A Valentine’s Day Moulin Rouge

One of Italy’s most refreshing and food-friendly wines, Lambrusco is an effervescent red wine from Italy that has taken some time to catch on in the U.S. but is finally starting to creep out of obscurity. Named after the type of grape and the wine made from it, Lambrusco hails from the northeastern part of Italy known as the Emilia-Romagna region.

The Lambrusco grape can be traced back to the Roman Empire. It grows quite easily throughout the countryside without painstaking cultivation, thus it’s long history and popularity in the region. In fact it was a favorite of hunters and nomadic armies that could generally find it wherever their travels took them. After decades of misconceptions as a mass-produced, sweet, cheap wine, Lambrusco is experiencing a renaissance of sorts with many winemakers refining their production practices and crafting drier, more complex styles.

Lambrusco is also a great food wine with a huge range of flavors that it can compliment. Of course, it also works fantastically on its own as a cocktail or aperitif—an ideal wine to kick off your Valentine’s Day date night.

Here are 3 Lambrusco’s I like:

Lini 910 Lambrusco Rosé ($18.99)

Founded in 1910, Lini 910 is a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated winery, producer of Emilia’s leading wines including the first-ever Lambrusco included in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of Italy. Thanks to his longstanding relationships with growers and deft hand, winemaker Fabio Lini has set the benchmark for artisanal Lambrusco. 

Juicy, just slightly acidic, and frothing with cranberry-red currant tartness, this mouthwatering Lambrusco is lovely. If you love sparkling rosé but are looking for a bubbly with more depth and structure to carry you into fall — this is your new go-to bottle. 

For the production of Lini’s classic Martinotti-method Lambrusco (also known as Charmat-method Lambrusco), a still Lambrusco is produced and then racked to pressurized, temperature-controlled tanks where the second fermentation is provoked. The wines are then aged on their lees until the desired complexity and nuance are achieved.

Otello Lambrusco ($19.99)

Otello Ceci Lambrusco is produced by the leading family of Lambrusco in the leading region of Lambrusco production, Parma (Emilia IGT). The Ceci family has been crafting Lambrusco for more than 80 years, with the third generation operating the winery today.

New to the US market in 2019, this vibrant ruby-hued lambrusco is relatively dry with red fruit (raspberries and strawberries) and plum notes and a clean finish. A perfect pairing with soft cheeses (triple cream, brie) and charcuterie.  

Frank Family Vineyards 2015 “Rouge” ($55.00)

The last one on my list is not actually a Lambrusco (it’s from California and made from Pinot Noir so it can’t be) but it’s about the closest thing you’ll find to a Lambrusco in the New World and a wonderful expression of what California can do on the sparkling wine front.

Rich Frank of Frank Family Vineyards “captured lightning in a bottle” when he purchased the Historic Larkmead Winery in 1992, a property full of potential but needing revival. At the time, it was dedicated to sparkling wines, dubbed “California Champagne” back in the day. While the focus of Frank Family’s production shifted to still wines—primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay—the Franks also wanted to continue the legacy of crafting sparkling wine on the property.

Enhancing the tradition of sparkling production on the property, in 2003, winemaker Todd Graff, who had extensive experience in the production of méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, joined the team. Today, these wines represent a handful of the top “grower” sparkling wines made in California. Primarily sourced from the Frank’s Lewis Vineyard in Carneros, each special bottle underwent a three-year fermenting process and was carefully hand-riddled on property, with daily rotations for a month. 

Their 2015 Rouge  is the essence of the holidays in a bottle. Darker in color—similar to Lambrusco—the ruby red hue comes from leaving the Pinot Noir juice in contact with the grape skins for a brief period, its subtle fruit and spice aromas beg for a place on your holiday table.  Given the high acid and slight tannin from the skins, it is the perfect accompaniment to savory-sweet dishes that are so common during the holidays—or Valentines Day!