Lambrusco is a Tasty Red - Part One

Last week, I mentioned that as we move into Fall and colder weather, we naturally move to red wines that have more body and weight to them.  As a sommelier, there are so many little things that I know about each grape that are useless to the consumer.  Therefore, I want to show you specifically what you need to know in order to learn and pick out wine for you.  I want to start out with lower tannin level reds to get your palate used to them (if you are not a big red wine drinker).  The first grape I want to introduce you to is Lambrusco.

How to Pronounce

I am horrible about pronouncing names (and especially streets in Austin – Guadalupe is a great example). Therefore, each time I show you a new grape, I’m going to show you how to pronounce it.  There is no shame in getting it wrong, btw.  I’ve heard several version of how to say Pinot Noir. 

This is the correct way to say Lambrusco.

Important Facts

As a sommelier, I could go into all of the history (that I can remember) about Lambrusco but there is another website that has a great listing on it (link here).

From my perspective, here’s what you should know about Lambrusco.

It tends to be used in sparkling wine that has some residual sugar and carbonation.

I love showcasing this grape as I find it quite refreshing.  I have a sweet tooth so having a wine that is off dry I tend to like and appreciate.  I do not want a red that has lots of sugar in it.  Sorry, I’ve had them, and I believe that the sugar just masks the tannins.  While you may not taste them now, they are still there, and it puts the wine into a weird state.  Picture this – I give you a beer and add a pack of sugar to it.  It’s still drinkable but you know something is off (it’s not balanced). 

If the finished wine has a small amount of sugar in it, the tannins are more approachable and easier to drink.  Lambrusco has some tannins from the skin during production.  It’s just not as noticeable.

You can drink it all year round

I completely understand why people only want to drink Lambrusco in the summer.  It’s hot outside and I give you a light wine with fizz and a bit of sweetness?  It goes down really easy.  Therefore, it makes sense to have a bottle on hand and serve it well chilled (below 45 F) in small pours to keep it cold.  I love the idea.  I even have wine sippy cups that are insulated that I use in hot months to keep it cold.

However, I drink Lambrusco all year round.  In fact, I always have a bottle in my wine fridge to be able to enjoy.  It’s not stored at 45 F but I’m able to drop in an artificial ice cube to get it cooler.  People think I’m a little weird for doing this but I’m happy and that’s what counts.  I want the same for you as well.

You can not Pair it with Food

I’m not sure who told me this once, but I shook my head and disagreed.  First of all, every wine can be paired with a food.  Every one of them.  The question comes down to what food and will it work?  Lambrusco has some great natural tendencies to look at.

First of all, we have not discussed that it’s acidic.  When you first try it, the sugar and bubbles will throw you off.  However, if you focus, you will find that you will have saliva production after you taste the wine.  This is needed.  The acid is rinsing your palate clean of the sugar (along with the carbonation).  That’s what makes this wine refreshing.  I cannot stress this enough:

  • Acidic wines rinse your palate clean (aka – fatty foods).

One of the best things to try with this is fried items.  OMG, Fried Chicken with this is fantastic!!  I will get into more discussion with what to pair with it in Part Two when I give you two wines that I’ve tried.

My Profile of the Grape

For every grape that I taste, I can identify it from its profile and anchors.  The profile is a combination of aromas, flavors, mouthfeel, etc. that all come together to make one grape distinctive from another.  For example, one grape may be more acidic than another.  In other words, it’s the grape’s specific personality.

An anchor is something specific that I perceive in the grape or wine that is distinctive FOR ME to identify it.  As a sommelier, we do blind tastings and are asked to identify what the particular grape variety is from a wine.  I do this from understanding the profiles but specifically my anchor for the grape.  The anchor is something so specific to this variety that I instantly know this variety is in the wine.  Please note that the anchor is specific to me.  You may have a different anchor for the same grape that helps you distinguish it from another variety.

Here’s my profile for Lambrusco and my anchor.


Color Range:  Ruby to red in color (always seems a bit watered down or thin)

Sweetness level:  off dry to medium (it can be found dry (Secco))

Acid level: medium +

Body:   low to medium –

Tannin Levels from Grape:  low to medium +

Typical Aromas: Cherries, strawberries, blackberries, earthy, marjoram, roses, cooked rhubarb

Typical Flavors to look for:  red currants, strawberries, unripe raspberry, violets, roses, sweet cherry, watermelon

Anchor for me:  My anchor for this is a combination of the carbonation, lighter color, and flavor of berries with a hint of green herbs and sweetness.  It’s not one specific thing like in other grapes.

Final Thoughts

In part two, I’ve purchased 2 wines that I will sample and give you my evaluation of both.  One you have heard about before, the other wine you may not have seen but it’s easily accessible.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m excited to share my thoughts with you about both.  Again, my goal is to expose you to different grapes and let you try them. 

BTW, something I have not mentioned is that I’m going to do my best to keep each wine under $20.  At that range, you are more willing to try something instead of me recommending an $80 bottle.  I have several expensive bottles that I could show but why?  We are all a bit tight on money, especially since the holidays are coming.  If we can all spend a bit less enjoying a wine, you can save that money for my Christmas gift this year.  😊

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