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Lambrusco is back, baby!

Go back to the future with the retro wine revolution that’s perfect for Summer

Sommelier Freddie Slater is the Food and Beverage Director at Glorietta Restaurant, 100 Mount Street, North Sydney. Previously Sommelier for the Bentley Group, he is renowned for his refreshingly innovative wine lists, with a focus on minimal intervention drops.

Those of us of a certain age all remember growing up with Lambrusco, the easy-drinking sparkling red from Italy. Light, refreshing, and low in alcohol, you’d sometimes be given a little glass by your parents or grandparents at your family meal. Did you ever wonder what happened to it?

Well, it really was a trendy wine back in the day, sweeping through every country in the 1980s. It went through a real low patch when it became mass-produced and sweetened down, with little attention given to the quality.

As a result, Lambrusco became the most scorned and least understood of all Italian wines. What was once a fashionable drop became a laughing stock and its reputation was left in tatters.

“the region is producing some of the most electric sparkling wines you can find.”

That was then. Now, it’s different! The new Lambruscos are epic. Everybody hated the mass-produced stuff, so nobody drank it and nobody bought it. Yes, some of the bulk stuff is still around. But the natural wine scene has had a huge impact on the region and small growers are giving it as much quality focus as possible.

In fact, the entire Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, where Lambrusco originates, has undergone a real renaissance. They’re producing some of the most electric sparkling wines you can find, and they’re absolutely worth hunting down and trying. It competes internationally with its neighbour Veneto, the region famous for Prosecco. However, in contrast to Prosecco, these wines have, in my opinion, a bit more substance to them. Some are light, simple, fantastically smashable drops for catch-ups in the sunshine with friends. Others are a lot more complex, demanding pairing with fantastic foods and commanding prices that are way less than your average Champagne.

If you haven’t tried Lambrusco before, you may have tried sparkling Shiraz. In comparison, sparkling red Lambrusco is generally lighter in body and more refreshing. Possibly more aperitif in style that’s less difficult to drink in hot weather. Cured meats and cheese are its real food-pairing forte, so chill down a bottle and slice up the mortadella and pecorino!

Lambrusco almost invokes the same scenes as quaffing rose in the south of France. There’s a relaxed and jolly ambience about sharing a bottle on a carefree afternoon or with an evening meal.

For the Pet-Nat and natural wine lovers, the Emilia Romagna wine revolution has gone hand in hand with less additives and conscious winemaking. Red, white and rose, both sparkling and still.

You could perhaps argue that it isn’t the easiest region to get into in terms of availability in restaurants and bottle shops down under. However, as a wine style it’s undeniably one of the easiest to get on board with in terms of taste. Salute!

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