Lambrusco is the GOAT of wines

First of all, thanks everyone for the great positive feedback and excitement for this series. I’ve been enjoying the process and what I love about being a Sommelier.  That is, playing around with wines and seeing how they interact with foods.  Lambrusco is another variety that I believe does not get as much recognition as the ‘big Reds’.  Why?  Maybe they are not as sexy.  Maybe it’s based on production levels.  Who knows.  If the wine is good, then it’s good and run with it.

Last week, I discussed the profile of the grape and what I look at when I see Lambrusco.  This week, I want to showcase two wines to give you options.  I also want to list my opinion and what foods you can play with.  Please note that this is MY OPINION and I always want you to try out the wine and tell me what you think.  I’m not ‘The GOAT’ when it comes to this.  You and your tastebuds are.  I want you to enjoy eating and drinking. 

The Wines

For each grape variety, I will taste two wines that I could find for under $20 (hopefully).  Today’s wines are the following:

Riunite Lambrusco

First of all, I have to give it up to Banfi.  They have been making this wine for longer than I can remember.  For the older crowd like me, when I was growing up, they had these commercials that you could never get out of your head. Yes, I had to put a link to one of them so you could understand.  As I got older, I started to really get into wine and learning about all of the regions, the grape varieties, etc.  This was not on my radar at all.

While I was teaching at South Carolina, I was able to learn from Dr. Sandy Strick along with Sharron McCarthy who represented Banfi wines.  I clearly remember that day when I opened the cases, super excited to see what was sent over and then I pulled Riunite out.  Yes, my mind went Ummm.  Until I tried it. 

I never tried Lambrusco during my Sommelier classes.  I was actually told that it’s a good grape but not worth paying attention to based on quality.  I’m sorry to say they were wrong.  The grape itself is fantastic when made correctly (like everything in life).  More importantly, I never knew the scope of production.  When I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Italy with Banfi, we toured the bottling plant for Riunite.  At that time, they made over 60 million bottles a year.  As far as I’m concerned, anyone doing that consistently is doing something right.

Brian- is it Good?

Yes, it’s good.  So much so, I always have a bottle in my wine fridge chilling unopened until I want to enjoy a glass.  I love an off dry sweetness, the light fizz from the carbonation along with the fresh notes of berries.  Did I mention that a bottle is under $10 normally?  Here are my notes for you to look at.


  • Fresh slightly unripe berries (strawberries, raspberries, hints of black and red cherries)
  • Notes of soil and gravel over the profile
  • It has a hint of watermelon candies that lays over the top of the profile (it reminded me of the ‘Syrah Funk’)
  • Floral notes such as fresh roses and hollyhocks.


  • It shows fresh flavors of berries (red and black raspberries, blackberries, strawberries), red plums
  • For me, I always get a bit of sourness coming from a unripe currant and cherry (not unpleasant)
  • It does show hints of vanilla, floral, rhubarb, watermelon, and dried meats (like jerky on the end of the curve)

Sweetness – It’s off dry to medium sweetness levels

Acidity – it shows a medium plus acid that rinses your palate clean

Tannins – the grape tannins in this are low and it’s never seen oak

Mouthfeel – I love the chewy structure with the light carbonation (slightly astringent from the acid)

Body – this is lower body wine making it refreshing with the combination of all of the above components.

My opinion – I love this wine 😊

Le Grotte Lambrusco Reggiano

I was on the lookout for another Lambrusco to showcase.  On a whim, I tried Trader Joes to see if they had one and magically, I found this one.  First of all, this is not listed on their site so you will have to go to your local store to see if they have it.  What intrigued me about this one was the following:

  • It closed using a champagne cork and a cage (compared to screw cap – or Stevin Closure if you want to be fancy),
  • I love the label as it jumps out at you, and
  • The price at $4.99 which in my opinion makes it worth the purchase to try it. I love it when people are like that’s too expensive to take a chance.  Most people spend $8 purchasing a coffee.  I’m getting something for less money that has alcohol (case closed).

Yes, ok Brian- Is It Good?

