Lambrusco is a fruity red wine of varying degrees of sparkling and sugar content. It originates in the food-centric Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, in the northern portion of the country. This area is known for such culinary marvels as Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Mortadella Bologna, and any pasta made with locally grown wheat. As you may have guessed, Lambrusco pairs great with all the divine foods I just listed as well as other cuisines from around the world.
Lambrusco grapes have an extremely long history. The name is said to have been given to the plant by the Romans and come from the Latin word ‘lambrusca’ meaning wild plant or grape. It earned this name because the vines would climb other plants and some trees nearby. There are over 60 types of grapes in the Lambrusco family but the best for wine come from the Sorbara, Salamino, and Grasparossa varieties. These grapes have been granted DOC status in Emilia-Romagna. There is also a general region called the Modena DOC. Wines with this listed on the label can have any of the aforementioned grapes in their final product and can have unpredictable levels of sweetness. Most of the wines produced in this area are made sparkling by using the tank or Charmat method, as we discussed back in the Prosecco post from August 25th, instead of the traditional method like Champagne or Cava. That being said, some winemakers in the region are toying with the traditional method to increase depth and complexity in the final product.
I selected a bottle of Donelli Lambrusco from the Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC and I wanted to pair it with my favorite local chinese food. To maximize the aromatics, I served it slightly chilled but it usually served at a temperature range of 50-55 degrees. The wine was a beautiful medium ruby with a light effervescence that collected around the rim in a light mauve foam. It smelled of lanolin, red cherries, wild strawberries, cranberries, and the mild spice of a cinnamon stick. I was most excited to pair it with fried, sweet General Tso’s chicken but was curious about how it would go over with almond fried chicken. The wine had a surprising subtle texture from a slight tannin content but it was minimized by the sparkling and sweet components. This mild sweetness is also balanced with its natural acidity. The combination, along with the fizz, combine to make this wine very food friendly, especially with fattier or fried foods. When I combined it with General Tso’s chicken, the bright red fruit flavors were lovely with the sticky sauce. The notable acid made me almost forget about the light fried coating blanketing the chicken. It was also delightful with the almond chicken and it’s nutty gravy for the same reasons! My favorite pairing was a bit of a surprise but it was with the fresh barbecue pork dipped in a red jelly sauce. The red fruits were brilliant with the juicy, slightly candied coated sliced meat. The wine would also be fantastic with orange chicken!