Lambrusco(s)- The Star(s) of Emilia-Romagna (#ItalianFWT)

Lambrusco, the main family of red grapes from the Emilia side of Emilia-Romagna, is gaining in trend and popularity. Even five years ago, no one had even heard of Lambrusco, let alone be drinking it!

Now, the family is gaining a lot of noteriety, and more people are asking for lambrusco wine when they shop! The question is: what lambrusco are you looking for? To say just lambrusco, is technically wrong. There are 17 different grapes with the name lambrusco, and when we talk about the lambrusco family, there are five main ones we talk about, and/or are available in many markets. From lightest to darkest:

Lambruso di Sorbara⇒Lambrusco Marani⇒Lambrusco Salomino⇒Lambrusco Grasparossa⇒Lambrusco Maestri

Being a family of grapes means they are all related. There is nowhere else in Italy where these grapes are grown other than in Emilia, so these grapes are truly autochothonous! They are traditionally made with the Martinotti method (tank) to obtain the bubbles, but more and more producers are making traditional method and even Metodo Ancestrale to make lambrusco.

Perhaps the most famous lambrusco to be seen in market is the Lambruso di Sorbara – the lightest of all the lambrusco, it delivers a pink, sometimes pale pink wine that has mouth scrubbing acidity and crunchy red fruit flavours like cranberry and red currant. This particular di Sorbara from Medici Ermete

was made in the Metodo Ancestrale Style – dry and full spumante, there’s also hints of vanilla and brioche to make this a full flavoured wine! Pair this with Gnocco Fritto – not gnocchi, the potato pasta, but rather “pillows of goodness” in the form of fried bread that is served warm, and then topped with prosciutto. The fat on the prosciutto melts, fold it in half then pop it in your mouth! You will NOT regret having Gnocco Fritto! Yum!

Lambrusco Salamino is named such because the bunches are shaped like salumi, a favourite meat of Italy. It is always planted in the same vineyards as di Sorbara because the di Sorbara vines are hermaphroditic; meaning they have both male and female flowers (but functions as a female) so they need another pollinating source in order to ripen. That’s Salamino’s job, so it’s quite a great match! Salamino strikes the balance between the elegance of di Sorbara and the power and tannic nature of the Grasparossa.

Lambrusco Marani is very rare and not seen in many markets. In fact, plantings are decreasing in favour of Lambrusco Maestri. The wines are very floral in nature, also with extremely high acidity. The colour is darker than di Sorbara, but lighter than Salamino.

Lambrusco Maestri is deep purple, frothy and tannic and gives the fruitiest, creamiest, and most complex wines with unique aromas and flavours of milk chocolate and bubblegum! I’ve tasted only a couple of these and it’s indeed the profile! I’m working hard on getting some importers to bring some Maestri into the Western Canadian market because I think they would be really popular! They are extremely quaffable, and I am 100% convinced the public would love this particular lambrusco!

Last, but certainly not least, is Lambrusco Grasparossa – considered to be the highest quality by many in Italy, the inky purple, frothy, tannic, creamy dry lambrusco has tons of black cherry, blackberry and lots of violet aromas and flavours.  The great match here? Tagliatelle of course! The long pasta with a bolognese sauce full of pork meat is perfect  for this dry tannic wine!

A serving of tagliatelle with freshly grated parmagiano reggiano cheese. Divine!

The Tenuta Pederzana Grasparossa organic lambrusco called Cantolibero is from the Castelvetro DOC and is made without the use of any sulphites making it a wine that many would approve of. Dark fruits, aromatic herbs and fleshy tannins make this a perfect match for that rich tomato and meat sauce of a tagliatelle and bolognese!

Interested in knowing more about the Lambrusco family? Check out my collegues of #ItalianFWT and learn more!

**(Please note: All photos of food and wine was from my trip to Emilia-Romagna – aka “Lambrusco Land” 🙂 in April, 2018)

  • Camilla from the Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be featuring “Every Wine Deserves a Second Look: Warmed Brie with Mulberry Chutney + Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena 2018”
  • Jill at L’Occasion shares “La Collina Biodynamic Bubbles — Lambrusco!
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm highlights “Lambrusco? Really??”
  • Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen will showcase “Top 5 Fast Food Pairings with Lambrusco”
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click will share “Lambrusco Shines with Red Fizz and Fun”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences will feature “Italian Old-School Classics: Easy Drinking Lambrusco with Spicy Vegetarian Pensa Romana”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass will be sharing “Drinking Lambrusco in Strawberry Season”
  • Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings  is focused on “Picnicking with Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco”
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish will be sharing “Revisiting Lambrusco with Francesco Vezzelli Rive dei Ciliegi”
  • Nicole with Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Pezzuoli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro with Antipasto Pizza”
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator will be showcasing “Bugno Martino’s Organic Lambrusco Defy Expectations”
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be featuring “Sparkling Lambrusco from Vitivinicola Rota”
  • Host Jennifer of Vino Travels shares “Over 150 years of Dedication to Lambrusco with Cleto Chiarli”

Salute! And may all your lambrusco(s) be enjoyable!

