Fizzy dry reds like this one may come as a surprise to the uninitiated. Take renowned Burgundian vigneron Aubert de Villaine, whose elite Pinots certainly do not sparkle. He looked very perplexed indeed when I handed him a cool, frothy glass of the stuff at a pizza party in Provence last summer. And yet, when I returned minutes later, his glass was empty and he was wiping drippings of tomato sauce off his face with a paper napkin. Just recently, I poured Moretto’s deep purple Grasparossa for a group of Corsican vignerons, including biodynamic icon Jean-Charles Abbatucci, at a picnic in Hawaii. They swirled, sniffed, sipped, and swished quizzically, then promptly dispatched the wine—and a heaping plate of smoked pulled pork. Lambrusco is made to go with the hearty cuisine of its native land, Emilia-Romagna, but a chilled bottle has its place literally anywhere.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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