On the table with the holiday spread were Barberas and Nebbiolos from Italy, some reds from our favorite value producers in Spain and other wines catering to family members' tastes. And what did my brother declare as his favorite wine of the day? A Lambrusco.
Wait, some of you may be saying, isn't that the same thing as the Riunite my parents drank in the 1970s and '80s? (Well, yes, but apparently you haven't been keeping up with Matt Kramer's columns.) Others may be nodding knowingly. In the New York City area at least, with its plethora of fine Italian restaurants, artisanal Lambrusco, in drier styles, has become a familiar sight. I've been dallying with this lightly sparkling wine off and on for a few years, bringing the more readily available bottlings to pizzerias and outdoor gatherings, wanting to love it, mostly settling on "just friends."
But when I saw the well-stocked display of Lini rosso, bianco and rosé at my local New Jersey wine shop, I gave it another spin. Thus for Thanksgiving this year, I decided on Lambrusco as the alternative to our usual Beaujolais—something fruity and fun and versatile. This time around the Lini Oreste & Figli Lambrusco Emilia Rosso Labrusca 910 NV, a secco (dry) bottling, had just a bit more oomph, enough charisma to chat you up for the duration of a multicourse meal, from the appetizers through the turkey to a last few sips before dessert.
It was so successful I made a followup date for Christmas where it was even better with the antipasti spread my brother put out, its crispness cleansing against the fat and salt of the salumi, able to stand up to the tang of sharp cheeses and pickled vegetables. Overtly grapey at first sniff, the aromas and flavors expanded to raspberry, cherry and plums, with touches of pleasantly bitter spices, finishing surprisingly dry for its up-front fruitiness. 87 points, non-blind.
The winery, in Emilia-Romagna, has been around since 1910 and makes several different Lambruscos. The Labrusca is Lini's basic line, made in the charmat method, with secondary fermentation in tanks, but some of the higher-priced wines are done in the metodo classico, in bottle. The rosso is made with Lambrusco Salamino, one of the most common of several varieties of the Lambrusco grape, with 10 percent Ancelotta, one of the permitted blending grapes, used for color and structure.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Lini Oreste & Figli Lambrusco Emilia Rosso Labrusca 910 NV (88 points, $16).