What is Lambrusco—and Why It Could Be the Perfect Thanksgiving Red Wine
A Thanksgiving dinner is reason to celebrate—with a refreshing, versatile red wine, that is. According to the sommeliers we spoke with, Lambrusco is one of the best wines to pour for a holiday toast or to sip alongside a six-course meal. “Lambrusco is for everybody,” says Jeremy Allen, general manager and sommelier of MiniBar Hollywood, which is one reason it’s an ideal wine to serve when you’re expecting several guests. But here are five additional things everyone should know about Lambrusco, from how to pick the perfect bottle to what to pair it with. With these tips, you’ll be toasting with this earthy, bubbly wine in no time.
Lambrusco comes in both sweet and dry styles.
“Lambrusco is not just a sweet wine,” says Ronald Buyukliev, lead sommelier at Estiatorio Milos Las Vegas. “Despite being known for a very sweet style, Lambrusco makes terrific dry and off-dry wines in addition to the very sweet [blend].” Regardless of its sweetness, this wine is always lightly sparkling, making it an ideal red wine for a celebratory holiday meal.
There are more than 60 varieties in the Lambrusco family of grape.
That’s a lot to keep track of, but luckily, “there are six that are most common,” Buyukliev says. Those six include Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Montericco, Lambrusco Salamino, and Lambrusco Sorbara. “Each grape has slightly different characteristics that contribute best to certain styles of wine,” Buyukliev advises. But, “despite each grape in the Lambrusco family having different characteristics, they all share bright, wild berry aromas, and good acidity.”
Its name and alcohol content reveals whether it’s sweet or dry.
Lambrusco comes in both sweet and dry styles, so how can you tell the difference? “If you want it sweet, look for the word ‘dolce,’” instructs Allen, “and if you want it dry, look at the alcohol content.” According to Allen, the driest varieties of Lambrusco have an ABV of 11.5 percent or higher. “They’re going to be drier than the ones around 8 percent,” Allen says.
It pairs best with foods from Emilia-Romagna.
Look where Lambrusco is made—Emilia Romagna—and you’ll understand how this wine was meant to be paired with food. Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Reggia—where some of the best meats and cheese in the world are produced—are also located there, and it’s these foods that best complement this wine, says Karen Van Guilder Little, general manager and sommelier of Josephine in Nashville. “Parmesan cheese, hams, balsamic vinegar,” lists Van Guilder Little. “These things are commonly found as first courses or hors d'oeuvres during the holiday season.” But, she also adds that, “the intense red fruit—think, cherry and strawberry—flavors of dry Lambrusco would complement game birds, turkey and ham.”
It’s a kind of wine that should cost more than $10.
You can find a Lambrusco for $10, but it’s not necessarily one you’d want to drink, warns Buyukliev. “Anything under the $10 mark in a retail sphere is usually best to be avoided,” he says. As Buyukliev points out, “Lambrusco wines in the $10 to $20 range are only a few dollars more expensive and offer an enormous leap in quality. “