Above: Alicia examines a bottle of Lini classic method wine “aging on its lees.” As she holds it up to the light, you can see the “lees,” the sediment, in the bottom of the bottle.

What is “lees aging”? And why is it important in the production of sparkling wine?

You often hear wine trade professionals talk about this phase, a very particular one, in the sparkling winemaking process but few can really tell you what it means and why it’s a fundamental element in sparkling wine production.

Sparkling wine is always produced by fermenting the wine twice, the second time in a pressurized environment (either a tank or in the case of classic method wines, in bottles).

After the second fermentation of the wine, the wine is aged “on its lees.” Lees are the sediment (the solids) produced as a byproduct of fermentation. They are made up mostly of dead yeast cells (fermentation is the process of yeast converting sugar into alcohol) and cells from the grape must.

It’s during the period of lees aging that the wine develops a lot of its flavors and texture. In general, the longer the wine is aged on its lees, the better.

The Lini Lambrusco USA blogger visited the winery in Correggio last week and snapped the above photo.

That label, with the distinctive Bacchus drawing, was created expressly for a village fair that Lini hosted in 1972.

It would later be used, starting in the first decade of this century, as the now iconic label for Lini’s Lambrusco “Labrusca.”

Lini’s roots stretch back four generations in the world of Lambrusco and Italian wine. The family’s history is rich with cultural treasures — like this now unmistakable label, a Lambrusco icon!

We call it “historic” because Alicia’s 2007 interview on WNYC public radio in New York is what helped to launch Lini wines in New York and the U.S. more than a decade ago. That’s where the story began. And the rest is “history.”

Click here to listen to the show. It’s a great way to understand what an uphill battle it was for Alicia when she first brought her family’s wines to New York.

Back in 2007, wine lovers’ perceptions of Lambrusco was much different than today.

Alicia helped to change those perceptions and she paved the way for countless other Lambrusco producers who followed in her footsteps.

It’s a really great show. You won’t regret it…

Many wine historians believe that Lambrusco was the first grape to be used for wine production in Italy.

The Latin word labrusca (from which Lambrusco is derived) means literally wild, as in vitis labrusca or wild grape .

Today, we use the term vitis labrusca side-by-side with vitis vinifera. The former denotes naturally occurring grape varieties while the latter is used for European grape varieties that have been cultivated and selected by humankind for wine production.

Some speculate that the Etruscans — the ancient people of Italy — were the first to vinify vitis labrusca in Italy.

Italy’s agriculturally rich Po River Valley has always been the spiritual homeland of Lambrusco where it is grown predominantly in the region of Emilia.

By the first part of the 20th century, it had become a popular wine in the inns and taverns that dotted the Via Emilia — the ancient road that traverses the region. And as Italy industrialized during the years that led up to the Second World War, Lambrusco became the true “wine of the people” — the preferred wine of factory workers who craved its refreshing flavors.

After World War II, as Italy’s “economic miracle” began to take shape, Lambrusco’s popularity only continued to grow throughout the country. It was the perfect wine to pair with the Italians’ newfound prosperity and optimism. By the end of the 1960s, Lambrusco’s bubbles had become a symbol of the country’s new outlook and hope for the future.

And that’s when Lambrusco began to be exported to North America, where wine culture was just beginning to emerge.

But the wine that the larger Lambrusco producers decided to ship to the U.S. in the 1970s was a new sweet version of Lambrusco. Americans like sweet wines and they like sweet beverages (like soft drinks), the thinking went. So it only made sense to send them off-dry Lambrusco.

By the end of the decade, however, Americans were evolving rapidly as wine lovers and they had begun to develop a taste for dry wines. Although Lambrusco had become an immensely successful category in Canada and the U.S., interestquickly began to wane.

It wouldn’t be until the first decade of the 21st century that North Americans’ interest in Lambrusco would be reborn.

When Lini’s wines landed in New York in 2006, they were the first dry Lambruscos that many Americans had ever tasted. And they were also among the first artisanal Lamburscos to reach the New World. Most American food and wine writers had never tasted anything like them.

At the time, interest in Italian native grape varieties and traditional-style wines was exploding in New York City and Lini 910 literally became the toast of the town: The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine magazine, and many other high-profile mastheads all published glowing reviews of the wines.

When Lini 910 was first asked to sell and ship its wines to America, the winery decided to rename one of its wines Labrusca after the ancient grapes that the Etruscans grew.

And the rest is history.

To be continued…

This week we thought we’d do a post about one of Lambrusco’s most traditional and unquestionably canonical pairings: salumi, the Italian word for charcuterie.

Salumi are produced in every one of Italy’s 20 regions.

But there is no region more closely associated with salumi than Emilia.

And there’s also no place in Italy where salumi are so central to the cuisine.

That’s partly owed to the fact that salumi in Emilia are considered one of the greatest expressions of Emilian terroir.

