I'm just going to come out and say it: Thanks to its deep, juicy flavor and lightly sparkling body, Lambrusco is the only wine you need to serve at Thanksgiving 2019.
An effervescent (often, but not always, red) wine made in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, Lambrusco refers both to a type of grape and the wine made from it, although Maryse Chevriere—sommelier and author of Grasping the Grape—notes that the name Lambrusco actually belongs to a family of grapes, and each member of that family has its own characteristics. Which is one reason why not all Lambruscos are created equal.
Let's just clear the air, here: We know the American attitude toward Lambrusco has tended toward the negative. According to Chevriere, people often "identify Lambrusco with wine made in the '70s and '80s," when the Lambrusco we could find here was frequently "mass-marketed, mass-produced, grape-soda-sweet wine designed to turn a profit."
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Of course there's always been someone, somewhere making quality Lambrusco—it just took time and a person interested in seeking it out to spark the current uptick in the wine's popularity here in the States. Sommeliers everywhere have taken notice, which is why you might have seen this fizz popping up on more and more wine store shelves and Italian-restaurant bottle lists. Still, Chevriere says that even among the better labels, there's a big range in flavor and color: "Some are a little grapier. Some are inky and dark while others are lighter rosés." And yes, some are still a little sweet. But the right bottle of Lambrusco is just what we want to pair with turkey and stuffing.
So Why Is Lambrusco So Good With Food?
Emilia-Romagna is a region known for rich delicacies: Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto, filled pastas in butter- and cream-based sauces (or sometimes a silky broth). So it makes sense that the region's native wine would pair well with all this luxurious flavor and texture.
Frequently (but not always) made using the Charmat method—that is, going through its second fermentation in a pressurized tank before being filtered and bottled—Lambrusco is sparkling. "It's not an intense Champagne sparkle though," explains Chevriere, "but more of a frothy, softer, frizzante-style wine." Those bubbles wash away any fattiness lingering on your palate—which means Lambrusco is a great partner for a rich meal (ahem, Thanksgiving). In addition, these wines offer plenty of acidity, which also helps them (and whatever you're eating alongside them) taste lively and refreshing.
And What Makes Lambrusco the Best Wine for Thanksgiving in Particular?
In addition to the power of fizz, consider this: a dark-red dry Lambrusco will satisfy your uncle who wants a "jammy" red and your cousin who "just wants something light." Chevriere says these darker styles of Lambrusco will have red berry flavors—like "the wine version of cranberry sauce"—which pair really well with dark meat. A rosé Lambrusco meanwhile will satisfy anyone who's turned "rosé all day" into their 12-month mantra and anyone who's positive they "just don't like red wines."
These wines all go from appetizer to dinner and even to dessert. Oh, and also, you can get some great bottles for not a lot of money.
Can You Just Recommend Some Bottles Already?
Sure. But remember, wine distribution varies regionally, so you may not find all of these bottles in your local shop. Go to a store specializing in smaller producers or Italian wines, and ask for a dry or off-dry Lambrusco. (Some of the bottles may even say secco on the label.) If you want rosé specifically, ask for that, otherwise recommendations will likely tend toward the reds.
Some of Chevriere's favorite Lambruscos are rosés made with Lambrusco di Sorbara—a grape that yields a pink wine she says often has some sour beer–like qualities that are "super cool, very dry, and very refreshing." She also recommends Grasparossa-based reds, which will have an inky color and a tannic, mouthwatering quality.
Let's get into specifics:
Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino IGP Rosso Viola: This organically-farmed Lambrusco is made from 50-year old grape vines using the Traditional method instead of the Charmat method that I described above. It's elegantly fizzy and packed with the tang of blackberries and currants plus a whisper of earthy funk. This zero-sulfur wine is excellent choice for any natural wine lover. BUY IT
Lini 910 'Labrusca' Lambrusco Rosso: This bright, tart wine comes from Lini 910, an Italian producer that's become pretty synonymous with modern Lambrusco in America. This offering is a little intense to drink on its own, but the sour, pungent, blueberry notes make it a great addition to a spread of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and green bean casserole. Save it for dinnertime. BUY IT
Lini 910 In Correggio Lambrusco Scuro: This just off-dry bottling has those plummy, juicy flavors that you might favor in a Pinot Noir, and finishes clean and bright. It's grapey and fizzy and crowd-pleasing. BUY IT
Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco: With a pronounced funkiness, this juicy Lambrusco has herbal, anise-like undertones and a clean, tannic finish. Made with organically-grown grapes, it's bold and earthy with some sweet dried-fruit flavor (think prunes), but without any of the weightiness those descriptors might imply. BUY IT
Paltrinieri Radice Lambrusco di Sorbara: Remember that Lambrusco di Sorbara grape Chevriere mentioned above? You'll find it here—and, not for nothing, this wine is my personal favorite on this list. Instead of using the pressurized tank, this wine gets its bubbles via the Ancestral method, one of the oldest ways to make sparkling wine, which you might be familiar with if you're a fan of pét nat). This wine is salmon pink with a citrusy, grapefruit-like essence and a lingering aroma of warm spices and red berries. It's crisp, it's refreshing, and there is no doubt it will be on my own Thanksgiving table this year. BUY IT
Lini 910 In Correggio Lambrusco Rosé NV: This dark pink wine has a refreshing sour-strawberry thing going on. It super easy-drinking—like a very good spiked sparkling pink lemonade. It's happy-making. And that's just what Thanksgiving needs. BUY IT
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious