The Lighter Side of Lambrusco (#ItalianFWT)

Lambrusco is a very misunderstood wine. Most people think of it as a sweet, fizzy red, but in reality, it’s made in a wide range of styles from sweet to dry, and dry is actually the more traditional style. Similarly, while it’s best known as a red wine, it comes in white and rosé styles as well. Today, we’re going to take a look at two bottles from these lesser-known camps – one rosé, or rosato since we’re talking about Italy, and one white, a blanc de noir.

Lambrusco is the name of the region in Emilia-Romagna the wine comes from, and it’s also the name of a whole family of grapes, rather than just one. Each one has its own distinctive personality ranging from aromatic and delicate to structured, deep, and dark. When I last took a look at a Lambrusco, it was an example at the deep end (check out that post for more background and details). The two bottles I’m exploring today come from the more aromatic grapes in the family.

Let’s jump into the light side.

Cantina Paltrinieri Radice Lambrusco di Sorbara 2019 with Chicken, Strawberry, and Nectarine Salad with Baked Goat Cheese

Blend: 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara | Price: $20 at K & L  | Alcohol: 11.5%

Lambrusco di Sorbara

Lambrusco di Sorbara is known as the most aromatic and elegant of all the Lambrusco varieties, with lots of floral notes and delicate fruit flavors. It’s also the lightest and often looks more like a rosato rather than a red wine, even when it’s not made in a rosato style. The grape is grown predominantly around Modena, and the DOC is situated to the north of that city near the village of Sorbara. 

According to DOC regulations, Lambrusco di Sorbara must make up at least 60% of the blend. Lambrusco Salamino can make up of 40% percent of the blend, and other Lambrusco subvarieties are also allowed to make up to 15% of the blend.

Cantina Paltrinieri

Cantina Paltrinieri is owned by Alberto Paltrinieri and his wife Barbara, the fourth generation to run the winery. It was begun in 1926 by Alberto’s grandfather Achille. Alberto took over in 1989 and created the first mono-mono-varietal Sorbara Lambrusco. Today, all but one of their bottling is made from 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara.

Image borrowed from .

They’re a quality-focused artisanal producer making only 20,000 bottles per year from 17 hectares located between the rivers Secchia and Panaro, which is considered to be the premier spot for this grape. They use sustainable and organic techniques for both their farming practices and production techniques although they’re not certified. (Occasionally, in particularly difficult vintages, they will use a little more copper on the vines than allowed by organic certifications.) The wines are made via indigenous yeast fermentations in stainless steel tanks, for the most part. 

Today’s wine, Radice (which means “root”) is an exception. This rosato with a beautiful salmon pink color is made in via the ancestral method. To make sparkling wine by this method, the first fermentation is halted, the wine is then bottled, and the secondary fermentation creates that lovely fizz then occurs in the bottle. (To read more about this method, check out Around the World Pét-Nat Party!) In this case, free-run Lambrusco di Sorbara juice is vinified with no skin contact. The wine is bottled and ferments in the bottle with native yeast. The resulting wine remains on the lees and is not disgorged, so you will likely find sediment in the bottle. Find more details on the winemaking here and here.

Tasting Notes: This wine always tastes like a spring day to me. Slightly green strawberries, tangerine skin, white peach, and watermelon rind are accompanied by a bouquet of wildflowers and herbs on the nose. The fruit notes return at the front of the palate with a hint of sweetness to round the mouthfeel, but then fades into a more tart fruit character laced with the savory herbs and flowers on the finish. There’s lots of acidity here to make your mouth water and refresh your palate.

Pairing: With the days starting to warm up and beautiful produce available at the farmers market near me, I decided to revisit a salad I’d made for an 8 & 20 years ago with strawberries and baked goat cheese, although I tweaked a couple of things and made a couple of additions. I had leftover roast chicken around, so I decided to use that in place of the turkey I used in the original recipe. I was excited to see peaches and nectarines at the market and thought that would also work with the wine, so I grilled them up and added them in. Instead of regular balsamic vinegar, I used a white balsamic vinegar I found at trader joes. This gained a beautiful pink color once I added strawberries to macerate in it. I tossed in a few sprigs of oregano into the vinegar as well as an afterthought, and it proved to be a key move. The flavor came through even more than I’d expected and really resonated with the herbal notes in the wine. I added a biscuit on the side, because why not?!

The wine paired beautifully with this version of the salad. The wine became crisper alongside the sweet fruit, but the hint of sweetness in the wine was just enough to allow it to hold its own against the fruit. The balsamic vinaigrette, oregano, goat cheese, and greens, all helped to balance out the flavors and spoke to the wine’s more savory notes. Just lovely!

