This isn't an article, but an act of love. The object of my desires is sparkling, lively, redolent of youth and freshness. Some consider the way it presents itself to others simple, and obvious, but instead there's depth, complexity, and harmony. My problem, as an old man with wants, is that it's not just young, but also male, at least from the standpoint of the Italian language. Before anyone says I'm crazy, or perhaps worse, let me state the object of my desires: Lambrusco.
A few days ago I took an in-depth look at Lambrusco with several friends from Winesurf: Sorbara, Grasparossa, Reggiano, Emilia IGT, dry, and sweet, for a total of more than 60 wines. You'll find the technical notes on Winesurf, but here I want to give space to a passion kept bridled for years, which now wants to reassert itself.
"Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae," says Virgil, referring to Dido, who confesses the passion awoken by Aeneas to her sister Ann. I, a new decidedly masculinized and aged Dido, confessed to Giovanni Dorelli, who in no way resembles the sister of the unfortunate queen, the reawakening of my love not for Aeneas (Thank God!) but for Lambrusco. This while our tasting led us from the austere Sorbara to the sanguine Grasparossa, via the opulent Reggiani and the enticing IGT Emilia.
When was my passion born? In 2003, when I was directing a wine guide that was quite innovative for the Italian wine scene of the time. Among the few wines to receive the maximum score was a Lambrusco Grasparossa of absolute goodness. That Lambrusco made me thing long and hard about the concept of quality in wine, which then firmly revolved around all-powerful oak, austere tannins, rigidity on the nose, and agings that were often improbable but beyond discussion. Then there was this Lambrusco, costing a pittance, that wrapped you in a blanket of blackberry and strawberry aromas, drawing you in with elegant full creaminess, and satisfying you with a long, fresh, solid palate. For the experts of the time it suffered however from an insurmountable defect: like the proverbial crickets it lasted just one summer, couldn't age, and therefore couldn't increase in complexity, and so on. Even so, everyone who tasted it was bowled over, not giving a whit about its non-ageworthyness, also because there was no way it could last, given the fact that if you opened a bottle you'd drink it in the bat of an eye.
Since then my relationship with Lambrusco, well, I won't say it cooled, but it became like that of the man who marries a fantastic woman, and then, since he sees her from dawn to dusk, no longer appreciates her the way he should. Every now and again I'd drink one, thinking of the bolt from the blue that struck me on the road from Scandino to Canossa, and carry on.
Last week I heard the calls of the sirens loud and clear, even though the place I tasted (the Enoteca Regionale dell'Emilia Romagna in Dozza) is far from their island. Fortunately their call didn't lead me to drown myself in a sea of Lambrusco, but to taste with steadily increasing attention, finding first in the Sorbara floral and cherry accents, and then in the Grasparossa and the Reggiano that torrent of red and black fruit that, together with the creamy freshness and the pungent harmony of the sparkle, had pierced my heart.
But let's set these golden visions aside and get serious. I hadn't expected to find, among the more than 60 Lambruschi of various kinds we tasted, that many good and even excellent wines. Our average scores (upcoming on Winesurf) were high, and, more importantly, only a few wines displayed serious problems on the nose.
Someone will surely note (and if you don't I will for you) that this is the first IGP post I have dedicated to wine. Why? Because to break this fast I needed a special wine, an almost non-wine for those used to rubbing shoulders with Burgundy, the wines of the Langhe, Bordeaux, and Supertuscans. This "non-wine" has every right to take its place among the great wines of the world, and needs only a little more self confidence to grow further, leaving by the wayside a few stylistic imperfections due more to the countryside than the cellars.
Whether one talks of fermentation in tank or in bottle, now there are many Lambruschi on the market that, for less than 10 Euros, will make you hear the siren's call. Try and you'll see, but do lash yourself to the nearest mast before you do...
A note: I don't usually add to IGP posts, but thought you might be interested in my recent writup of Moro Rinaldini, of a very traditional Lambrusco producer who also bottle-ferments some of her wines.
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.