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Senior editor James Suckling joined Wine Spectator in 1981 and retired in 2010. As European bureau chief, he was based in Tuscany and tasted the wines of Italy, Bordeaux and Port.
James Suckling

A Surprisingly Good Sparkling Red from Italy

Cá de Noci Sottobosco 2007

James Suckling
Posted: January 27, 2010

I met up with my guitarist buddy Anthony Wilson a little while ago at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. Anthony went to see Avatar, which I had already seen and enjoyed a week before, so we met for a late dinner at the bar.

Anthony brought a bottle of sparkling red from near Réggio Emilia in Italy. I have to say that I am not a great fan of the sparkling wines of Emilia Romagna. In fact, I seldom taste Lambrusco. I find many of them taste like sparkling Kool-Aid!

Anyway, I was willing to try the sparkler. What are friends for? The 2007 Cá de Noci Sottobosco was really good. It was slightly effervescent, with aromas of crushed blackberries and mulberries. Full-bodied and fruity, it was dry and almost tannic in the mouthfeel, with a minerally, walnut husk sort of flavor on the finish. Very cool wine. I gave it 90 points, non-blind.

According to Cá de Noci’s website, the 2007 Sottobosco is made from four local red grape varieties: Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco di Montericco, Malbo Gentile and Sgavetta. The estate vineyards are all farmed organically. The juice is macerated for about 15 days on the skins. The secondary fermentation (by which the bubbles are produced) takes place in the bottle, and the wine—produced in a dry, frizzante style—is unfiltered.

To get more information about the winemaking, I phoned the enologist, Giovanni Masini. He said that the wine is actually made in the Lambrusco DOC, but that because they make it in an artisanal way and they re-ferment in the bottle instead of using the bulk charmat method, they don’t put the appellation on the label. “Most Lambruscos are just industrial products,” he said. “We don’t want to be associated with them.”

Anyway, the Sottobosco went so well with the plate of dried meats—including prosciutto di Parma, spicy salami and a smoky speck—we shared. The light bubbles and dry, fresh fruit just cut through the fat, cleaned our palates and made us ready for another bite. It also went well with a plate of creamy mozzarella and bacon. By the time we went next door for a pizza, the wine was already gone.

We tried a glass of a Lambrusco off the list, but it was made more in the slightly cloying, fruity style of the appellation. Cá de Noci’s Sottobosco was a much better wine, more serious in every way. If only it were easier to find. Annual production is around 200 cases, give or take depending on the year, and it sells at retail for about $22.

Mazzini’s closing words made me laugh. “Our Sottobosco is for people who normally don’t like Lambrusco,” he said. I told him that I couldn’t agree more!

Leonard Cupo M D
Honolulu, Hawaii —  January 27, 2010 8:41pm ET
I learned the Lambrusco lesson a couple of years ago during a visit to Emilia. I didn't understand how the Bolognesi and Modenesi of "Da Cesari" and "La Francescana" fame could drink Lambrusco with their world-class cuisine. So I asked the chefs.
They said they send all the purple, flabby Kool Aid to sweet-toothed Americans - and save the Cavicchioli, Chiarli, and Medici wines, full of fruit, flowers, and crisp acidity, for themselves.
Hope to see you in April at the Emilia Romagna pavillion during Vinitaly.
Jim Mason
St. John's —  April 13, 2010 11:55am ET
Hi James,
Masi is calling their 2006 Amarone the best vintage in the last 50 years. When can we expect a review of the 2006 Amarone? Also I'm dipping into my stash of 2000-01 Brunellos and they are drinking very well right now. How many more years can I expect this drinking window to remain open?

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