I will quickly mention that I’ve also had Paltrinieri L’Eclisse and also enjoyed it very much.

Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Bianco NV with Sushi

Blend: 100% Lambrusco Salamino | Price: $14.99 at K&L | Alcohol: 11%

Lambrusco Salamino

Lambrusco Salamino blends some of the best qualities of other Lambrusco grapes. It’s known for having the aromatic qualities of Lambrusco di Sorbara, along with the structure, creamy mouthfeel, and deep color of Lambrusco Grasparossa – although today’s wine skips color altogether. The grape gets its name from the long, compact cylindrical shape of its grape bunches, making them reminiscent of salami. And why not?! Lambrusco and salami make a fantastic match together.

Lini 910

The 910 here stands for the year Lini was founded – 1910. Oreste Lini established his operation in Corregio, in the heart of Emilia, making both wine and balsamic vinegar. It continues to be a family business and with over 100 years under their belts, they’re now in their fourth generation. 

Image borrowed from Lini 910's website.

They make wines in both the Charmat/Martinotti method (the way most Prosecco is made) and in the Metodo Classico (the way Champagne is made). They were one of the first to make Lambrusco in this way, and they put years of research into doing so. The family is known for making their wines artisanal fashion with a trademark style that displays beautiful freshness and a classic dry character. Their wines undergo long second fermentations, and are held for longer than is typical so as to allow the bubbles to incorporate more completely into the wine. I wasn’t able to find much on their farming practices other than that they have long-standing relationships with their growers. 

Their Labrusca Lambrusco Bianco in made via the Charmat method using Lambrusco Salamino grapes. The juice sees no contact with the skins, so it doesn’t get any color. The wine is then aged for three to four months in pressurized tanks and left in contact with the lees for added complexity and texture. Find more details on the wine here.

Tasting Notes: Pears, yellow plums, and almond paste greet you on the nose. Peaches and lemons join in on the palate along with white flowers, and blanched, salted almonds with a creamy mousse. It drinks a lot like a Prosecco, but it isn't quite as aromatic and with more savory notes mixed in with the fruit. It's simple, but lively and refreshing.

Pairing: When we lived in New York, I’d buy this wine often to pair with sushi. I haven’t seen it as often out here in the Bay Area, so grabbed a bottle when I saw it recently at K&L. I decided to stick with tradition and popped the bottle open with sushi takeout and was happy with the decision once again. The combination of delicate fruit, almond, and creamy mousse worked easily with pretty much all the sushi.

Both of these bottles are ideal for sunny weather and perfect for getting to know the lighter side of this family of grapes. 

And ff you want to better get to know Italian sparkling wine, check out The Wide World of Italian Bubblies.

The rest of the Italian Food, Wine, Travel (#ItalianFWT) is exploring Lambrusco this month. Check out their posts here:

Additional sources used for this post and extra reading:



  1. Great pairings. Perfect for a dry sparkling Rosato.

  2. I had such a good time reading through your post and clicking on all of your links and reading those. It's great you focused on rose and white styles of Lambrusco. So many people dismiss these wines because of negative associations from days gone by. I also love that you always look at how wines are made in the cellar and in the vineyard. Lastly, such fun pairings, strawberries are perfect with Lambrusco, in foods and on their own. Cheers to you and your 8 & $20 columns of the past and pizzas of today. Susannah

    1. Thanks so much Susannah! I really appreciated all of your feedback. And I completely agree, too many people dismiss these wines due to past associations.

  3. OMG, your tasting notes have me swooning. These wines are so different from the frothy purple Lambrusco that you typically think of, not that I don't love that too!
    Your salad is down-right stunning. I need to look ingredients to create something similar!

    1. Thanks Robin. I have to say that this salad reminded me just how satisfying a salad can be!

  4. I LOVE this post, Nicole. I have grown quite enamored with the white and rose styles of Lambrusco. So elegant.

  5. What a coincidence that I paired a rosato and the Lini bianco lambrusco as well! :) I didn't think to pair it with sushi but now you have me thinking about soy sauce and this wine and possibly Prosecco? That salad looks so mouthwatering and inventive too. Reminds me of a savory strawberry shortcake with the biscuit and goat cheese instead of whipped cream. I could eat those all summer and with lambrusco...which I just might have to do! Love these pairings!

    1. Thanks Deanna. And yeah, I like Prosecco with sushi as well.

  6. I love the Lini 910 wines and we get them here in Minnesota. I'm intrigued with the Paltrinieri, though, and will need to search it out.

    1. It's a delightful wine and I'd absolutely grab it if you see it! Thanks Jeff

  7. I had the Paltrinieri and other smaller producer bottles in my cart at an online merchant only to find they don't ship to France. Now I know I need to keep searching, and I'd like to try it with sushi!


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!