Lambrusco: Comeback Kid

When it comes to rehabilitating unfashionable wines, one wine has a particularly tough challenge ahead.

One great thing about millennial consumers is that they don't remember their parents' mistakes. This is why Lambrusco is ripe for a comeback. But it's not an overnight sensation: Medici Ermete, a fourth-generation winery, has spent two decades painstakingly laying the groundwork.

Lambrusco is a red sparkling wine from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The grapes it is made from are believed to have been domesticated from local wild grapes (lambrusco means "wild grape" in Italian) but they are vitis vinifera, the species responsible for every great wine from Albarino to Zinfandel. Lambrusco grapes are not related to the lesser vitis labrusca native to North America.

"We launched the first single-vineyard, vintage-dated Lambrusco which was called Concerto," Alberto Medici told me. "The first vintage was 1993. This product changed the scenario for Lambrusco. This product has really changed the perception of Lambrusco around the world. But it took time for the media to take it seriously."


‘Like a dream’

If you taste Medici Ermete Concerto, and you have never had a sparkling red wine before, you might be astonished. It's rich and bold, with bracing blackberry fruit and bubbles and acidity to carry it. It's a serious wine, and it's not expensive: it's like a dream for people who would rather drink a red wine but have to drink a bubbly for some reason.

"The way we produce Concerto is, we lower the yields over 40 percent less than what the consorzio allow us to produce," Medici said. "Then we do a selection of the grapes we collect. And extremely long skin contact. That way we can carry more flavors and tannin. Second fermentation is carried on in tank at extremely low temperature so we can maintain the flavors. We create a Lambrusco with extremely strong flavors and tannin and body. It's dry but very fruity. An extremely long lasting finish."



The irony is that if you are a wine geek, Lambrusco is a fascinating rabbit hole of terroir differences and 13 unique grape varieties called Lambrusco that may or may not be closely related. Medici Ermete grows four of them on its 75 hectares of vineyards. Its largest plantings are of Lambrusco Salamino, which gets its name because the cylindrical bunches look like a salami. But the family grows three other grapes called Lambrusco as well. And that's not all.

There's a grape called Ancellotta that is grown in the region to add color to the red wines, but wineries are only allowed by DOC rules to use 15 percent of it in a blend. The Medicis like it more than other wineries, so they make a wine oddly named Solo that has about 35 percent Ancellotta. It's also a serious wine, with a tart berry aroma and refreshing black plum fruit at the edge of ripeness.

"Ancellota smoothes down the acidity of Lambrusco and brings up the fruitiness," Medici says. "It has good color, but it doesn't have the acidity of Lambrusco.

( Source: W.Blake Gray Wine-Searcher)