Posted in Joy of Wine, Varietals, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

For Such a Time as This

The last two months have been a bit of a whirlwind with two trips to Italy in a month and a half, a job layoff, and now figuring out what to do next in my life. Well, I find myself with some time so might as well write…right? After returning from Italy after my first trip which consisted of judging at 5 star wines, then the organized chaos of Vinitaly, I discovered that my hours and wage would be cut at my full time job as store manager and wine buyer. Clearly, it’s much more complicated than that, but after further conversation, I discovered that those who invested in the store didn’t want me there anymore. Decision made: take the layoff. Off to Italy again, just two weeks ago, with a chance to learn further with the larger-than-life Ian D’Agata. And learn I did. After a flurry of three day learning, I came away with the 3iC Educator designation (3iC stands for Italian Indigenous international), which is D’Agata’s new school). I had to come back to three more slightly awkward days at the store knowing I was done, but not trying to make it awkward for the customers either.

Yesterday was the final day in the store with the completion of the Spring Open House – one of three large store events I always plan and execute every year at the store. It was bittersweet. Now, I’m officially done, going my own way, or not sure which way I’m going. Summer might be a time of relaxation and reflection as I contemplate my next moves.

I always seem to have some sort of excuse as to why I can’t (or don’t write). I guess I have no excuse now, rather all the time in the world to learn and experience new things and in time, hopefully find the next great thing.

Spritz! Some summer writing inspiration!

As I write, my daughter sits next to me on her computer studying, as she is in her last year of University studying to be a nurse. She is not taking a break, but going straight though the summer in order to finish by Christmas. Brave she is. So her tenacity is inspiring me to write this post and get it out there before it becomes older than me.

What I will miss most is tasting new product and getting my hands on some of the new Italian native grapes that have made their way into wine bottles and into the market. I have great working relationships with all the reps with whom I bought from, so I know that if I ask them to taste something new, they will accommodate me. I’ll miss the camaraderie with my customers and showing them what’s new and unique. But I will forge new customer relationships and that is always exciting!

Many of my readers are not religious or spiritual (and that’s ok!) but I am, and I get great inspiration from the Bible, along with some very great verses (think of them as quotes). There’s two books of the Bible that are named after women – Esther and Ruth. Ruth is the story of a daughter-in-law who makes a decision not to leave her mother-in-law, even though by every accounts she could. They stay together and Ruth ends up marrying a guy named Boaz and becoming the grandmother of the Great King David. I love both of these books, but my favourite is Esther:

Esther, the young Jewish girl originally named Hadassah, who on her Uncle Mordecai’s advice, presents herself as one of the thousands of young virgins to be considered as the next wife to the very powerful King Xerxes of Persia. Mordecai was raising Esther since both her parents had died. As Mordecai is encouraging in this venture, he also advised that she not say anything about being Jewish. Esther was very beautiful and decided against many of the beauty treatments that the other girls were getting. In fact, the dude in charge of the harem was rather fond of Esther and when she asked him for suggestions on how she should present herself to the King, she listened. When it was her turn to meet the King, he was “so delighted with her”, he put the crown on her head and declared her queen. Long live Queen Esther.

Meanwhile, Mordecai was watching from the outside, to keep an eye on Esther and make sure everything was ok. He even uncovered an assassination attempt on Xerxes, reported to Esther who in turn let the king know what was going on. Mordecai was made to be a hero and acknowledged as such. This didn’t make Haman, a very high official in Xerxes court very happy. In fact, Haman hated Jews, and made it his mission to eliminate them at every turn. He liked being in a position of power, and quite frankly, abused that power. Haman devised a plan to get rid of the Jews, and take all their money (which would allow him to get rid of Mordecai too) and went to the king with his plan. The King, of course, agreed, because they always leave decisions to their high ranking officials right? But of course the King didn’t even realize his own wife was a Jew. This was not good…Esther’s people annhilated and slaughtered? What could she do? Mordecai came to her with this dilemma and told her as queen, she needed to go to the king, beg for mercy and plead for the people. But her dilemma: If she approached the king without being summoned or invited, she’d be killed. Whoa…that’s harsh. But perhaps one of my favourite verses (quotes) of the Bible is Mordecai’s reply to Esther saying she could die by approaching the king:

Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all the other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?– Esther 4: 14 (New Living Translation)

For such a time as this. Powerful words that mean something. When one door closes, another opens, when a door closes, a window opens, a gate opens…whatever you want to say, it’s true. There’s always something around the next corner, and I heard this week too, that sometimes it’s important to wait for things to come to you, rather than go looking for things. I’m talented, I’m educated and I know a lot about wine. I’m also personable and friendly. Such a time as this…I don’t know what that necessarily means right now, but I’m willing to wait and find out. I’ve had a whole lot of great affirmation from people I’ve worked with from in the industry and taking the summer off would not be a bad thing! I’ll still write, pour, taste, judge…keep my palate attuned! It would be easy (and still is sometimes) to get down on myself and feel sorry for myself. I mean, I thought I’d end my career at this store…I wasn’t looking for anything else.

Plus to add to all that, in 9 days…I turn 50! Ack! As much as I try to avoid it, it’s going to happen, so I’ve decided to embrace it and celebrate…with some good wine and good friends!

One of my offices for the summer? 😀

Oh by the way, waiting for the rest of the story? After some time to think and pray, Esther forgets that she could potentionally be walking to her death, rather presents herself to King Xerxes. He’s pretty smitten with her, so he holds out his sceptre (which means she won’t be killed). He asks what she wants, and instead of coming right out to say what she wants, she has developed a plan: serve food and wine to both the king and Haman, THEN tell the king about her heritage! (There’s just something about food and wine, right?) She does this for not one night, but two. On night two, she lays it all on the line and tells the King to PLEASE not kill her or her people. Xerxes is puzzled and can’t help but ask who would even want to do such a thing! She replies that the wicked Haman (who turns completely white when he hears this news) is to blame, and in a rage, the king takes a moment in the garden to think and compose himself. Haman, trying to defend himself, sits next to Esther on the couch to beg and plead for his life. Well, that was a mistake, because when the king returned to find Haman on the couch next to his wife, he lost it. Haman was killed, the Jews were spared, Mordecai was honoured, and the Jews celebrated with a feast (more food and wine!) Esther’s name would go down in history! (all paraphrasing in the story is mine, but taken from the book of Esther in the Bible)

For such a time as this…meaning everything happens for a reason. If I never believed it before, I totally do now. Here’s to the next great thing! Salute!

(NOTE:  There have been some movies made and novels written about Queen Esther. If you’re curious, check out your local library)

Posted in Personal Stories, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Power of Sagrantino- #ItalianFWT

Talking about native grapes of Italy is probably one of my favourite things to do! For this month’s #ItalianFWT, we travel to Umbria, Italy’s only landlocked region. it doesn’t need water to make it great though! One of the few Trebbiani of importance lives here – Trebbiano Spoletino, then there is the grapes of Orvieto; and then the big boy – Sagrantino. The home for this grape is Montefalco, located between Perugia and Spoleto in Umbria. Traditionally, the grapes were dried to produce sweet wines, but today made into a dry, tannic beast, yet the tannins are lively, smooth and polished. It is one of three highly tannic grapes in all of Italy. In fact, one could argue it is the most tannic of any Italian grape. Pignolo, from Friuli Venezia-Giulia is an up and coming tannic red grape from a region where white grapes rule, and Lagrein from Alto Adige is bold and tannic, but with dark fruit berry nuances, the tannins don’t seem as noticeable. Sagrantino on the other hand, takes at least 10 years to settle down, meaning you don’t want to drink these wines young! These wines were traditionally called Sagrantino Montefalco, but recently the named changed to the reverse: Montefalco Sagrantino to highlight the DOCG area of Montefalco in Umbria.

Giampaolo Tabarrini comes from four generations of a family run winery. Because each bottle bears his name, he is committed to only wines of outstanding quality. The family has 17.8 hectares under vine and they produce 77,000 bottles of Sagrantino each year. Tabarrini is the only Umbrian winery to produce, age and bottle three different vineyards of sagrantino separately. And because the grape is so highly tannic, they keep them around for awhile before release: three years in large casks, then an additional 18 months in bottle to settle down before heading off to market. Make no mistake though, these wines are expensive as the quality producers are few and far between. Tabarrini sells for around CAD $59.

