Bottles of true lambrusco — dry, savory, and bright with acid — are a far cry from the sweet soda-pop versions popular here in the 1980s. These fizzy northern Italian pours are perfect for the autumn table.
Made from a family of grapes with names like lambrusco grasparossa and lambrusco maestri, the wines are usually red (although white versions exist) and lower in alcohol (around 11 percent alcohol by volume). Most sport an appetizing spritz ranging from softly sparkling to vivaciously bubbly. Though popular in warmer months, lambrusco is splendid with cooler weather fare.
“Fall is an even better time of year to drink lambrusco,” says Nick Mucci, who imports small-producer Italian wines through his company, Mucci Imports. It’s the wine he sipped in Bologna, the epicenter of Emilia-Romagnan cuisine, with tortellini in a cream sauce made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fried breads like gnocco fritto and crescentine fritte, served with generous platters of salumi.
Lambrusco has a particular talent for refreshing the palate between bites of rich dishes. Mucci’s imports include a bottle from Cantina della Volta called “Rimosso,” a vivid ruby quaff whose name refers to the old-school ancestral method where wine finishes its fermentation in the bottle, resulting in a tartly delicious pour with a little yeast sediment at the bottom and an understated frizzante sparkle.
Matt Mollo, owner of SelectioNaturel and co-owner of The Wine Bottega in the North End, is also keen on these reds. Lambrusco “has savory elements that are earthy, bright, and fresh,” he says. Pairing them with pizza is an obvious choice, the importer adds, and so is egg-enriched pasta with mushrooms and fennel sausage. This time of year, Mollo simmers lentils with carrots, late-season tomatoes, and a generous sprinkle of sage and thyme for a warming supper.
While traveling in northern Italy, Mollo encountered a dish of chicken braised in lambrusco. For home chefs who find the notion of cooking with a bubbly red unusual, Mollo has a deeply hued bottle just for them. Made by Fondo Bozzole, an organic producer in Lombardy, just across the Po River from Emilia-Romagna, this bottle has no bubbles, unlike the producer’s more well-known lambrusco, called “Incantabiss.” The warm 2012 vintage allowed a plot of rare ruberti grapes to achieve lush ripeness, ideal for still wine. “It’s labeled ‘Provincia di Mantova Rosso,’” Mollo says, “but I consider it lambrusco that happens to be still.”
This quaff, too beautiful to simply go in the pot, should be poured in the glass as well.
Cantina della Volta “Rimosso” Lambrusco di Sorbara (around $25) is available at Social Wines, South Boston, 617-268-2974, and Ralph’s Wines & Spirits, Hingham, 781-749-9463.
Fondo Bozzole “Le Mani” Provincia di Mantova Rosso ($20) is available at The Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607.