Showing posts with label Lambrusco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lambrusco. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Big Enjoyment From Cheap Lambrusco

Notte Rosso is likely found on the bottom shelf of your grocer's wine aisle. It's an inexpensive wine, but is it a bargain wine? We'll find out here and now. 

The Notte Rosso winery is located in In Salento, in Italy's Puglia region, in the area known as Primitivo di Manduria. The Notte Rosso Lambrusco, however, is from the Emilia region, in Italy's north. The wine has a very low alcohol content of 7.5% abv and generally sells for less than $10.

This wine colors up a medium garnet in the glass. The nose is rather muted, but offers a blackberry aroma draped in an earthy note. It's a slightly fizzy wine with a palate that shows dark blue fruit and a hint of coffee. It is not a particularly complex sip, but it is rather pleasant. The label has a meter pointing to "sweet," but it does not come off that way to me. I would call it off-dry, if anyone were to ask me. 

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Lambrusco Time

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

Now he is offering a Lambrusco - a first for the Cameron Hughes label, I believe.  Lambrusco is typically a fizzy red wine which can be cloyingly sweet from the wrong producers and deliciously dry from the right ones.  Whoever made the Lot 841 Reggio Emilia Lambrusco got it right.  It comes from the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, made from Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Marani grapes.  Alcohol is quite low at 8.5% abv and the retail price is only $15.

This wine pours up with a slight frizzante, with the little bubbles clinging around the edge of the glass.  It is colored deep purple, with a deep and dark nose as well.  Aromas of earth, leather and that Lambrusco grapiness are luscious.  The palate shows some of the fizziness as well as a nice crisp acidity.  The wine is labeled as "dolce," but it has a dryness built into it.  It's no dessert wine, and it pairs quite nicely with some good Italian parmesan cheese.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Not Your Grandpa's Lambrusco

"It smells like my grandfather’s cellar," my wife said as she sniffed at my lunchtime Lambrusco.  She recalls fondly how the barrel in Grandpa's basement filled the room with the aroma of grapes.  He and his neighbors would gather the grapes that grew on their trellises and contribute to the communal fermentation.

Long after Grandpa's passing, she told the story at a family dinner of how she sneaked down the stairs as a child and drew off a sample to taste.  It was forbidden, and so much more desirable as a result.  Grandpa was her hero, and she held him at the highest esteem.  He could do no wrong.  She sipped the liquid and spewed it out onto the floor immediately struck dumb by the acidic liquid.  She held the secret for decades, the secret that Grandpa made bad wine.

At this point in the story, Grandpa’s son Uncle Joe interrupted to say, "Grandpa didn’t make wine, he made vinegar!"  A round of laughs ensued.  Relieved, my wife could put to rest the awful thought that Grandpa had failed at something.  It may have been crappy wine, but it was the best vinegar they all had ever had.

Why I like the wine list at Terroni
Anyway, the Lambrusco di Modena at Terroni in Los Angeles reminded her of Grandpa and me of that story.  The "Nessun Dorma" is from the town of Modena in Italy's Emilia Romagna region.  When they're not making balsamic vinegar or sports cars, they make wine.  This one is made from mostly Lambrusco di Grasparossa grapes, with a splash of Salamino.  It sells for $11 by the glass at Terroni, where the wine list has a delightfully Italian twist.  I see it offered online for $17 a bottle.

It's a good wine, a slightly fizzy wine with a dark color and that wonderful, grapey Lambrusco aroma.  On the palate it's completely dry and carries a gentle acidity.  The taste takes me back to childhood, to those grape icicle pushups that were so good in the summer.  The wine, of course, has none of that sweetness but it harkens back to that deep flavor.  It's no Riunite.  It's a very good wine which stands on its own merit.  And when you want a good Lambrusco, nothing else will do.  It goes great with eggs and sausage, by the way.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beat Heat With Lambrusco

Lambrusco is the perfect red wine for hot weather. Sure, your zippy whites and refreshing rosés are hard to resist when the triple digits come calling. But Lambrusco always takes me back to a summertime visit in New York City. I escaped the oppressive heat and humidity with a bottle of wine on a sidewalk table at a storefront in Little Italy. The red wine bottle - I don't really remember what it was, but I think it was Beaujolais - sweated profusely as it came right out of a refrigerated case. It may as well have been Lambrusco, because that's how I like it served, ice cold on a blistering hot evening.

Molo 8 Lambrusco is a full varietal wine that mixes 85% Lambrusco Maestri & Marani grapes with 15% Lambrusco Ancellotta. The grapes are grown in the Mantovano DOC, in vineyards that sit as high as 500 feet above sea level. They are vinified in stainless steel tanks, and the fruity freshness couldn’t hide itself if it wanted to. Winemaker Davide Terlizzi does a fine job of bringing this distinctly Italian wine to us. Alcohol is extremely low at 8.5% abv, and a bottle of Molo 8 costs about $12.

