Lambrusco is both a grape — a family of grapes really — and a wine zone mainly in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, with a small part crossing the border into Lombardy. Out of the 60 or so grapes in the family 4 are of superior quality but the grape that concerns us today is Sorbara.
But first a farm: Gianluca Bergianti founded his 35 hectare farm (1 hectare equals 2.47 acres) in 2008. A farm, it is, with vegetables, fruit trees, herb gardens, cereal fields, and well, grapes. I've written about one of his wines before, a sparkling white named 'Steve', and am sure to write about others in the future as they are simply definitive. It is an integrated polycultural farm run biodynamically as a whole living ecosystem. Gianluca makes a range of wines, both still and sparkling, utilizing different grapes from his farm.
However, the grapes used in Stiolorosso Lambrusco are from a farm named Casalpriore owned by his erstwhile friend and mentor Gabriele Ronzoni nearby in Reggio Emilia. Gabriele was a farmer and local historian who made the indelible Stiolorosso Lambrusco for 3 decades. Upon his death in 2019 Gianluca was given access to his vineyard and now produces Gabriele's Stiolorosso Lambrusco like his mentor, traditionally; farming naturally, employing no cellar intervention, producing the second fermentation in bottle using his own grape — leading to a wine that feels more like a funky champagne than most technical "produced" Lambruscos.
Perhaps no other style of wine encapsulates the modern drinking zeitgeist as Lambrusco. It is fir tasty, even in its simpler forms. Like coffee, coleslaw, and love making, even when it's bad, it's pretty freaking good. It demonstrates an immediacy, a generosity, an ease of use and is complementary to any food you can throw at it. I do mean any, whether a well-composed meal or a can of anchovies - a beautifully senseless pairing that just works.
Most Lambrusco these days are made in an autoclave, a stainless steel vessel where wine undergoes a secondary fermentation under controlled conditions and exact proportions of yeast and if need be sugar. This version produces a tasty straightforward wine that is (should be) budget friendly as well as consistent with soda pop vivaciousness and charm. Gianluca's Stiolorosso is reliably preindustrial and intense, lively and profound. Employing in-bottle secondary fermentation and conditioning that enables the wine to exhibit wild, nuanced, and brooding flavors both expressive and subtle, reticent and tightly-wound, but with energy and momentum whose organoleptic qualities echo an earlier time without market consideration but of village life when wines were made to complement the foods of the zone.
Emilia-Romagna being the nexus of north and south, olive oil and butter, pasta and rice and the Po River Valley being the breadbasket of the country with such iconic foods as mortadella, bolognese, tortellini, prosciutto, and parmesan cheese it can be argued that the region's wines need to be the most dynamic and open hearted with a primal deliciousness and digestibility at their core. That's not to say the wine is important - it isn't, but it has a direct line to my sense of joy. What the hell is more important than that?