a very brief intro.

Beyond Emilia

By the early 80s “Lambrusco”, or more specifically, an industrial ‘for-export-only’ version, had become known as “the wine with the world’s worst reputation”.

However, unbeknownst to almost every wine drinker around the world, this reputation did not apply to genuine Lambrusco but only to industrial versions of Lambrusco that had been invented specifically for the US market by a handful of huge Lambrusco factories in 1965. Genuine Lambrusco (Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco, min. 11% alc.) has nothing in common with these industrial 4-9.5% alc. “dessert” wines.

“Sometimes the label will read: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco di Modena, or the name of some other town, but it’s all the same wine.”

The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine by E. Frank Henriques, 1975

Riunite and other major Lambrusco brands (Alberini, Calissano, Giacobazzi, Beccaro, Nicoli, Cella, Mazzoni) at that time had manged to convince millions of wine drinkers around the world that Lambrusco was a product that had much more in common with “fruit juice with alcohol” than with a real red wine. Of course, none of these big brands had an interest in educating consumers about authentic Lambrusco. By marketing a cheap sweet ‘proprietary export version’, a small number of big companies were able to monopolize every Lambrusco market around the world. Even Italians, living outside of Emilia and Mantova, got sold on the idea that Lambrusco was some cheap, sweet, 4-9.5% alc. red loaded with up to 90g/l sugar. It’s hard to believe, but most Italians (outside of E-R and MN) didn’t start to discover true Lambrusco, ‘Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco’ (min. 11% alc, max. 15 g/l sugar), until 2013!

On November 1st., 1985, the New York Times reported that some (industrial) Lambruscos in the USA had tested positive for tiny amounts of diethylene glycol, a poisonous chemical if consumed in large quantities. It had been (illegally) used to stop wines high in sugar from refermenting. The news marked the beginning of the end of ‘Lambrusco’. Any. Industrial and genuine. Almost “overnight” industrial Lambrusco sales in the USA collapsed from around 18 million to just around 2 million cases per year.

“Be wary of very cheap Lambrusco – under $2.”

The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine by E. Frank Henriques, 1975
($2.00 in 1975 had the same buying power as $9.30 in 2017)

Not, of course, in Emilia and Mantova. There, fine restaurants in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantova continued to serve their favorite local fizzy red wines proudly: ‘Lambrusco Rosso Frizzante Secco’ (min. 11% alc.) and ‘Lambrusco Rifermentazione Ancestrale’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner 24/7/365.

Ilife lambruscon September 1985, Nicolas Belfrage published a new wine book appropriately titled ‘Life beyond Lambrusco: Understanding Italian Fine Wine.’ Yes, any Lambrusco was dead as a doorknob outside of Emilia and Mantova and had become impossible to sell to importers, distributors, restaurants, retailers, and consumers.

In 1993 I met Alberto Medici of Medici Ermete, and he invited me to taste “what Emilians drink” at Vinitaly 1994. As a result, the very first 50 cases of genuine Lambrusco (1993 Concerto) were shipped “beyond Emilia” in 1994.

I was hooked on true Lambrusco, quality ‘Lambrusco Secco’ (min. 11% alc., twice fermented, non-pasteurized, not made from/with concentrates, not treated with Velcorin), and Emilia-Romagna.

The Lambrusco Revolution had officially begun. Beyond Emilia (and Mantova.)

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