by Big Wine’s cheap, sweet industrial Lambrusco versions.

“Thanks to you, we need to completely overhaul the Lambrusco market in Italy.”

Marketing Manager, Vinitaly, 2013

Historical Background

Big Wine together with Big Lambrusco had managed to completely destroy Lambrusco’s reputation within 20 years (1965 – 1985) by promoting exclusively proprietary industrial versions (4-9.5% alc. + amabile/dolce) as “genuine” throughout Italy (!) and the world. As a result, “Lambrusco” had become “the wine with the world’s worst reputation” by 1980 and known as “fruit juice with some alcohol” and “Red or Italian Cola”.

“Sometimes the label will read: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco di Modena, or the name of some other town, but it’s all the same wine. Also, it may have the word “Amabile” (sweet) on the label – It’s still the same wine. Be wary of very cheap Lambrusco – under $2 [2020: $9.68].”

The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine by E. Frank Henriques, 1975

“A number of mistakes were made.. The problem is that nobody is willing to change… And let us keep in mind that if we decide not to make sweet Lambruscos anymore, a lot of business will shut down… One positive aspect is that the Lambrusco world has been experiencing a new sensibility lately, as never before. There is a renewed passion for winegrowing and bottling companies have realized that they can step out of anonymity by pursuing authentic quality. I’m sure, or rather, I hope that things will only improve from now on.”

Anselmo Chiarli, Chiarli (Everyone calls it Lambrusco, 2017)

Lambrusco Living

It took 16 years (1994 – 2010) to re-establish Lambrusco as Italy’s quintessential dry red, its true history and rightful place among Italy’s classic wines. Now join me in a) re-discovering genuine ‘Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco’ (min. 10.5% alc.), b) setting the record straight about this unique fizzy Italian red – once and for all, c) pointing out incorrect information online and in print, d) introducing unknown places and tiny Lambrusco towns throughout Emilia, Mantova and Cremona and d) some of the 300 or so Lambrusco farmers who have been crafting nothing but TRUE Lambrusco for their entire life and many for generations —- starting in 2021, “The Year Of LAMBRUSCO”. At last.

Testimonials

  • “What do you say to those who consider Lambrusco* to be less “noble” than other wines?”

    “That they have no idea what they’re talking about. Actually, I would probably be less polite (he laughs).”

    Gian Paolo Isabella, Podere Il Saliceto
    (*Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco, 10.5+% alc.)

    Everyone Calls It Lambrusco (2017)