For a long time, North America only offered the worst versions of Lambrusco — inky, overly sweet varieties that earned a reputation for being “soda pop wine.” Now, finally, sommeliers are starting to bring in the good stuff as an easy-drinking alternative to rosé. When building out the drinks menu at Toronto’s Giulietta, beverage director Toni Weber gave Lambrusco a starring role. “It’s incredibly food-friendly, because it’s earthy, fruity, and off-dry,” she explains. “So if you’re sharing plates, it pairs well with everything.” This new era of Lambrusco maintains the fizz of carefree youth, but balances it with the seasoned refinement of adulthood — skewing saltier and more secco (dry). “It’s wine with interest, but also wine that’s fun and not too fussy,” Weber says. In other words, in true Italian fashion, it’s the wine equivalent of a great linen suit — breezy, dignified, and perfect for summer.
Where’s it from?
The reason Lambrusco complements food so well: it hails from Italy’s gastronomic capital, Emilia-Romagna — a place we can also thank for prosciutto, parmesan, and balsamic vinegar.
What does it taste like?
Bubbly and lightly fruity, with strawberry, blackberry, and cherry notes most common. More copper-coloured varieties will add earthier flavours to the mix. Serve chilled, and avoid cellaring.
Why so fizzy?
Lambrusco is most commonly made in the semi-sparkling frizzante style, which typically plays out the same way it does with Prosecco: through a secondary tank fermentation with CO₂.
Where to order it?
Giulietta keeps at least three Lambrusco bottles on its menu at any given time. Other spots leading the Lambrusco renaissance: Toronto’s Paris Paris, and Edmonton’s Bar Bricco.
Any celeb endorsements?
Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon launched his own Lambrusco, Licataa, last fall. Your move, Clooney.
MAKING A CASE FOR ORDERING BY THE CASE
While it may be taking wine menus by storm, the best Lambrusco is still woefully understocked on store shelves. Which leaves you with another option: order a case. Then, spend the next three months’ worth of barbecues establishing yourself as the king of summer.
REMIGIO 101 LAMBRUSCO DI SORBARA
A pale and aromatic offering that makes a natural first step away from rosé.
$140/case of 6 through Cavinona
VILLA DI CORLO LAMBRUSCO GRASPAROSSA
A combination of black fruit and earthy flavours that pairs perfectly with smoky meats.
$270/case of 12 through small winemakers
Made using a more traditional method, in which the second fermentation occurs in-bottle.
$170/case of 6 through Perugini