Lambrusco is more than just wine, it is a family in every respect. Produced in the provinces of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma, the name ‘Lambrusco’ covers a variety of different types of fizzy red wine with lively, effervescent bubbles, violet or fruity aromas, a pleasant tartness and a moderate alcohol content.
There are seven main branches of Lambrusco, which come in secco (dry), amabile (mild) and dolce (sweet) versions: Sorbara, Grasparossa, Salamino, Marani, Maestri, Montericco and Ancellotta.
As regards the area where Lambrusco is produced, alongside minor varieties, the Lambrusco grape varieties are mostly grown in the areas surrounding the cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, which have long been rivals for first place.
PDO Lambrusco di Sorbara is a DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) wine made exclusively in the Modena province. It may be made using the Sorbara grape variety only, or this may be reduced down to 40% with the addition of the Salamino variety. Of all Modena’s Lambrusco wines, this one is usually the least intense in colour (it is almost pink), with fruity aromas that are cut through by hints of violet, paying tribute to the wine’s nickname, Lambrusco della viola, or violet Lambrusco.
Other Lambrusco wines from Modena include PDO Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro and PDO Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce. Both these types are ruby-red in colour with purple edges and lively, effervescent bubbles. To drink, these wines are particularly fragrant, with a fresh, savoury and harmonious body.
In the Reggio Emilia province, the Lambrusco Salamino, Sorbara, Maestri, Marani, Montericco and Ancellotta varieties are produced under the Reggiano Lambrusco DOC designation; as for the DOC Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa designation (recognised in 1971), these specifications cover the Lambrusco Grasparossa and Lambrusco Montericco types.
In terms of appearance, Lambrusco from Reggio Emilia imparts an intense, ruby hue, whilst tasting gives way to aromas that are pleasant, delicate, fruity and fragrant; characteristic qualities of this variety.
Lastly, Lambrusco from Parma, which must include at least 85% of the Lambrusco Maestri grape variety, has an intense, ruby hue and is characterised by a red foam and a violet aroma.
Many imagine that Lambrusco and bubbles are one and the same. But to discover the secret behind how this wine is made, we need to take a step back and analyse the traditional wine-making process used, known as springtime secondary fermentation.
Firstly, it is important to understand that the bubbles in Lambrusco occur naturally. At one time, vintners took advantage of the huge variation in temperature in winter, which would interrupt the fermentation process, to restart the fermentation once more in the following spring, after the wine had been bottled: this is how secondary fermentation in bottles was once achieved. The carbon dioxide in the wine was retained, and once the bottle had been uncorked, the bubbling foam would emerge.
Nowadays, most wine-makers use the Italian patented Martinotti-Charmat technique and stimulate fermentation by mixing natural, selected yeasts in the wine in autoclaves. When combined with the sugars in the wine, the yeasts produce the wine's characteristic bubbles.