“Lambrusco: Time To Think Again
“Lambrusco No Joke”
New York Times
“It’s Time to Take a Fresh Look at Lambrusco”
“Lambrusco Wines Worth Drinking”
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.
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…
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!