BACK IN FASHION
Newly reinvigorated, today’s lambrusco is a far cry from the sickly-sweet version you may remember, explains Mike Bennie.
“EVERYTHING OLD IS new again,” runs the saying. I’m not slipping into some flares, but with wine, perhaps fashion is cyclical. “We’ve seen a huge reinvigoration in people’s interest in lambrusco,” says award-winning wine professional James Hird of Sydney’s Dolphin Hotel and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.
The cheap, bubbly lambrusco of sickly sweetness is a not-so-distant memory. But the expert consensus is that the style has been poorly represented.
“It’s not all about these ultra-simple, boring, horribly sweet-sour, big-bubble wines,” says Piero Tantini of Godot Wine Imports. “There is an incredible range of styles, representing some really interesting indigenous grape varieties, from artisan producers who really care.”
“It’s the most underrated wine style on the planet,” says Hird, who likes its versatility with food, from Southeast Asian spice through to more traditional red sauce pastas or simple-done-well pizzas. “Most importantly,” he adds, “it’s incredibly delicious on its own – full of crunchy red berry-cherry character. Best examples are bone dry and savoury, and the zippy acidity is massively refreshing.”
“We see it as an ultimate aperitivo,” says Giovanni Paradiso of Sydney wine bar 10 William Street. “Beyond this, most of the great examples are from organic farms, produced without additives.”
So why did lambrusco fall from favour? It seems that mass-market versions ended up fatiguing drinkers, with alternative sparklings, including light, fresh prosecco and affordable Australian fizz, usurping the once widely popular Italian wine.
These days we’re privileged to see a breadth of types, including Australiangrown examples, alongside those from canny importers. These wines sit well with our Australian sense of fun and enjoyment of drinking al fresco, alongside seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. Lambrusco ticks all these boxes, and more.