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[rosso & pet-nat]

Go froth & conquer

The “moment” arrived about ten years ago. Perhaps earlier? Memory’s forever bent by the convex lens of so very many wine glasses. Nor do I remember where, or who…though I have some guesses. I do remember what, though. It was Lini, and as expected it came in red…but it also came in pink, and white. The rosso was disruptive and I wasn’t yet prepared to understand it, the rosato was pleasant enough, but it was the bianco that grappled with my attention.

“Lambrusco comes in white?”

In theory, I’d known this. I’d read the texts, eyes flickering over the allowed expressions in the hilarious anarchy of Italy’s DOCs. Mostly, aside from a very small handful of internationally famous appellations with vaguely restrictive codes (regulations that would be impossible for any self-respecting Italian winemaker to ignore), the “laws” seemed to be the same everywhere. Make it white, pink, red, sparkling, dry, sweet, fortified, aromatized, or really whatever you feel like doing…

But still. “Lambrusco comes in white?”

I drank a lot of that white, over the next few years. As a by-the-glass pour it metastasized all over Boston, where I lived and wrote back then. Why not? It was delicious, and — perhaps more importantly, on the commercial side — it was inexpensive. I occasionally dabbled in the rosato. But the rosso…the rosso…

There lay the actual struggle, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Keep Reading

Orange soda

Donati 2008 Malvasia dell’Emilia (Emilia-Romagna) – An orange wine that really is orange (most of them are in the beige/tan/brown spectrum), or perhaps we could get swanky and call it a lighter sort of burnt sienna. And: sparkling. So, the heavy tannic overlay of the orange genre is lightened not by the counterpoint of fruit, nor of acidity (a rare thing in the category in the best of cases), but by a gentle – and fading – fizz. It’s more distracting than present at the moment, and it’s not going to do anything but fade, but it’s necessary for the wine’s tenuous grip on balance, which is falling deeper into a cider-esque hole with each passing month. It’s more an intellectual pleasure than a sensory one, because it pairs some extremes of technique with a relentlessly uncompromising weirdness, but as someone who enjoys this particular thought experiment I still quite enjoy it. That said, there are many who would not allow that this is “wine” any longer, based on its taste rather than its origin, and I would have sympathy for that opinion. But wine it is, nonetheless, and if you own any, you should drink it. (10/11)

Achieving saetti

Vigneto Saetti 2010 Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce (Emilia-Romagna) – Uncompromisingly dry, bitter (in the amaro sense; I very specifically don’t mean astringent, though it’s not exactly lacking in razory tannin either), and the definitional opposite of a cocktail wine. I mean, I suppose people who like shoving razor wire into their flesh just for the lulz would like to sip this with canapés and genteel conversation, but otherwise – more than any lambrusco I’ve ever tasted – it needs food. It cannot, in my opinion, be appreciated or even enjoyed without food. And the thing to realize is that this isn’t – despite what gob-loving sybarites would insist – a criticism, it’s a characterization. This is a wine that demands a very specific kind of participation, and if you don’t agree with those terms you will have an unsatisfactory experience. So…you’re now wondering…what’s it like? Well, what did I just say? (10/11)

Right now

Le Rocche Malatestiane 2009 Cagnina di Romagna “Adesso…” (Emilia-Romagna) – Sweet, a little sickly, but also just the barest touch bitter which almost saves the wine. Almost…but not quite. More like sucking on Italian candies than drinking wine. (6/11)

Blood-stained Lini

Lini “Labrusca” Lambrusco Rosso (Emilia-Romagna) – Fresh fruit with grit. Or perhaps grittiness. Tart, sharp but not razor-like, vibrant, and soiled (in a good way). Giant platters of charcuterie could disappear in this wine’s company, to the benefit of both. (5/11)

Fresh white Lini

Lini “Labrusca” Lambrusco Bianco (Emilia-Romagna) – Flower-sweet (off-dry, really, but the lightness of the wine emphasizes the sweeter aspects), white-petaled, pure extract of summer fruit. (5/11)


Lini “Labrusca” Lambrusco Rosso (Emilia-Romagna) – Sharp, pins-and-needles red fruit lashing and slicing its acidic path through the palate, cleansing everything and taking a layer of something or other with it. There’s some dirt and pepper, too. Really pretty glorious. (9/10)

Nor Serbia

Montenegro Amaro (Emilia-Romagna) – Decidedly on the sweet, mellow side of amaro, showing caramel-based complexities more like a brandy than something more traditionally bitter. A simple pleasure. (9/10)

Hidden Ageno

La Stoppa 2006 “Ageno” (Emilia-Romagna) – Very deep, rich, and shaded. A powerful, almost stravecchio style of orange wine (really more brown when taken to this extent), full of dessert spices, minerality, and preserved fruit. Absolutely delicious, albeit heady. (3/11)


Tedeschi 2007 Monteviglio “Spungola Bellaria” Pignoletto (Emilia Romagna) – Pine and tarragon with a slight prickle, though the latter doesn’t rise to a fully tactile sensation, preferring to remain a background shade. Seems to sweeten or dry as each accompanying food requires, which is a neat trick, and a small glass taken an hour later has grown in both aroma and richness. Fabulous wine. (11/10)