Italy’s retro sparkling reds are cool, cool, cool, explains MARY DOWEY …
If you’ve read even a couple of my columns, you’ll know I love to report on trends that lead wine drinkers off in delicious new directions. What happens when three currents f low together? The massive popularity of sparkling wines, the expanding interest in “natural” wines and the craving for new styles and flavours … Whisk these into a light froth and you’ll see exactly why the moment is right for Italy’s red sparkling revival. There’s no better time to explore it. This new-wave, old-style red fizz goes brilliantly with autumn food.
The wine that is leading the charge is Lambrusco. Not the sweetish, mass-market stuff that became a fashion craze in the late 1970s (beware: there’s still a lot of it around) but authentic Lambrusco made in the traditional way by serious-minded producers. Like Soave, Muscadet and Beaujolais – other big 1970s successes – Lambrusco has only recently begun to see an image badly tarnished by over-production begin to shine.
“I tried for 15 years to sell Lambrusco here and nobody would touch it,” says Enrico Fantasia of Grapecircus, one of Ireland’s most exciting Italian wine importers. “In the past 18 months, demand has really picked up. The new generation of wine drinkers is much more open-minded. They’re too young to have known the cheap, nasty Lambrusco that flooded the market 40 years ago. And they’ve embraced the natural wine movement, so they love the pet nat or metodo ancestrale approach.” (In the production of pet nat – pétillant naturel – partially fermented wine completes the fermentation process in bottle.)
A speciality of Emilia-Romagna, the region north of Tuscany and south of Veneto with gloriously gastronomic Bologna as its capital, Lambrusco is the name of both a wine and a grape variety (as is the case with Prosecco). In fact, the Lambrusco grape family benefits from subvarieties with different characteristics, from light Lambrusco di Sorbara to savoury Salomino and rich, fleshy Grasparosso.
“For me it’s a wine full of absolute joy,” Fantasia stresses. “Because it’s quite high in acidity, it cuts through the fatty richness of so many dishes – plates of salami and prosciutto di Parma, bollito misto, spaghetti Bolognese, stuffed ravioli dripping with butter and Parmesan cheese … And it’s not heavy. If you try to drink an Amarone or a Ripasso with food like this, you’ll die.”
Because Lambrusco isn’t the only kind of retro red Italian fizz that’s back in vogue, I’ve included in the recommendations a tasty red colfondo from the Veneto (also made the traditional-now-trendy pet nat way).
This strange autumn more than any other, red wines with an edge of razzle-dazzle seem just right. Serve them cool.
VILLA CIALDINI LAMBRUSCO GRASPAROSSA DI CASTELVETRO 2019. Alcohol: 11%.
This lipsmacking, fruity charmer from an old company that moved its Lambrusco production upmarket back in 2002 makes an excellent starting point. Easy to enjoy alone or with antipasti. From www.wineonline.ie; www.elywinestore.ie; www.thecorkscrew.ie; www.terroirs.ie; about €27.
PODERE CIPOLLA PONENTE 270, LAMBRUSCO DELL’EMILIA 2018. Alcohol: 12.5%.
Earthy, savoury and with real substance, this organic beauty from key producer Denny Bini copes easily with robust food. From www.siyps.com; www.mitchellandson.com; Sheridans Cheesemongers, Dublin 2 & Galway; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4; Green Man, Dublin 6W, about €22.
CASA BELFI ROSSO COLFONDO NATURALMENTE FRIZZANTE, VENETO NV. Alcohol: 10.5%.
There’s earthiness also in this refreshing organic light red cousin to prosecco, made from the Raboso grape. From www.lecaveau.ie; www.64wine.ie; Loose Canon, Dublin 2; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; First Draft Coffee, Dublin 8; Bradleys, Cork, about €22.
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