I once spent a warm evening sitting on the cobblestones of Bologna’s Piazza Verdi, in a circle of friends, surrounded by clusters of the city’s electric youth. Most were lost in animated, intense, and jovial conversations. Some had stood up and started to dance to a spontaneous, unpolished brass-and-percussion ensemble. My friends and I talked and observed, nursing our Negronis from the nearby bar. I didn’t know about Lambrusco back then, and even if I had, I might have only heard about Lambrusco of the Dark Ages—the ’70s and ’80s—when it was probably not too far off from sparkling red Welch’s. If I had known about Emilia-Romagna’s dry, serious, and seriously fun Lambrusco, though, I would have absolutely chosen that to imbibe on a warm, festive, Bolognese night. Twenty or so miles west of Bologna, Fattoria Moretto grows the Lambrusco Grasparossa grape to make one of the most cheerful, warm-weather-friendly wines you’ll experience. The “Grasparossa” part is important—it signifies the best of the Lambrusco varieties and the only one that grows primarily on the hillsides of Emilia-Romagna as opposed to the flatlands.
If you are skeptical that you could love a fizzy, frothy red wine, consider:
1) This wine is completely dry. It is earthy, with notes of dark berries, and bears a gentle tannin. 2) It’s sparkling, so keep it in the fridge and you’ll find that few beverages offer more fun and refreshment. 3) You owe it to Emilia-Romagna to give this a try. The region which gave us ragù (Bolognese), mortadella, tortellini, Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic vinegar, and legendary cured prosciutto has earned our blind faith at this point—and this wine goes supremely well with them all (and everything else). Has Italy’s culinary capital let you down yet? With Fattoria Moretto’s Lambrusco, it’s not about to start. Whether you’re in Bologna, Berkeley, or somewhere in between, you’ll be happier on a warm summer afternoon or night with Moretto’s Lambrusco Grasparossa in your glass.
Domenico Altariva grew up watching his parents work the land; so when he married and bought a house with his wife, Albertina, he also bought a little land that he would tend in his spare time. Right from the start they worked their vines with entirely natural products and made the most of their vineyard sites. When sons Fabio and Fausto joined the estate in 1991 the family took another step forward, building a new winery, acquiring more vineyards, and finally bottling the wine themselves; and in 1997 becoming organic. The family chooses to highlight the local grape Lambrusco, resulting in an intense, terroir-driven Lambrusco with a nose serious enough for even the most knowledgeable wine connoisseur.
Primarily dominated by the expansive plains of the Po Valley, Emilia-Romagna—a diagonal band stretching from Piacenza in the north all the way to Rimini in the southeast—also features a long span of Apennine Mountains and foothills, at the base of which lie its major cities such as Parma, Modena, and Bologna along the historic Via Emilia. While the flatlands are home to some viticulture, the Apennines provide elevation and ventilation in contrast with the hot, humid, stagnant valley below, in addition to poor, well-draining soils favorable to the production of more serious wines.
Given the rich local cuisine that relies heavily on lard, cheese, and fatty meats like pork, Emilia-Romagna is first and foremost a land of fizzy wines. These light frizzanti have the acidity to cut through fat along with a palate-cleansing sparkle. Most important is the indigenous red Lambrusco, a family of grapes whose wines brilliantly complement flavorful dishes such as tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini al brodo, or simple antipasti of local meats and cheeses like prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, and parmigiano reggiano (if you’re lucky, drizzled with traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena).
While Lambrusco’s image suffered in the past because of mass-produced sweet versions, small producers today are crafting traditional, terroir-driven dry wines that are absolutely mouth-watering. These jovial, food-friendly quaffers are right at home in the KLWM portfolio.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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