Yes.It's OK To Drink Lambrusco

November 1, 2008

I don’t know when it started.

It seems that there has evolved in the United States a caste system of wines. Twenty years ago, Chardonnay was at the top of the heap. It was the drink of choice for a large percentage of upwardly mobile yuppies in the trendy eating and drinking establishments across the country. Today the white wine that seems to have deposed Chardonnay is Pinot Grigio.

Thirty years ago, pink wines (aka rosé) were all the rage. White zinfandel was the first wine tasted by many of today’s wine consumers. Anyone remember the Eye of the Partridge wines being produced in California at that time? Today anyone ordering a White Zinfandel must endure smirks and muffled chuckles from servers and fellow guests.

And who can forget the millions of cases of Riunite Lambrusco sold in the United States in the 1970’s. They even hired actress Susan Lucci to produce a commercial for this wine in 1977. Yet today, Lambrusco has to fight to get a spot at the dinner table.

My local pharmacist loves Lambrusco. He tells me that he has to constantly defend himself when ordering it; others can’t believe that he would drink such a wine!

Lambrusco is a wine that comes from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy; a region that knows something about food and wine. Its capital is Bologna, a city that many consider the gastronomic center of Italy. Products such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, Ragú alla Bolognese, and Aceto Balsamico from Modena all have their roots here.

Lambrusco is a fruity, fresh, slightly sparkling (frizzante) wine. In Italy, you can buy it in sweet or dry versions. (Secco would be dry; amabile would be sweet). It complements the foods of the region perfectly. Since it is fairly high in acid, it is a great companion to any food with a good degree of fat in it.

One of my most memorable meals was in a small trattoria in Parma. My memory immediately takes me back to a huge platter of freshly sliced Prosciutto di Parma and Culatello accompanied by a bottle of inky, purplish Lambrusco produced by Lini.

Admittedly, the 1970’s Lambrusco was not as high quality as some of the artisanal Lambrusco available today in the United States. I have seen Lambrusco ordered in some pretty nice restaurants in New York City and San Diego.. and I didn’t see anyone snickering!!

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