Ever since we began working on the wine list at Rossoblu in Los Angeles, where I co-author the program, I’ve been fermenting my thoughts on how to explain to Italian wine lovers what Lambrusco really is. Between blog posts and a seminar I led the other day here in Houston, I felt like I’m getting closer to cracking the nut otherwise known as “the Lambrusco paradox.” And then, this morning at 6:01 a.m., this happened (below)…
Join me Tuesday evening, August 8 at Rossoblu where I’ll be leading my first Lambrusco tasting for the restaurant. Click here for details.
Emilia’s Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano are counted among the world’s most renowned and most coveted foods. And they are also one of the world’s greatest examples of terroir, the unique confluence of soil and climate that delivers expression of place. No matter how hard they try (and try they do!), no one beyond the southern banks of the Po River can reproduce the delicate, sweet character of Parma’s Prosciutto and the distinct crumbly texture and gently piquant flavor of Parmigiano Reggiano.
But when they reach for a wine to pair with these delicacies, the Emilians reach for one wine and one wine alone: Lambrusco. That’s partly because no wine pairs better with those noble foods than Lambrusco, made from the humble Lambrusco grape, which is grown side-by-side with the pigs and the cows that give the Emilians the materia prima for their unrivaled gastronomy.
But there’s another and perhaps more important reason why the Emilians so jealously and so zealously reach for their Lambrusco. Just like the Emilian people, whose joyful passion for good living is rivaled only by their appetite for great food, there is perhaps no wine more joyous than Lambrusco. After all, wouldn’t you be as happy if you were constantly surrounded by pigs and cows, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano?
The key to understanding the Lambrusco paradox — the world’s most noble food served canonically with its most humble wine — is wrapping your mind around the fact that Lambrusco is wine but it’s not fine wine. It’s not meant to be nuanced or structured. It’s not intended to be enjoyed for any refined nature. With its broad, bold strokes of aroma and flavor, it was conceived to express the expansive joy and happiness that the Emilians — arguably the world’s most sensually minded people — feel every day when they awake surrounded by their ham and cheese.
Ask the Emilians and they will invariably tell you that no, it’s not Sangiovese, Aglianico, or Nebbiolo that pair best with their beloved foods. It’s always and only Lambrusco, absolutely and undeniably the ideal match for their cuisine and the perfect antidote to all that is ostentatious and officious in life.
Pass the Lambrusco please, hold the fuss.