The 2013 Colle Grimalsdesco Montefalco Sagrantino is one of the three (single vineyards) that I happen to have myself here at the store. I decided to experiment with this wine before trying with food to open it and taste over a period of 3-4 days. I first opened this wine on Tuesday and found aromas of mulberry, plum, smoke and ash with more of the same on the palate along with the addition of sage, huge minerality and chalky, robust tannins that coated my teeth, my cheeks and the roof of my mouth! Finished clean with a lasting flavour.



Friday…sagrantino just goes on forever! Time to add the food! I’m a sucker for a great burger and barbecuing in -20C would normally be a deterrent, but a little weather was not going to stop me and besides, I already told our friends who joined us, that it was happening! In my humble opinion, I make a mean beef burger, and when loaded with guacamole bacon, sauteed onions and mushrooms, fresh pickles and cilantro, it’s a force to be reckoned with. Add a side of fries and arugula salad and you’ve got a meal fit for a king! Slide over a glass of sagrantino and the meal is complete!

Want to learn more about Umbria and Sagrantino? Check out my colleagues blog posts on the topic and fine your powerful wine!

  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Buridda for Befana + Còlpetrone 2011 Montefalco Sagrantino”
  • Jill from L’Occasion shares “Azienda Agricola Fongoli: Making Natural Wine In Umbria
  • Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “A Biodynamic Expression of Sagrantino in Umbria”
  • Susannah Gold from Avvinare shares something good….
  • Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Antonelli San Marco: Umbria’s Wine History in a Glass”
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “Italy’s Finest Wine At A Great Price
  • Giselle from Gusto Wine Tours (in Umbria!) shares “#ItalianFWT – Sagrantino For The Win(e)”
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares her thoughts on a recently found bottle of wine
  • Jennifer from Vino Travels Italy shares “Lawyers to Winemaking with Antonelli San Marco”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click! shares “Montefalco Sagrantino on a Cold Winter’s Night”

Mmm…sagrantino. If you get the chance to find one, be prepared to nurse it over a few days as I did. want something more easily quaffable now? Try the Montefalco Rosso – with only 15% sagrantino, it’s calmed down considerably and a freshness and juiciness is brought to the blend with the bulk of the rosso having sangiovese in it. Salute!

Posted in Education, Joy of Wine, Varietals, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

So this is 2019…

Happy New Year!

This is a wine blog, but I don’t consider myself a “wine blogger”. I don’t receive “free samples” to write about (mostly because our laws pretty much prohibit that), I have to rely on importers/distributors to bring in the latest, greatest exciting wines, and if they’re made with Italian native grapes, well that’s even better! I certainly don’t post regularly (or as much as I should). Life keeps moving on, and then I find a month gone by without a new post!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about 2019. Mostly because it’s the year where I have a rather significant birthday approaching in just six short months. I always thought I was ok with it, but lately I’ve been thinking about it with mixed emotions. When I turned 40, I embraced it wholeheartedly. My whole attitude was “bring it on”. To be fair, I’ve accomplished a lot in 10 years… (and there it is…you know how old I will be!) I finished my WSET diploma, became a manager and buyer of a boutique wine store, traveled to Italy several times and obtained an expert designation in Italian grapes/wine, a harvest internship in South Africa, other family trips with my husband &/or daughters, watched both my daughters graduate from high school and enter University, visit with my extended family several times, and much, much more!

Life is too short to drink bad wine…so this year, I’m going to be a lot more discerning about what I drink; ie what I actually swallow! January is a I’m-limiting-my-wine-intake-month…time to detox from the Christmas season of events, get-togethers, and just a lot of wine consumed, typically on a daily basis. This will not be easy for me, but I will be taking the time to look at the wines I DO have in my wine rack and in my save-for-much-later wine fridge. No bubbly…of ANY kind, no Italian reds and no Aperol spritz’s. *Sigh* Tea will become my new best friend! More time to write about wine without actually tasting it! Perhaps from a terroir, or location perspective?

It’s all good though, because January will be my month to study Italian, and I mean deeply study it. Podcasts, television shows (you can learn a lot from other language soap operas!), radio, reading, book work, reviewing verbs, and most importantly…speaking, until I get to the point where my face doesn’t turn beet red or I don’t get a blockage in my throat because I’m too afraid to say anything, lest I make a mistake!  But as they say…how you learn is by making mistakes. So 2019 will be a year of mistakes! Haha!

So learning Italian will be a big thing for 2019. Another big thing will be getting stuff paid off…good grief, this is the time of life where things are supposed to be easier! Kids are staying home longer (not like back in the day when WE left home at 18…), things are more expensive and there’s always “just one more thing”. You know how it goes. Along with a I’m-limiting-my-wine-intake-month in January comes a moratorium on wine. That’s right! No buying wine either! That will actually be easier than not consuming it!