Well……yes and no.  Let me explain.  When I purchased the bottle, I was super excited and grabbed it without paying attention.  When I got it home (and my apologies for not getting a picture of this), I noticed that the bottle was not filled correctly.  Typically, you may see a bottle filled up to ¾ to an inch below the cork to ensure that you receive the proper amount of wine.  In my case, the space (called the Ullage BTW) was 2.5 inches.  Which means the bottle was shorted or leaked.  I checked for leaks and there were none (the cork was sealed tightly).  Therefore, my bottle was under filled.  What should you do when this happens?  You return it for a full bottle.  My problem was that I did not notice until after they had closed and had to evaluate.

I’m going to give you my notes but place the big note in that I will get another bottle to check it out fairly.  Things happen in production (like life) so I want to give it a fair evaluation.


  • In the glass, it showed unripe strawberries, raspberries, black cherry, blueberries
  • It has hints of tea, vanilla, and lavender along with the rhubarb
  • It seemed richer in aromas as compared to Riunite and was deeper in color.


  • This is where I had an issue with the bottle.
  • It shows great berry flavor almost identical to Riunite except a slightly more intense
  • However, at the end, it showed a metallic tone. This is a sign that a wine is off or starting to fail.  From this point, it didn’t taste anymore as I’m highly sensitive to that tone.

Sweetness – It’s off dry

Acidity – It showed medium plus acidity

Tannins – low grape tannins and no oak

Mouthfeel – I know the bottle was flawed as it had almost no carbonation.  When I removed the cork, there was no release of gas, and it was flat.

Body – I could not really judge the body fully due to the lack of carbonation, but it seemed like it had a good structure

My Opinion – I could not give this one a complete evaluation since the bottle was flawed.  However, looking at other reviews online, I know that it’s a well-made wine.  I promise to try it again and give an update.

Foods to Pair with Lambrusco

  • Anything that you would have as an appetizer will pair with this (fruit, cheeses, cured meats)
  • Pizzas (Yes Mike, I agree).
  • Lighter meats and vegetables.
  • Sharon’s pairing is fried chicken sandwiches (fantastic past 10 pm and a night of drinking).
  • A turkey sandwich (after Thanksgiving) with stuffing and cranberry sauce as the spread (YOU KNOW).
  • I would stay away from braised meats as it would overpower the wine.

Final Thoughts

I cannot stress enough that I will update you next week on a new bottle.  However, I’m using this as a learning opportunity.  CHECK your bottles when you purchase them.  If I was not dancing around with the find, I would have noticed the wine level and purchased a different bottle.  Then this review would have been different. 

That being said, Lambrusco is a grape that I love to serve all year round.  It’s easy drinking and fun to pop the top off.  It’s amazingly refreshing to drink and goes with a variety of foods.  Think about it this way.  I put up several Christmas trees a year and I have a glass of this while putting them up listening to Charlie Brown holiday music.  It makes life complete.

Update to Le Grotte Lambrusco Reggiano

I picked up another bottle.  As you can see in the picture, it has a large gap in the neck.  However, ALL of them had the same large gap.  I’ve never seen one this large before but for $5.99 and for you, I sacrificed and purchased another one.

After letting it chill slowly, when I opened this one, I received a positive pop due to carbonation being released.  This looks good.  The color was the same – deep extracted red throughout the core as compared to Riunite which side by side looked a bit watered down.

Sweetness – It’s off dry

Acidity – It showed medium plus acidity

Tannins – low grape tannins and no oak

Mouthfeel – It has a unique depth to it with some weight.  I loved the texture on the palate just filling my mouth with red fruits.  The carbonation tied in with the acidity is refreshing.  Drink it cold.

Body – This one had great structure with the balance between the weight of the wine along with the carbonation making it feel lighter on the palate.


  • Rich unripe red fruits over the entire profile of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and red cherries followed by hints of roses and violets and vanilla.
  • There was also a touch of rhubarb.
  • Overall, this was much richer with more depth than the first go around.


  • This was a great improvement from the first bottle.
  • It was filled with red cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and large amounts of red plums. All of these fruits were still unripe (like supermarket fruit) but you could taste the depth. 
  • It also had hints of toast, raisins, white pepper, dried meats, and hints of raspberry leaves.
  • Definitely good flavor.

Overall Opinion:  This is one that you definitely want to pick up.  It’s a great showing of Lambrusco and you can’t beat the price.

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