Lambrusco makes a comeback

Lambrusco is experiencing a revival in both London and New York, particularly with younger drinkers who aren’t burdened by the Italian sparkler’s negative connotations.

Chiarli owners Anselmo and Beatrice Pellini

“I’ve been delighted to see delicious evidence of its rebirth here in New York. Restaurants dedicated to the hearty, rich cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, like Via Emilia and Osteria Morini offer extensive lists of Lambruscos,” New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov said in a recent article in praise of Lambrusco.

“Five years ago, I would have been hard pressed to find a handful of Lambruscos in retail stores, now I can easily put my hands on a few dozen different bottles,” Asimov added.

Liz Nicholson, wine director at Roman trattoria Maialino in Gramercy Park, has also noticed a surge in demand for Lambrusco from young consumers.

“We actually have people coming in and asking for Lambrusco. Even if they don’t really know what it is, they’ve heard about it,” she said.

In a bid to boost its image, Banfi Vintners-owned Lambrusco producer Riunite, known for its catchy “Riunite on Ice” radio jingles during the ‘70s, recently launched a “Just Chill” ad campaign aimed at social media savvy young women.

In London meanwhile, Quo Vadis in Soho, South Kensington Mozzarella bar Obika and Michelin-starred Casamia in Bristol all have Emilia Romagna’s largest and oldest Lambrusco producer – Chiarli – on pour.

Owner Anselmo Pellini is passionate about changing consumer perceptions of Lambrusco.

“My big aim is to get Lambrusco taken seriously again as a wine. We take our winemaking very seriously and want to bring the quality message back,” Pellini told the drinks business.

“It’s a tough challenge as Lambrusco’s reputation was damaged so badly in the ‘70s and ‘80s with the cheap, low-alcohol versions sold in the UK and the US. Our wines are nothing like that, the majority are dry and around 11% abv,” he added.

A listing at three Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, voted the fifth best restaurant in the world at this year’s San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is helping to elevate Chiarli’s reputation.

“What many UK and US consumers don’t know is that Lambrusco secco can be drunk throughout a meal. It pairs incredibly well with grilled meat, pasta and cheese,” Pellini told db.

Ben Smith, communications manager at Enotria, has recently seen sales of Chiarli’s 100% Pignoletto, Modén Blanc Brut, soar in the UK.

“People are going bananas for it, the British public can’t get enough of it,” he told db.

“A lot of people think of Lambrusco as sweet, but the best examples are dry, clean and mouthwateringly refreshing.

“And at around £15 a bottle at the top end, they’re also incredibly good value,” Smith added.

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