It’s a very purple wine that tastes a bit like grapes and black cherries, with that famous Lambrusco earthiness coming through. It’s muscular for the style, with noticeable tannins and a nice acidity. Put a chill on it and chase the heat away. If it comes back tomorrow, just pull out another bottle.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Leisurely Lambusco

From the Banfi family of wines, this northern Italian red is, as the name Rosso Dolce suggests, on the sweet side. Not sweet as in dessert, but sweet as opposed to dry.

Bell'agio Rosso Dolce is made by blending two grapes of Emilia-Romagna, Lambrusco Grasparossa and Lambrusco Salamino. The vineyards are in the province of Reggio Emilia, located between the Po River and the hills of the Apennine mountains.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel and given a second fermentation, which imparts a bit of frothy fizz to the wine. Alcohol is incredibly restrained at just 8% abv. It sells for about 10 bucks, less in some places.

This is a very purple wine. It looks purple, it smells purple and it tastes purple. The nose is grapy and earthy, with not a whole lot of complexity. The palate is also rather simple, - pleasant, though, with gentle tannins. It's like a wine with training wheels, something to put in your glass until you're ready for the hard stuff.

That shouldn't be taken to mean the wine is not worthy. It is, quite, in fact. Its simplicity is its grace. It's a classic bistro wine, the stuff to drink when the person across the table is of greater interest that the bottle on the table.

You can pair this wine with very spicy foods, as the tannins and acidity are rather tame. It goes well with pasta, burgers, cheese or even pastries.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wine At The Hollywood Bowl

Having wine at the Hollywood Bowl is not mandatory but, c’mon. It’s basically a picnic with a concert thrown in. How can you not want some vino to go with the experience?

The Bowl, squeezed in between Hollywood and the 101 Freeway, is an outdoor amphitheater with wooden benches for seating and restaurant markups on wine, by the glass or bottle at the concessions stands. People really like to bring their own food - yes, you are allowed to BYO - and that goes for wine, too.

We got a group together for an appearance by Brian Wilson at The Bowl, during my wife’s birthday month. Life is short - we celebrate for 30 days, not one. We organized a dozen-and-a-half friends to join us for the event, which is no small trick in Los Angeles. At one time, we lived two blocks away from some very good friends and saw them twice a year. It's tough to coordinate with one couple, let alone eight.

Whether the draw was the former Beach Boy or the promise that we would bring wine, I couldn't say, but it fell together easily. The tickets were bought and distributed and a sandwich tray was ordered from the fabulous Rocco’s Deli in Los Feliz. The hardest part was lugging the food and bottles up the street from the parking lot. It's uphill all the way.

In keeping with a loose “Italian” theme - my wife is of Italian heritage, the food was made in that style - we brought a couple of Italian Lambruscos, one that was languishing at home and the other we picked up on the way to the concert.

The Manicarti Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Vigne Cà Del Fiore (that’s a mouthful) is subtitled, “Vino frizzante secco, sparkling red.”  It has an easy-drinking 11% abv number and hails from  the “sunny hillside vineyards” called Vigne Cà Del Fiore.  It is frizzante, or just a little bubbly, in the glass and it dissipates quickly.  Deep purple and grapey-smelling, there is an earthy note to it that is absolutely alluring. It comes from the Emilio-Romagna area of Italy, which also brings us such delights as Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Chilled, it’s exactly what I would like my summer to be.

I felt a bit like a Lambrusco missionary, as one in our group, probably the most wine-centric other than myself, had never HEARD of Lambrusco. She loved it, and I was happy to have done my job and produced one more Lambrusco drinker

On a side note, Rocco’s Deli, On Vermont Avenue in the Los Feliz area of L.A., has been hiding over there for some 40 years.  My wife and I had been going to a pizza place called Rocco’s for years, run by a guy from Staten Island, only to discover we had the wrong Rocco. The aromas and attitudes in the place brought my wife right back to her northeast Pennsylvania roots. She had been looking for a place like this for decades, only to find it right under her nose. The eatery so completely addressed her homesickness that it actually made real tears appear.  Their sandwiches are, indeed, to cry for.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

It's A Lambrusco Day

A good wine list is a beautiful thing. Even if I don’t plan on having a glass of wine at a restaurant meal, I just hate it when I give a glance to the eatery’s vino offerings and feel completely uninspired.

Denise and I had a nice lunch recently at a restaurant we had been meaning to try for quite a while. La Buca Osteria L.A. is way east on Melrose and has a sign in front intimating that it might be time to stop looking at the sign as you drive by and stop in already. So we did.