That’s a slice of culatello above, the air-dried salume made from the pig’s rump. It can only be cured in Emilia and most experts agree that it’s unique aroma, flavor, and texture is the result of process that relies heavily on Emilia’s unique climatic conditions.

In fact, you can reproduce the process in other parts of the world, as many have. But you can never replicate the aromas, flavors, and textures that you obtain in the spiritual homeland of salumi.

The same holds for prosciutto (made from the pig’s thigh) and other iconic salumi from Emilia.

The canonical pairing for this most canonical of foods?

Canonically, exclusively, and absolutely LAMBRUSCO!

“Lambrusco’s Comeback, and Why It’s Brushing Shoulders with Rosé”
Jenn Rice
Vogue

In Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s most prized gastronomic treasures, Lambrusco is to Italians as coffee is to Americans. The frothy, refreshing, bubbly red can be spotted at every restaurant table, most likely accompanied by something mouthwatering of the Prosciutto di Parma or Culatello di Zibello nature.

Click here to continue reading…

Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine is one of Italy’s greatest wine experts and critics. He’s also the editor of the highly popular “Essential Wines of Italy” guide.

We couldn’t have been more thrilled to learn that he featured Lini’s Lambrusco Metodo Classico in his new video series, “Quarantine Wines” (episode 16, below).

In the video (in Italian), he notes that while there are other examples of classic method Lambruscos made using the same technique employed by winemakers in Champagne, Franciacorta, and Trento, there’s only one that ages its wines on its lees for 10 years or more. He compares the Lini to some of the greatest sparkling wines of the world. The only difference, he notes, is that it’s a red wine, with great body. And so it’s ideal for pairing with grilled and roast red meats, making it a truly distinctive experience for the sparkling wine lover.

Cernilli and his editors named the Lini Lambrusco Metodo Classico as “best in its class” in the latest edition of the guide. And Cernilli himself recently said of the metodo classico: “It’s not only the best Lambrusco of the year, it’s one of the best ever.”

Click here for all of Cernilli’s notes on Lini’s wines. And enjoy the video!

Happy Easter to all our friends in America, Italy, and across the world. We hope that you are able to enjoy the holiday despite the need for social distancing.

Thankfully, everyone in our family is safe and healthy. And like Italians across our country, we are isolating.

Grape growing and winemaking are considered essential businesses in Italy and so we continue to work in the winery and in the vineyards. But we are taking every step and precaution to make sure that our employees stay safe and healthy.

We will get through this — together. And we’ll look forward to when we will be able to raise a glass of Lambrusco together, here in Italy and in America.

In the meantime, happy Easter from all the families at Lini 910 to you and yours.

The following is a letter that Alicia wrote to a friend and colleague in America.

April 5, 2020
Palm Sunday
Canolo (Reggio Emilia)

Nothing is obvious anymore. Nothing is the same, nothing we think of is like it was before. These days, everyone has something to say. But not me.

In the film “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Will Smith often carries a Rubik’s Cube with him. It has six sides, each with nine little colored squares. Each of the sides can be moved horizontally or vertically. I’m sure you’ve seen one before, haven’t you? There are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible combinations (yes, that’s trillions). But there’s only one way to solve the puzzle, when the color is the same on all six sides, all at the same time.

When the puzzle is solved, do these six sides represent happiness?

Over the last weeks, staying at home has meant mixing up those colors.

Every side of my life has been turned upside down, remixed, repositioned in an unexpected way. It seems counterintuitive but I’m actually happy that I don’t have to try to get all the colors to be the same. I just have to “try.”

I decided that when the coronavirus interferes with our lives, I’ll just let all the colors get jumbled — every time.

I grew up in the 1980s. I grew up with a Rubik’s Cube. But every time I look back on important moments in my true life, I realize that nothing ever happened without sacrifices, without breaking a sweat, without real focus, without delving deeper… Nothing ever happened without mixing up the colors.

I want to live this moment of my life by striving to “learn more.”

That’s exactly what I mean when I say I want to learn more about what it means to be happy.

More about opportunity to grow.

More about my deepest-held values.

More about beauty.

More about silence.

More about the sacred.

More about what I want to achieve in the world of wine.

More about what it means to be a mother and a woman surrounded by all these colors.

The keyword is “learn.”

If director Gabriele Muccino would have called his film just “Happiness,” it wouldn’t have been the same.

My daughters are big fans of rainbows.

In one of the last photos I took of our winery, there is not just one but two rainbows that stretch over the roof of our four generations. My family has been making wine for 110 years. Over the arc of that time, we have experienced two world wars, struggles, destruction, rebuilding, good times, tough times… and now even the coronavirus.

All of the colors are mixed up again. Just like they’ve always been.

Whether in times of challenges or times of great happiness, my grandfather would always open a bottle of Lambrusco.

I find hope in the fact that we can always open a bottle of Lambrusco together, as long as we are alive.

The important thing is that all the colors are there.

Alicia Lini
Lini 910
Canolo (Reggio Emilia)