When it does get to the big day, I’ll look forward to drinking this Montepulciano

d’Abruzzo, (a magnum with a stunning leather label) along with other gems I might find along the way! So, in six months, I’ll write another post after the big day and write an update to feature some of the outstanding wine that I was able to taste! (But I WILL post others before that!) Buon Anno e Salute!


Posted in Joy of Wine, Personal Stories, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

For The Love of Champagne

There’s this lure about Champagne; she seduces us with her fine bubbles, her lineage, her cache, chicness, and sometimes, that je ne sais quoi.

Somm’s adore her…in fact there’s not one wine professional out there who I know that doesn’t love champagne. For me, it was never the first thing I would reach for when I had company, or to serve for that special occasion. In my diploma days, where I shone through the fortified section, I struggled with the sparkling. Cava, Franciocorta, Champagne and other sparklers were my nemesis and finding those special nuances to tell one apart from the other usually escaped me.  Or distinguishing what grapes make up the majority of the blend! Ugh! Although I passed the sparkling section, I never got to the point where I loved champagne, and didn’t I need a reason to serve it, or have it. As time passed, I realized that you never need a reason to serve, taste or drink champagne!

As of late, I’ve been spoiled because distributors are bringing out the bubbles to try to sell to us retailers, so I’ve been tasting a lot. And over time, I’ve come to be actually call out what the major grapes are! Meunier brings fruitiness to the blend, chardonnay will have that chalky, citrus, granite note, and pinot noir gives structure and body. Hmm…what’s happening here?  🙂 And I’ve discovered, that I prefer blanc de noir rather than blanc de blanc! I like the structured champagnes with the added fruitiness, with only a bit of that chalky limestone!

Then there’s my friend and our daily customer to ‘The Church of Hicks’ who loves champagne and also is more than happy to share with me a bottle (or two) with me! In fact, it was his 70th birthday, where I had the Krug Grand Cuvee. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing stuff…but I’m rather fond of grower champagne.

In the past, the small growers or families would supply their grapes to the big Champagne Houses like Bollinger, Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger…just to name a few. Now, we are seeing more of the growers making their own bubbles and doing a mighty fine job of it!

Champagne Lombard is in the heart of Epernay, and this family only uses the finest grapes in their cuvees. The extra brut is super dry with only 4 g/L of residual sugar, and the blend is 40% chardonnay, 40% meunier and 20% pinot noir, all from their premier cru sites. Amazing champagne with notes of lemon curd, brioche, crimini mushroom, toasted nuts – those beautiful notes that make champagne champagne! Alas, this was the last bottle and there is no more available in the province to order!

Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart is three generations of winemaking starting with husband and wife team Marcel Ployez and Yvonne Jacquemart in 1930. They work with the three main grapes of champagne in their premier and grand cru vineyards. The Extra Brut Passion has only 3 g/L RS with 44% pinot noir, 38% chardonnay and 18% meunier – another Blanc de Noir. Dryer than the Lombard, but more fruit up front with green apple and lemon-lime, biscuit and even hints of red berries! Fine, persistent bubble with a flavourful finish! Great price too at $68.95 on the shelf!

Champagne Collet started its life as a cooperative called Cogevi. In 1930, we see the wines taking on the name of the director of the company, Raoul Collet and the company making a major move to Ay, one of the villages at the heart of Champagne. Today, the modern technology combined with the historical significance of the Cogevi brand, has earned it great respect amongst champagne houses. It is still a cooperative, but their flagship brand is Champagne Collet. In 2021, they will celebrate their 100th anniversary! I had the opportunity to try both the brut, and the Vintage 2008! Meunier vs Chardonnay definitely at play here! Again, the brut was more fruit forward with 50% Meunier, 15-20% chardonnay and 15-20% pinot noir. Lots of toasted brioche with lemon lime. The vintage brut really kicked it up several notches with my nose and palate detecting more chardonnay. All that mineral chalkyness with smoke, flint and brioche coming through the 66% chardonnay, with beautiful structure coming through, and the 34% pinot noir adding toasted nuts and further complexity to the blend. The brut is $61.95 and the Vintage 2008 around $100/bottle. My dilemma will be which wine to order!

Some very famous people had some great things to say about champagne!

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right!” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life” – Charles Dickens

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!” – Sir Winston Churchill

And of course…

“I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.” –Lily Bollinger, former manager of the Bollinger Champagne house

I bet now your next bottle of champagne will be extra special! Santé!



Posted in Tasting, Varietals, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment