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.

It’s that time of the year again when wine writers across the United States will begin posting and publishing their “Thanksgiving wine recommendations.”

And inevitably, many of them will start their posts with apologetic admissions that Thanksgiving wine pairings are almost impossible to make. That’s because of two major reasons.

1) The classic all-American Thanksgiving feast includes a wide variety of dishes, disparate in flavor. As a result, there’s no “one wine” that goes well with everything on the table.

2) The Thanksgiving gathering is traditionally a family affair where you have all kinds of different people, with different palates and tastes, seated for the same meal. Not everyone likes the same style of wine. For some of your guests, it’s the only time of year that they actually drink wine!

And here’s where Lambrusco comes in. There are a number of reasons why it works well with the Thanksgiving meal.

1) It’s immensely versatile at the table and superbly food-friendly. It will pair well with a lot of the dishes in the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

2) It’s both a crowd-pleaser that inexperienced wine drinkers can enjoy and a classic Italian wine that wine lovers will like.

3) It’s low in alcohol and so guests don’t need to be shy about having more than one glass.

4) It’s one of the sparkling wine world’s most value-driven appellations. This is important when you’re serving wine to a large group.

5) It’s the ultimate celebration wine. Its sparkle is an essential element in any holiday party.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends! In coming weeks, we’ll share more serving and pairing suggestions here on the blog.

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.

Congratulations to our U.S. importer, Winebow, named one of the “importer of the year 2019” by the editors of Wine & Spirits magazine!

“Next time you’re faced with a sea of wines you don’t recognize,” write the editors, “check the back of the bottle. That’s what we do, looking for importers we recognize and trust, like our six Importers of the Year. They’ve earned the most awards this year, with multiple brands among our Top 100 Wineries, Top 100 Wines and Best Buys of 2019. If you find importers whose tastes and interests align with your own, you’ll have guideposts you can trust to lead you to new bottles.”

Heartfelt congrats to the entire team at Winebow! We love working with you guys!

On Monday, October 7, Alicia Lini (above) will be speaking and leading a guided tasting at the Women in Wine Leadership Symposium in New York.

From the WWLS website:

    Started in 2012, the Women in Wine Leadership Symposium (WWLS) has a mission to empower and educate women in the wine industry through a series of panel discussions and wine tastings. The WWLS, hosted by Winebow, was the first event of its kind with winemakers from around the world, sommeliers, retailers, educators, and journalists coming together to create a collective dialogue on experiences, insights, and strategies for success.

The invitation-only event is attended by the best-of-the-best among today’s wine media members and wine producers.

We couldn’t be more thrilled that Alicia was asked to present Lini wines and talk about her experiences as a wine professional and the fourth generation of the Lini winery.

See the complete list of featured speakers here.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out to taste with Alicia this week in New York City at the Winebow/Leonardo LoCascio Selections portfolio tasting!

It’s been such a wonderful experience working with our new importer, Winebow: The professionalism, the breadth of knowledge, the amazing people, and the bandwidth of Winebow and its staff has been nothing short of spectacular. And it was such a thrill to pour our wines at Lincoln Center (below).

Thank you to all the talented wine professionals who took time out to share the joy of Lini Lambrusco with us this week!

On Monday, our blogmaster stopped by the winery to snap the above shot of Lambrusco Salamino clusters ripening on the estate’s vineyards (literally right across the road from the winery).

“The harvest is looking good,” said winemaker Fabio Lini. “We had a warm but fortunately dry August and the grapes are ripening beautifully.”

He still isn’t sure when they will start picking this year but said harvest would “probably begin early next week.”

What a glorious time to stroll through the vineyards surrounded by these beautiful bunches!