We like to celebrate Fridays with a nice lunch together under, hopefully, perfect conditions. That’s not an unreasonable request in Southern California, where you can probably count the less-than-perfect-weather Fridays each year on one hand. It was a gorgeous spring day when we sat down at the table, covered with butcher paper decorated with an ink stamp of a motorcycle.

I like the way Denise fills me in on the details of our dining experience. She digs a lot deeper into the L.A. food scene than I do, and she always has an interesting tidbit or two culled from her personal research. It appears, she told me, that the original chef left the resto in a dispute over meatballs. A scene from “Big Night” immediately comes to mind. There are no meatballs on the menu now, and I guess that’s one way to work it out. “Chef Out In Meatball Beef.”

The wine list had some nice options for a beautiful day - a rosé,a Chenin Blanc… wait, what’s this? A Lambrusco? Perfect. I'm inspired.

The Barbolini Lambrusco is just that - a perfect Lambrusco. Italian journalist Curzio Malaparte wrote in Lambrusco and Freedom, "A good drinker of Lambrusco is not only a proud, warm and generous man, but he is above all free. Therefore what is it, if it isn't Lambrusco that gives the Parmesan people that bright, sincere and dominant air; that sparkle in their eyes, that loud voice and tough expression? It is the wine of freedom and of the free man."

The wine comes from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, perhaps better known for its cheese. This Lambrusco has beautiful purple bubbles, the result of a secondary fermentation, and it comes bottled like any other sparkling wine. Please don’t confuse an artisanal Lambrusco like this one with the jugs in the grocery store. They are nothing alike.

The Barbolini Lambrusco has a wonderful frizzante, or bubbly character, and it holds a chill extremely well. The earthy grape flavor has plenty of minerality and almost no tannic grip. It’s a great sipper, but it goes very well with food, especially cured meats. I had it with La Buca’s fabulous grilled octopus and it was even better with their rustic and incredible cacio e pepe pasta dish.

So perfect was this Lambrusco that we immediately went and bought another one to take home.

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Lambrusco For A Summer Day

Every summer, I find myself drawn to a favorite restaurant that serves a calamari and scungilli salad to which I am hopelessly addicted.  The freshness of the squid and octopus is perfect starting in the spring and continuing right through the fall, and in Los Angeles that takes care of most of the year.  You don’t have to twist my arm to get me to Fabrocini’s.

I usually like to go with a rosé for that salad, maybe a Sauvignon Blanc.  This time, I saw “Lambrusco” scrawled on the whiteboard (the printed wine list literally never changes) so I opted for what may be the best Italian wine for summer.

La Battagliola uses 100% Lambrusco Grasparossa grapes from the province of Modena in the city of Castelfranco dell'Emilia, the Lambrusco grape's hometown, so to speak.  The wine is fermented and aged four months in stainless steel, so its freshness rivals that of the salad.

Not only is it good, it’s good for you.  The winery’s website offers this tidbit:

“In Lambrusco, cumarins are present "in a pharmacologically significant quantity", explains Dr. Carlo Fernandez, Director of the College of Cardiological Practice of the University of Florence.  Cumarins have anticoagulant properties and are used as an obligatory drug for myocardial infarct and in post-infarct treatment.”  

The last thing I need is trouble with my infarct, so bring on the Lambrusco!

The glass holds a wine of dark color and aromas to match.  Blackberry and raspberry smells are draped in an earthy quality.  Slightly frizzante, the wine isn’t lively enough to form bubbles on top, but there are some clinging to the sides of the glass.  Grapey dark berry and earthy notes are quite tasty, while the dry, bright acidity really feels good.

It’s probably not better than a good, dry rosé for this salad, or even a Sauvignon Blanc.  It did fit well, though, and certainly made the most of the summer feel of the day.

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Monday, September 5, 2011


Two Italians at Terroni

My wife and I often find ourselves at Terroni in Los Angeles for Sunday afternoon lunches.  Normally a little crowded for our taste at dinner time, the restaurant is usually almost empty for a late Sunday lunch.

We chose a red and a white wine, the Lambrusco for me and a white for Denise which we don't see very often on wine lists.

Lancillotto Barbolini Lambrusco Grasparossa Emilia-Romagna NV

My red is made from the Grasparossa clone of the Lambrusco grape, grown in the Castelvetro region of Emilia-Romagna.  Fizzy and foamy when poured, the bubbles diminished somewhat but were still present at the end of the meal, a spicy salami sandwich.

Even chilled, the delightfully grapey nose and big, fruity juice flavor is simply wonderful, especially on a warm afternoon.  Dark berries and black cherry abound on the palate, and it's a beautiful mate for the panini.

Castello di Verduno Pelaverga Bianco Bellis Perennis 2009
Denise opted for a white wine, a Pelaverga Bianco from Castello di Verduno in Piemonte.  The winery - along with a hotel and restaurant - are actually located in a castle.  The Pelaverga Piccolo grape is rare, and is usually used to make red wine.  This wine - from vineyards in Verduno - is vinified as a white wine and given the name "Bellis Perennis," which is the botanical name for an Italian daisy.

While that's a beautiful image, it might well have been named after some Italian rocks.  That's what leads the way on the nose and the palate: minerals, minerals and more minerals.  It tastes of wet rocks and green apple with some tart lemon peel.  Great acidity and an amazing flintiness really refreshes and reminds Denise of "stones in a stream on a hot summer day."  It's a great match for the summertime ciccio, a pizza foldover which is like a Caprese salad pizza sandwich, served cold.

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Monday, February 21, 2011


Pork Pie Hat by Crooks & Castle

Dining amongst the hipsters is always risky.  In Los Angeles, sometimes it's unavoidable.  Friends have favorite places - for one reason or another - and when you aren't careful they can steer an evening into a place where you might not normally alight for dinner.

Little Dom's is one of those places.  The food looked interesting enough, and it certainly smelled interesting enough.  It's a small room, though, and it was packed.  Hipsters tend to make a lot of noise when they eat, and the rabble was loud enough to prevent me from hearing my table partners - and sometimes myself - speak.  The hipster quotient - tabulated by a quick look around to see how many pork pie hats are in the place - was about four.  Back in Texas we used to call this the cowboy quotient - the number of cowboy hats visible as you walk through the door.  Cowboys, as I recall, are even louder than hipsters.

Enough with the hipsters!  We were at Little Dom's because Marge has adopted finding a wine called Fata Morgana as her personal quest.  She had the Calabrian white wine quite a while back at this establishment, and has had no luck in finding a bottle elsewhere to purchase.  So she suggested we return to the scene of the wine and, wouldn't you know it, it's off the list.  She settled for a Birra Moretti.

We ordered salad and pizza done very thin with a crispy crust.  I enjoyed a very nice Lambrusco by Lini, in Italy's Emilia region.  I love pairing Lambrusco with simple, rustic food.

Its color is a beautiful, deep red, with just a trace of effervescence showing around the rim.
It's hard for me to get at the nose of a wine when it's chilled, and the slightly refrigerated temperature of the Lini in its narrow flute was enough to keep me from smelling too much.  Also complicating the whiff was the fully packed restaurant and all the wonderful smells coming from every other table.

The wine feels good on the palate, cool and slightly frizzante in style, with a little tickle of bubbles on the tongue.  It tastes like strawberry and cherry mixed together, but not in too sweet a fashion.  The finish is actually rather dry.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Riunite Lambrusco

You can't always drink from the top shelf, but there's no reason you can't enjoy what the moment brings.  I found that out recently in downtown Wilkes-Barre at a bar called Bart & Urby's.
I guess I really should have ordered an ale or stout - the establishment serves a rather impressive array of domestic, imported and microbrewed varieties.  The wine list has only a few options: Beringer, Fetzer, Yellowtail and - what's this? - Riunite!  Holy cow, I've never actually had a Riunite.  It must be time.
I ordered the Lambrusco with visions of saying "yes" to Martini and Rossi on the rocks and Bartles and Jaymes thanking me for my support.  I don't recall the actual TV commercial jingle for Riunite, but I know it's in the memory bank somewhere and it's filed right alongside the taglines I do remember.  I probably never had Riunite because in the early '70s I was too busy sneaking my mom's Spanada from the refrigerator.
The Riunite website explains the different varieties of Lambrusco grapes they use: "Lambrusco Marani imparts brightness, taste, perfume and color; Lambrusco Salamino, for perfume and harmony; Lambrusco Maestri, for fruitiness and body; Lambrusco Montericco for added body and perfume and finally Lancellotta (also known as Ancelotta) sometimes referred to as the "missing grape," which is responsible for the very fresh and abundantly fruity character of Riunite's Lambrusco."
They also explain that Lambrusco is a "unique Italian grape variety grown principally in the three central provinces of Emilia - Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia."
The Lambrusco arrived on the Bart & Urby's patio and my first whiff of the dark juice reminded me somewhat of Welches grape juice, but more of Spanada.  It was served chilled, and was a sweet and refreshing cross of grape and cranberry juice flavors.  It won't be a regular choice for me, but it hit the spot so well at this moment that I ordered another.  Leave the top shelf for another evening.