Description 1 of 2

Name of varietal: Lambrusco

Common synonyms: Salamino (refers to the bunch form)
Parentage of the grape: indigenous to Emilia-Romagna, Italy
History of the grape: There is evidence that the ancient Romans were drinking wines made from Lambrusco, a grape that was strewn about the hillsides like dandelions (its translation is “wild vines”). In Italy, for many centuries, the wine has been produced in various forms from dry to sweet, but usually some level of sparkling from frizzante to full on bubbles. It is made most often in the Charmat method, which means the secondary fermentation takes place in pressurized tanks, not in the bottle as in the champenoise method. It is sometimes blended with Ancellotta to add more intense color and body. By the mid 1970s, much of the Lambrusco that was imported was young, sweet and cheap, and this unfortunately gave it a terrible reputation for decades. However, more recently, excellent quality Lambruscos have been widely available, though it often takes some tasting trial and error to suss out the good ones. But they are well worth seeking out. 
Lambruscos have various DOC labellings: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, Modena and Reggiano. 
Other countries where there has been a large Italian immigrant population also grow the Lambrusco grape and produce wines under that name, but Italy is fighting for rights to only label wines from the above DOCs as Lambrusco.
Characteristics of the grape: light to medium-bodied red, frizzante (lightly sparkling) to fuller bubbles, dry to sweet, cherry, blackberry, raspberry, currant, slightly jammy, pepper, sometimes elements of balsamic vinegar, cedar, bell peppers. Light to dark red in color. 
Regions where the grape is currently important: Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Basilicata. Brazil, Australia, California. 
Type or types of wines the grape produces: sparkling rose, sparkling red, dry, sweet
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

"However, more recently, excellent quality Lambruscos have been widely available, though it often takes some tasting trial and error to suss out the good ones."


Actually, it's quite easy to find the real bottles among the commercial/industrial Lambrusco versions without having to study the labels or to taste them.


Authentic Lambusco has a minimum of 11% alcohol: Lambrusco secco (dry to off-dry, depending on producer and year; enjoyed with food in Emilia) and Lambrusco amabile (sweet to very sweet; consumed with or instead of dessert).


Of course, 'real' doesn't automatically translate into 'very good'. The quality varies from producer to producer - just like with any other wine.


– Description from Lambrusco Day

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