Winemakers will always tell you that wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.
And there’s no denying that this timeless adage is true. In order to make a great wine, you need to start with great grapes.
But especially when it comes to sparkling wine like Lambrusco, where the work in the cellar is extremely delicate and critical to making a great wine, the winemaker’s deft hand is really going to make the difference.
And perhaps the most important element in the creation of a great Lambrusco is the winemaker’s patience.
As Alicia Lini likes to point out when she’s traveling the U.S. teaching wine professionals and consumers about her family’s wines, it’s the time devoted to lees aging that makes Lini’s wines stand out in the crowded field of Italian sparkling wines.
As with all sparkling wine, Lambrusco is fermented twice, with the second fermentation taking place in a pressurized environment (in the case of Lini Lambrusco, some of the wines are made using the classic method and are double-fermented in bottle; some of the wines are made using the tank method and are double-fermented in pressurized vats).
After the second fermentation has been completed, the wines then “age on their lees.” In other words, they are stored with the lees, the solids that are created when the yeast dies.
And this is where patience and time play a crucial role in creating quality. As Alicia will tell you, you can make Lambrusco in a week if you want. It’s cheaper to make that way. And it saves the producer even more money because the wines can be shipped right away.
In the case of Lini’s wines, the winemaker patiently allows the wines to age on their lees until he decides that they are truly ready. And he won’t bottle the wines until they have achieved the desired quality.
For some of Lini’s wines, this takes more than six months. Sometimes, it takes years, as in the case of Lini’s classic method Lambrusco (the current release in the U.S. is 2006!).
The proper amount of lees aging is what gives the wine its depth and nuance. And that’s what makes Lini’s wines stand out from the crowd.