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
“Italy’s best-kept wine secret is dry Lambrusco [Lambrusco Secco].”Matt Kramer, Los Angeles Times, 1996
I didn’t know a thing about real Lambrusco but fell in love – to the producer’s surprise and disbelief – with Lambrusco Secco on my very first sip at Vinitaly 1994.
And then poured and 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).
Since 1994 my message has been the same over and over and over and over and over again:
(Real) Lambrusco is NOT sweet (semisecco/abboccato, amabile or dolce= 12 to 90g/l sugar), BUT secco (= 0 to max. 15g/L sugar; local preference: 0-8g/l sugar), frizzante (1-2.5 atm, never spumante: 3.0+ atm), red (never white), minimum 10.5% alcohol (not 4-10%), and twice fermented (it’s not a pet nat AKA “wine soda”) in a pressurized tank (charmat= modern classic) or bottle (metodo rifermentazione ancestrale= classic).
These facts have been known in Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma since 183 BC but are only now (2018) being admitted, shared and openly discussed by some of the major industrial Lambrusco producers.
“10.5+% alc. ‘Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco’ is the ONE & ONLY true Lambrusco.”
“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
It all paid off in the end, because by the year 2005 an unbelievable number of top restaurants in San Francisco and New York were pouring Lambrusco (secco) by the glass. It helped tremendously that top Lambrusco Secco is one of the world’s most food-friendly wines and also Italy’s coolest red.
Finally the ‘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, a wine publication or any organization. Nope. It was the work of a few great sommeliers of a few great restaurants in San Francisco [1994!: L’Osteria del Forno (Susanna Borgatti), 1996!: Rose Pistola (Peter Burmingham, James Atwood), 2005: Sociale (Jim Kennedy)] and New York City [1996!: Felidia (Dan Perlman, Richard Luftig), 1997: Becco (Jeremy Ensey), 1998: Babbo (Robert Bohr), 1999: Lupa (Robert Bohr), 2003: Otto (Morgan Rich), 2005: Del Posto (Morgan Rich)] and an US wine importer specialized in top 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 by the Lambrusco Consorzio and only because it had become quite obvious that it was no longer possible to hide the truth from sommeliers, restaurateurs, specialty wine retailers and discerning wine consumers in Italy by 2012. Even today (2020) you continue to run into many Italians throughout Italy who have never tasted or even heard of Lambrusco Secco.
“Thanks to you, we need to completely overhaul the Italian Lambrusco market.”Marketing Manager, Vinitaly, 2013
Most importantly, the “Lambrusco Revolution” has given about 300 formerly completely unknown true artisanal Lambrusco producers a “wine voice” for the very first time in the history of Emilia and access to international wine markets which had been flooded with and monopolized by Big Wine’s cheap, sugar loaded industrial (4-9.5% alc) Lambrusco versions.
“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…”Anselmo Chiarli, Chiarli (Everyone calls it Lambrusco, 2017)
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 the world AND, yes, Italy (!). As a result, “Lambrusco” had become “the wine with the world’s worst reputation” by 1980 and known as “fruit juice with alcohol” and “Red or Italian Coca 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].” (Warning: Today, you can find $20 junk Lambrusco!)The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine by E. Frank Henriques, 1975
It took 26 years (1994 – 2020) to re-establish Lambrusco as Italy’s quintessential dry red wine, its true history and rightful place among Italy’s classic wines.
Join me in 2021 in
– discovering and discussing the very best genuine ‘Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco’ (min. 10.5% alc.),
– trying to set the record straight about this unique fizzy Italian red – once and for all,
– pointing out incorrect information online and in print,
– introducing unknown places and tiny true Lambrusco towns throughout Emilia, Mantova and Cremona and
– some of the 300 or so small Lambrusco farmers who have been crafting nothing but TRUE Lambruscos for their entire life and many for multiple generations —- in 2021. What a perfect pairing: The Year Of The Ox and LAMBRUSCO. REAL LAMBRUSCO. LAMBRUSCO SECCO. MINIMUM 10.5% ALCOHOL.
“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)
Real Lambrusco’s back!
After 55 years!
Now even beyond Emilia.