Food & dining

By the glass

Launch some sparkle in your reds


While some wines sail carefree on a sea of feel-good associations generated by history, fashion, or really good marketing, others seem ever on the verge of sinking beneath waves of ignominy. Wines burdened with a low-rent aura don’t always deserve their fate, however. Scratch some poor, cachet-bereft category and it’s just possible you will find something authentic, honest, and appealing.

Consider Lambrusco, the grapey, juicy, lightly-sparkling red wine with origins in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, where its place alongside the region’s salumi (sopressata, prosciutto, capicola, and more) has been secure for generations. Manufactured on an industrial scale for a world market proved its undoing, eventually deep-sixing not only its own reputation, but also prospects for anything bearing a resemblance to it. Sparkling reds became about as down-market as a wine category could be. It’s true that some examples of the genre richly merit their nimbus of disgrace, but that doesn’t make the whole category a dud. Often it means new pleasures and hidden value are waiting to be discovered by adventurous types sniffing about for the next new thing.

Anyone who has had the good luck to encounter a quality example of red fizz (at the Butcher Shop in the South End, say, or at the bar at Bergamot in Cambridge) knows what sheer grapey thrills lurk within. Brought forth by conscientious producers in the right places (four here are Italian; one French) from the right grapes (always the case), these sweet-natured wines are very easy drinking and highly compatible with an antipasto plate, charcuterie, meaty sandwiches, sausages, meatballs - almost any informal dish where some fatty-savory thing cries out for a counterpoint.


And if any of that begins to sound like ideal Sunday afternoon TV football fare, aren’t you the clever one?

Marenco “Pineto’’ Brachetto D’Aqui NV

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Lightest, sweetest and (I’ll say it) cutest of the group, also the lowest in alcohol (a scant 5.5 percent). Does triple duty as a welcoming aperitif when quite well chilled, idle moment back-porch sip, and sherbet-like dessert. Come to think of it, somebody should make a sorbet (or granita) of this and tell us all how it turns out. Around $25. At The Urban Grape, Chestnut Hill, 617-232-4831; Brix on Broad, Financial District, 617-542-2749; Ralph’s Derby St. Wine & Spirits, Hingham, 781-749-9463.

Domaine des Nugues “Made by G’’ Sparkling Gamay NV

French entry fairly bursts with startlingly bright, succulent, strawberry-like fruit; just a shade off-dry with a mere 9 percent alcohol, showing exhilarating zip and zest. Think of it as perfectly delicious Beaujolais with bubbles and you won’t be far off. Around $22. At The Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607; Julio’s Liquors, Westborough, 508-366-1942; The Urban Grape.

Villa di Corlo “Primevo’’ Lambrusco di Sorbara NV

Attractive bright garnet hue. The bitter cherry fruit gives a fleeting glimpse of sweetness before striking a subtly leathery - and not at all anomalous - note on the finish. A lighter Lambrusco presentation than the Grasparossa below. Authentic, honest, and appealing. What a honey. Around $18. At The Wine and Cheese Cask, Somerville, 617-623-8656; Panzano Market, Southborough, 508-485-8884; Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, Cambridge, 617-225-0040.

Tenuta Pederzana “Il Grasparossa’’ Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro 2009

Nicely fresh, juicy, and sudsy; a mouthful of bright, crisp red fruits and some sassy acidity. That subtle flare of bitterness in the finish belongs right where it is. Around $17. At Vintages, Belmont, 617-484-4560; Seiyo Sushi and Fine Wine, South End, 617-447-2183; Kappy’s Liquors, Malden, 781-322-4000.

Colleluce Vernaccia di Serrapetrona 2005


That note of smoke or game (or whatever you choose to call it) here is proof that fizzy reds are capable of a broader range of expression. There’s more complexity here and perhaps a bit less ingenuous amiability, but the flavors are deep and savory and go a long, long way in the interest department. Pair this one with a grassfed burger or saucy pulled pork sandwich. Around $20. At Bottles, North End, 617-391-0021; Cambridge Wine & Spirits, 617-864-7171; Vintages, Belmont.

Stephen Meuse can be reached at