Remember the days when lambrusco was a cross between Cherryade and a sherbert dip, and was usually the bottle that mean people took to parties because it was under a fiver? Well, all that's changed.
Lambrusco has undergone a renaissance. The Italian wine from the Emilia-Romagna region is now almost exclusively ruby-red, a lot drier and has a higher alcohol content (although still a lot less than other red wines).
Deep, complex and savoury but still sparkling, it has become the ideal accompaniment for Italian food. Buy a bottle to go with your next lasagne and enjoy it slightly chilled for the full-on Italian experience.
1. Lambrusco di Sorbara Frizzante Secco Radice 2015 Paltrinieri, 11.5%: £14.99 for 75cl, Tannico
This is a superb example of high quality Sorbara lambrusco from the Paltrinieri family-run winery in the Sorbara region, just north-east of Modena in northern Italy. Dry but discerning, it has a slightly more sophisticated and sparkling taste than its rivals. As with all lambruscos, served slightly chilled it goes amazingly well with Italian food.
2. Villa Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro 2015, 11%: £13.95 for 75cl, Slurp
In 2002, cousins Anselmo and Mauro Chiarli had a plan. They would build a state-of-the-art winery, south-east of Modena, to produce top quality lambrusco at vineyards the family had owned since 1860. The result is this ruby-red, sparkling Grasparossa di Castelvetro lambrusco, with its pleasing acidity and forest-fruit flavours. A superb match for salami or prosciutto.
3. Ariola Marcello Gran Cru 2015, 11%: £14.99 for 75cl, Amazon
“The greatest sparkling red wine in the world” is the modest claim made by the maker of this lambrusco from the hills of Parma, and it’s no idle boast. It won gold at the International Wine Challenge in London last year and gained similar acclaim in 2011. One sip and you can see why. It offers vibrant fruit and berry flavours with hints of cherry that envelop and overpower your taste buds. A true gem.
4. Civ & Civ Salamino Di Santa Croce, 11%: £11 for 75cl, Spirited Wines
This variety of lambrusco gets its name from the similarity the grape clusters have to salami sausages. Less ruby red than other lambruscos, it’s also more delicate but with a hint of spiciness along with notes of red currants and blackberries. It goes well with local pasta dishes and cuts through the richness of pork or roasted meats.
5. Classico Monte delle Vigne Calanchi 2014, 11%: £12.75 for 75cl, Lea & Sandeman
You want effervescence? Then try this superbly refreshing lambrusco with its bouncy fruit flavours of blackcurrant, cherry and plum allied with an elegant acidity that brings a sparkle to anyone’s glass. From a vineyard that’s been farmed organically since 2012.
6. Lambrusco di Modena Rosso Frizzante Amabile 2015 Opera 02, 11%: £11.99 for 75cl, Tannico
Another lambrusco made from the Grasparossa grape, this organic full-bodied amabile (off dry/sweet) wine provides a zesty mouthful of wild fruit flavours. Serve slightly chilled at 8-10°C and pair with lasagna, spaghetti bolognese or gelato for a true Italian experience.
7. Premium Sorbara Vecchia Modena Cleto Chiarli, 11%: £14.35 for 75cl, GP Brands
The Chiarli family was reputedly selling a million bottles of lambrusco a year as far back as 1910, so it knows something about wine, and this beautifully dry but lively lambrusco doesn’t disappoint. Light pink in colour with flavours of soft fruits and strawberries, it’s like a mouthful of summer.
8. Reggiano Lambrusco Secco, 11%: £54 for a case of 6, Marks & Spencer
Reggiano is the largest lambrusco region and the area from which most exports come. M&S winemaker Jeneve Wiliams has worked with producer Ermete Medici to create a wonderfully crisp and dry lambrusco, jam-packed with dark fruit flavours and pleasing tannins. Enjoy it while nibbling at some parma ham or parmesan.
9. Ferrando Quarticello Lambrusco Emilia 2015, 11.5%: £16.50 for 75cl, Ottolenghi
Made from salamino grapes organically grown in winemaker Roberto Maestri’s family vineyards in Montecchio Emilia, this is a serious lambrusco with blackcurrant and black cherry flavours complementing its sparkling zestiness. Only wild yeasts are used and the second fermentation is completed in the bottle.
10. Camillo Donati Lambrusco Rosso 2014, 13.5%: £17 for 75cl, Highbury Vintners
Here’s a top-quality wine that features complex, deep and intense flavours from winemakers who have been making lambrusco in the traditional way in the Emilia-Romagna region since the 1930s. The wine isn’t filtered so care needs to be taken when pouring it. Best served slightly chilled with cold cuts, prosciutto or gnocchi.
11. Venturini Baldini Montelocco Lambrusco Emilia, 11.5%: £14 for 75cl, Organic Wine Club
From 35 hectares of vineyard on the hills of the Emilia region comes this fully organic lambrusco, which is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Intense dark berry flavours are enhanced by herb notes and a vibrant but welcome acidity. Pairs perfectly with parma ham, ravioli or antipasti.
12. Tenuta di Aljano Settefilari Lambrusco Reggiano, 11.5%: £13.50 for 75cl, Vini Italiani
This is a Reggiano lambrusco that’s laden with full fruit flavours and a zesty vitality that brings the wine alive with each sip. As with all lambruscos, it has a low alcohol content, so there’s less danger of overdoing it. Serve with parma ham or Italian starters.
13. Fieronero Lambrusco di Modena Frizzante Secco, 11%: £10.50 for 75cl, Vinissimo
Fizz and froth blend together here to create an intensely fruity lambrusco made in Modena entirely from the salamino grape. Deep red in colour and wickedly dry, it goes well with meat and roasts and should be served at “cellar” temperature (around 14-16°C).
14. Lambrusco 2014 I Calanchi Monte delle Vigne, 12%: £16.75 for 75cl, Lea & Sandeman
This is a top-quality lambrusco that’s miles away from the sickly stuff that used to parade under the name in the past. Complex and intense fruit flavours with an edge of minerality help to place this in the premier league. Not just a drink, it’s an education, too.
The Verdict: Lambruscos
The market's now bursting with classy examples of lambrusco, from the award-winning and sumptuous Ariola Marcello to M&S's specially made Reggiano Lambrusco. The traditionally made Camillo Donati is a full-bodied delight while the Venturini Baldini is the perfect choice for those who like their wines to be organic. But our Best Buy is the splendidly dry but effervescent Radice from Tannico.
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