Wines of Emilia-Romagna: Lambrusco

Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes. Courtesy of Consortium for the Historic Mark of Modenese Lambrusco

Wines of Emilia-Romagna: Lambrusco

Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes, Modena, Italy

Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes. Courtesy of Consortium for the Historic Mark of Modenese Lambrusco

What happens when you take the depth and complexity of a red and marry it with the bright effervescence of a sparkling wine? The perfect Lambrusco. An instant crowd-pleaser and the perfect complement to an array of foods, Lambrusco is the fun friend you want to take to any party. So throw out your misconceptions about this ruby darling and get lost in the depths of its rosy froth.

Historical documents trace the origins of Lambrusco back to Modena where the Romans described the wine as Vitis Labrusca. The word Lambrusca in Latin means “wild”, an accurate descriptor for the bitter tasting grapes found growing wild in the fields of the outlying province. Historical records dating back to the 14th century indicate that Lambrusco was growing in popularity at the time, particularly with the nobility, who began stocking large quantities of the wine in their cantinas. Powerful families like the Estense were known to have bottles of “lambrusca” always on hand for entertaining. Italian poets including the likes of Giosuè Carducci became enamored with the wine and often made their way to Modena to drink it in the cantinas and local trattorias of the city. While the drinking of Lambrusco has been enjoyed for centuries, modern day bottling and corking processes did not begin until the 1700’s. The storied history of this much beloved wine finally reached a culmination of appreciation when in 1970 producers of Lambrusco were granted the distinction of a DOC designation. A DOC designation signifies a wine that is produced in a specifically defined region of Italy and in accordance with the traditional winemaking process of that region.

Lambrusco is a luscious, sparkling red wine that is characterized by a pink to ruby red color. It is ideally served at around 55°F, the temperature at which the distinct bouquet and aroma of the wine best manifests. There are four major types of Lambrusco encompassing distinct organic characteristics: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro and Lambrusco di Modena.

The Gate of Lambrusco, Modena, Italy

The Gate of Lambrusco. Courtesy of www.pubblicitaitalia.com

Lambrusco di Sorbara

Lambrusco di Sorbara, arguably made with the highest quality grapes and in very limited production, exudes a light ruby color and pink foam. Displaying a very delicate taste and a fruity aroma, it is best consumed young.

Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce

Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce derives from a small, cylindrical bunch with grapes exhibiting a deep blue and black skin. The hearty nature of this type of grape enables the production of the wine to abundantly span most of the year. The wine is ruby red in color with a slightly violet foam, and exudes a fresh and fruity aroma. It is an easy drinking wine perfect for pairing with poultry, pork, white fish and pasta.

Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro

Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro exhibits an intense ruby red color with a violet reflection. With its intense fruity aroma, Grasparossa di Castelvetro is also considered to be the fullest bodied Lambrusco. The wine pairs best with hearty pastas, red meat and cured or smoked meats. A lighter version of the wine is also available, which makes for an excellent aperitif or a nice complement to dessert.

Lambrusco being poured

Lambrusco being poured. Courtesy of Consortium for the Historic Mark of Modenese Lambrusco

Lambrusco di Modena

The origin of Lambrusco di Modena dates back to the 1800s when the variation first became associated with the actual city  of Modena. The wine is created through the blending together of various Lambruscos from the province of Modena. It is the most commercially produced type of Lambrusco and is regularly represented in the global marketplace.

If you’re in the mood for something bolder than your average sparkling rosé or you’re looking for a unique alternative to pair with rich foods, let Lambrusco liven up your next evening.

About the author

Dejou Marano is Co-Founder of CountryBred and Founding Editor of The Bred Blog. Splitting her time between Los Angeles and Europe, Dejou seeks to bring the imagination and wonder of Europe to all travelers through her never-ending pursuit of undiscovered cultural gems and experiences, which she shares through her travel writing.



8 Comments


  1. Thank you for your article! Your article highlights the ONLY wine my wife likes. She loves Italy as well.
    I have a simple question. Can you please tell me who deals in Lambrusco wines from the Emilia-Romangna region? I live in Tennessee and have easy access to Atlanta. There is very little knowledge/respect for Lambrusco in Chattanooga Tennessee.

    Thank you very much again!

    Paul k Stout

    • Paul, thank you very much for your comment. We are glad you enjoyed our article on Lambrusco. With regard to your question, were you wondering which Lambrusco producers export to the South?

  2. Great article! It’s always a pleasure to read such detailled articles on italian wines.

    Kind Regards.
    Dawn

  3. I got a bottle for gift and I love this sparkling wine ,one of my favorite:).

  4. I have recently travelled this region of Italy and drank “home-brewed” lambrusco often with lunch. I have often purchased lambrusco here in America but nothing with the quality of that produced in Italy. Is there a company that produces or imports Lambrusco from the region of Modena/Bologna that I may purchase from my local retailer?

    • Tony, thank you so much for your comment! We’re glad you enjoyed our article on Lambrusco. Below, I’ve included a link to a recent article by Eric Asimov of the New York Times, entitled “Lambrusco Wants You Back.” It’s a really fine article about Lambrusco and its many merits as a wine. Most importantly however, it includes a tasting report on 10 great Lambrusco wines that people should try, including the name of the producer, the cost per bottle, a description of the wine itself and the importer. I would suggest taking a look at this list to decide which ones you might be interested in trying, and then asking your local wine purveyor if they carry any of the selected wines. If not in stock, then I’m sure they can assist with ordering a few for you to try! Cin Cin and happy tasting!

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/dining/reviews/lambrusco-a-perfect-warm-weather-wine-wants-you-back.html?pagewanted=all

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