No one really knows where the name comes from (although some believe it might be a corruption of the ancient Longobard knohhil meaning wood knot).

But everyone in Italy knows what it looks and tastes like: gnocco fritto (above).

Literally, it means fried dumpling, like the gnocchi (plural) or dumplings that you simmer and served topped with your favorite sauce.

But technically, the term is more akin to what we today call fried dough in the U.S. (similar to the pizza fritta or fried pizza [dough] that you find at Italian-American festivals in the U.S.).

In Emilia where Lambrusco is made, gnocco fritto is always served piping hot, right out of the frier.

It can be paired with salumi, thinly sliced prosciutto or mortadella, and even with a slathering of rendered lard.

The thing about gnocco fritto is that the serving temperature helps to liquify the fat in the cured pork, thus drawing out its flavor and giving it an even more decadent texture.

It’s one of the greatest and most canonical pairings for Lambrusco: The freshness of the wine, it gentle acidity, bubbles, and restrained sweetness make the salty rich flavors of the dough and the meat sing on your palate.

Gnocco fritto is one of the things we miss the most about Emilia. What do you miss? #IMissItaly #IMissEmilia

We are thrilled to announce that Alicia Lini will be attending a virtual wine dinner at ROMA in Houston on Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 local time (CST).

While guests in Houston will be picking up their food and wines curbside at the restaurant and then joining a Zoom call with the owner and chef, Alicia will be connecting from Italy. She won’t be able to enjoy the menu obviously. But she will be tasting the wines with guests as she talks about her family’s winery and the four generations of Lini that have made their wines so popular throughout the world.

If you happen to be in Houston and want to attend, let us know (by sending our U.S. blog master an email here). Otherwise, stay tuned for notes for what is sure to be a wonderful evening of great food and great Lambrusco!

In Parma they’re called anolini (little rings). In Reggio Emilia they’re called cappelletti (little hats). And in Bologna they’re called tortellini (little tortelli from torta a word akin to the English torte as in savory pie or cake).

They each have different shapes but the concept is the same: Homemade, hand-rolled egg pasta that has been filled with a mixture of finely chopped pork, prosciutto crudo, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and breadcrumbs. The filling will vary from city to city and even family to family. But the ingredients are basically the same.

The stuffed pasta is then cooked and served in capon or chicken broth (hence the name tortellini in brodo or tortellini in broth). And then guests are encouraged to top them generously with more freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

No matter the shape or filling, they are considered one of the world’s greatest delicacies. And they are paired — de rigueur! — with Lambrusco.

They are one of the things that we miss most here in the U.S. #IMissItaly #IMissEmilia #IMissTortellini

For the record, those are tortellini from Bologna in the image above. In Reggio Emilia commune where the Lini winery is located, they make cappelletti.

What do you miss from Italy?

A ton of people have been asking about the above photo, posted recently by Alicia’s brother Pibe on social media.

The dish is Zuppa Gallurese, a decadent layered cheese and bread savory pudding from the Gallura region of northern Sardinia (a note from our English-language blog master: the Italian zuppa can be translated as both soup and pudding in English, depending on the context/dish; in this case, pudding is the appropriate translation).

A Google search for a recipe swiftly led us to one of our favorite Italian food blogs, Our Italian Table, where we found this wonderful recipe for Zuppa Gallurese.

The wine? It speaks for itself.

Buon appetito!

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.

Click here for an archive of all press for Lini wines (updated regularly).

Ray Isle executive wine editor for Food and Wine magazine on Lini: “One of my favorite dinner-party pours.” (February 2020)

Forbes calls Lini one of “Four Great Bottles Of Bubbly To Pop On New Year’s Eve.” (December 2019)

Town and Country names Lini Lambrusco one of the best wines to pair with meat dishes. “From oysters and caviar to fried chicken, here’s what to eat with your next bottle of bubbly.” (December 2019)

Elin McCoy (Bloomberg) recommends Lini for the holidays in her annual “50 under $50.” (December 2019)

Epicurious recommends Lini for Thanksgiving. “Lambrusco is the only wine you need for Thanksgiving.” (November 2019)

Alicia Lini featured speaker at Women in Wine Leadership Symposium in New York City. (October 2019)

Senior Editor Alison Napjus interviews Alicia in Wine Spectator feature story. “Sparkling Success Italian bubbly shines with distinctive examples from regions throughout the boot.” (October 2019)

Doctor Wine (Daniele Cernilli) names Lini 2007 Classic Method Lambrusco “Best Single-Grape Wine (Lambrusco)” in 2020 Essential Guide to the Wines of Italy. (August 2019)

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…