Lambrusco – Sparkling Wine of Italy

Image credit: The Kitchn

Wines Tasted

  1. Chiarli Lambrusco di Castelvetro Grasparossa Non Vintage
  2. Chiarli “Premium” Lambrusco Sorbara Vecchio Modena Non Vintage

My first encounter with Lambrusco was in Emilia-Romagna as part of a food tour. At 8am I found myself inside a Parmigiano-Regiano cheese factory sampling freshly made cheese with dry Lambrusco – a not unpleasant way to start the day (except for the hour) and the combination worked for me.

You may doubt my palate with such an early start but the lunch we had later in the day (including at least four pasta courses!) cemented this as an excellent pairing not only with pasta dishes but also with the rich game stews typical of this region.

© Simone Madden-Grey
© Simone Madden-Grey

Recently I tasted two Lambrusco from the Chiarli family vineyard in Modena, in the Emilia-Romagna region of central east Italy. Founded in 1860 and producing one million bottles of wine by 1910, the family run winery now boasts production of over 20 million bottles per year, half of which is for the export market. Founder, Cleto Chiarli, focused his production on Lambrusco and this continues today.

Italy Wine Map Wine Folly
Image credit: Wine Folly

Lambrusco is usually made using the tank method of sparkling wine production also known as the Charmat method or cuve close method. Unlike Champagne (a brief overview of Champagne production can be found here) the wine does not undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle, rather it occurs in a closed tank. After the dry wine has been added to the tank, the yeast, sugar and a clarifying agent are added to the tank. The secondary fermentation occurs with the by-product of fermentation, carbon dioxide, being trapped within the tank. The resultant sparkling wine is then bottled under pressure to ensure the bubbles are captured.

Wine producers use this method when they want to focus on the fruity characteristics of the sparkling wine rather than the bread or yeast aromas and flavours typical of Champagne. Prosecco is also made using the tank method and this style of wine is intended to be drunk young and would not benefit from ageing.

The first Lambrusco we tried was the Lambrusco di Castelvetro Grasparossa – so much information in the name of the wine! The grape used to make this wine is the Lambrusco grape, the clone is the Grasparossa clone and the Chiarli family grow this south of Modena, around the Castelvetro village. Deep in colour this wine reminded me of my first encounter with Lambrusco with a nose of sweet red fruits alongside sweet baking spice. On the palate this is a semi-dry or amabile wine with flavours of cooked strawberries and black cherries.

Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro
Image credit: Chiarli Wines

Next up was the “Premium” Lambrusco Sorbara Vecchio Modena. Sorbara is another clone of the Lambrusco grape and these grapes are grown north of Modena between the rivers Secchia and Panaro. Very different in colour to the first Lambrusco showing a medium salmon colour with peach hues. A delicate nose of strawberries, rose petals and the softest touch of toffee – not at all what I was expecting. On the palate, lovely fresh flavours of strawberries and tart apricot skin, reminding me of the season’s first apricots that give you a jolt of tartness as you bite into them before you get to the ripe flesh inside.

Chiarli Vecchia Modena Lambrusco
Image credit: Chiarli Wines

At 8% and 11% alcohol respectively there is no excuse not to enjoy a Lambrusco the next time you are looking for a lighter sparkling that is just a touch different!

Happy Drinking!

Tasting Notes

Chiarli logo

Chiarli Lambrusco di Castelvetro Grasparossa NV

A clear medium red colour with dark plum hues. A medium intensity nose with aromas of sweet cherries, strawberries and vanilla. On the palate, semi-dry with medium acidity and medium intensity of flavours such as cherries and cooked strawberries. A medium finish of cherry flavours.

Chiarli “Premium” Lambrusco Sorbara Vecchio Modena NV

A clear medium salmon colour with peach hues. A medium intensity nose with aromas of strawberries and rose petals followed by a very delicate toffee. On the palate, dry with medium minus acidity and medium minus intensity of flavours such as fresh strawberries and fresh apricots. A medium finish of apricot.

Where can you get this wine?

Wine Searcher

Chiarli Wines. Available in Hong Kong: Castello del Vino


Chiarli Wines

Johnson, H. & Robinson, J. (2007). The World Atlas of Wine. Great Britain: Mitchell Beazley.

Robinson, J. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.

Stevenson, T. (2011). The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing.

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (2011). Wines and Spirits, Understanding Style and Quality. London: Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

Published by Happy Wine Woman

Wine consultant currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

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