Of Italy’s many wines, Lambrusco is, I think, one of the most underrated, especially among international consumers. And it’s not hard to understand why; by comparison with the wines that attract attention, such as Barolo or Brunello, it’s light, generally lacking in depth and complexity, doesn’t age well, and… fizzes. Not the sort of thing one turns to when one gathers with like-minded wine lovers to commune with what one has in ones glass, nor is it the sort of thing that one will break out to mark a special occasion, say a promotion or an anniversary.
But then again, that’s not what Lambrusco is for. The salient characteristics of a good Lambrusco, which are greatly increased by its sparkle, are its freshness and its terrific versatility at table; it pairs superbly with all sorts of things, from cold cuts to pasta dishes, including meat-based stuffed pastas such as tortellini, and also works very well with simple grilled meats, and – if it’s one of the more acidic Lambruscos, such as Sorbara – will also work very well with fried foods.
Couple all this with its generally low alcohol content, and it turns out to be a perfect wine for day-to-day drinking, and also an ideal cookout or picnic wine. In short, it wears a great many hats, very well.
While I was at Vinitaly I visited the stand of Emilia Romagna’s Enoteca Regionale and asked if they had any bottle fermented Lambrusco (with most Lambrusco the sparkle is obtained using the Charmat method, in large tanks, with the wine then being filtered to eliminate the yeasts and bottled, but some small producers also obtain the sparkle directly in the bottle, by adding liqueur d’expedition to the unfiltered wine when they bottle it, and allowing the yeasts to ferment out the sugars, producing the CO2 that remains in the bottle and provides the sparkle). They had two, and I’ll begin with Cantina Garuti, a small winery located in Sorbara.
One important thing to say about bottle fermented Lambrusco is that to a certain degree each bottle is a story unto itself; unlike Franciacorta or Trento DOC the wine is not disgorged after the secondary fermentation and the yeasts thus remain in the bottle, and their presence does result in bottle variation, and can impart off odors if the wine is kept overlong. Therefore, bottle fermented Lambrusco is something to be drunk young, and then it can be fascinating, because the bottle fermentation – which results in a very dry wine – imparts nuances that one simply doesn’t find in Charmat-produced Lambrusco.
Having said this, the wines:
Cantina Garuti Lambrusco di Sorbara 2012 Fermentazione Naturale in Bottiglia
Pale cherry ruby with brilliant cherry reflections and fine pale pink perlage. The bouquet is fresh, with raspberry and pomegranate fruit supported by warm raspberry acidity and some brambly accents, with ull graphite shavings and gunflint. On the palate it’s bright, and rather mineral, with fresh lively raspberry fruit supported by raspberry mineral acidity and by tannins that have a slight greenish flinty burr and flow into a clean tannic finish with underbrush and sour berry fruit. Pleasant, displaying considerable depth and quite refreshing; it opens a door to a different world of Lambrusco.
Having been greatly impressed by the bottle fermented Lambrusco, I sought out Cantina Garuti’s booth.
Cantina Garuti Lambrusco di Sorbara Cà Bianca Secco DOC 2012
This is a selection, and is 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara. Elegant pale ruby with brilliant perlage. The bouquet is delicate, with raspberry – blackberry fruit by some flinty minerality, and while it’s quick to write it’s quite graceful and engaging. On the palate it’s rich, with elegant raspberry and forest berry fruit supported by delicate acidity and a clean sparkle that flows into a clean fresh sour berry fruit finish. Very nice and will be a perfect picnic or cookout wine, and will also be nice as an aperitif. Most impressive.
Cantina Garuti Pratola Rosso Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC 2012
This is also in purezza, and fermented to dryness. Deep cherry ruby with fine dark perlage. The bouquet is ripe, with cherry prune fruit supported by some greenish accents and hints of minerality and iodine. On the palate it’s full and round, with rich cherry plum fruit supported by moderate plum acidity and some graphite shavings that flows into a plum laced finish; it’s less acidic than the Sorbara and therefore softer, and eminently approachable.
Cantina Garuti Rosà Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC Secco 2012
Pale salmon with brilliant pink reflections and fine perlage. The bouquet is fresh, with sour cherries and some bitter accents, while the palate is bracing, with lively sour berry fruit supported by clean berry fruit acidity and some flinty accents, and flows into a clean rather flinty finish. Delightfully fresh, and in addition to working well with foods, with be a fine aperitif.
Cantina Garuti Gioia Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC 2012
This is an extra dry; it’s pale salmon pink with fine pink perlage. The bouquet is fairly intense, with sweetish berry fruit and some sour cherry mingled with citrus and some minerality; it opens nicely. On the palate it’s ample and creamy with moderately intense berry fruit supported by clean acidity and sparkle that flow into a clean soft finish. Quite approachable in a softer key and will be much liked by those who prefer a softer style of Lambrusco.
Cantina Garuti Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC Cà Bianca Amabile 2012
Lively cherry ruby with brilliant reflections and pink perlage. The bouquet is rich, with sweet berry fruit mingled with currants and strawberries, and some greenish vegetal notes and slight flintiness, with moderate acidity as well. On the palate it’s full and rich, with sweet cherry blackberry fruit supported by red currant acidity that has some vegetal notes, and by clean bright flinty accents with some underlying graphite shavings. Quite pleasant and a perfect poolside wine, which will also be nice on a patio in the evening as the stars come out, and, if you must, with dessert. Very fine.
For more information, check Cantina Garuti’s Site