Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Loving Lambrusco: 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce

Confession Time: Back during my college years, one of my favorite wines was Riunite Lambrusco, which was fruity and sweet. At the time, it was extremely popular and I didn't know much about wine. Flash forward to the present, and Lambrusco is being highlighted in the media, though it isn't Riunite that is receiving all the attention. Instead, there are a number of producers, mostly in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, producing a diversity of intriguing and delicious Lambrusco wines,  much more serious than Riunite.

Lambrusco is both the name of the grape as well as the wine made from that grape. However, there are actually a number of varieties of the Lambrusco grape, such as Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri, and Lambrusco Marani. It is an ancient grape, extending back to a vine that was known to the Romans as labrusca. In recent years, I've enjoyed a few Lambrusco wines, though I haven't seen many available locally. Very recently though, I thoroughly enjoyed a Lambrusco that was new to me and it certainly set a benchmark for future Lambrusco wines I'll taste.

At Sips of Summer: A Wine Tasting With Adam Japko, organized by ASID New England and New England Home Magazine, Adam selected five excellent wines to pair with various foods. The opening wine for the event was the 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce ($18.99), and it hit a home run. It was an amazing wine, sure to thrill and excite any wine lover. And at this price point, it is a very good value as well.

The Vignetti Saetti Winery was established almost twenty years ago, in 1998, by Luciano Saetti, whose first career was as an egg distributor. Actually, in 1964, his family planted the original vines, farming organically, though they sold off most of their grapes. Luciano has continued the organic practices, including acquiring organic certification. His small vineyard, located in the Santa Croce appellation of Emilia-Romagna, consists of only about 2.8 hectares.

Luciano planted the Lambrusco variety of Salamino di Santa Croce, which received its name because its bunches are more cylindrical, reminding you of the shape of a salami. This variety is more thick-skinned, darker-colored and higher in acidity than other Lambrusco varieties. Besides embracing organic grapes, Luciano also uses only native yeasts and doesn't add any sulphur to his wines. Thus, many people will consider his wines to be natural.

Most Lambrusco wines are produced with the Charmat method, undergoing a secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank. However, Luciano decided that the secondary fermentation for his wines should occur in the bottle, more like the méthode champenoise. The bottles are also riddled and disgorged by hand, making Luciano's choice the more laborious and time consuming. However, it is clear he believes his wine is better because of those choices.

The 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce is produced from 100% Salamino di Santa Croce, from 40+ year old organic vines. The wine is a deep, almost purple color, with an alluring aroma of berries, violets, mild spices, and a hint of earthiness. On the palate, it has a creamy effervescence, with enticing, dry and juicy flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and ripe plum, with an underlying earthiness and mild spice notes. The tannins are well-integrated, the acidity is strong, and the finish is lengthy and pleasing. Although a number of sulphur-free wines possess a certain funkiness, this wine lacked that quality. It was easy drinking but with plenty of complexity, the type of addictive wine which you'll likely finish the entire bottle before you know it.

This wine is so far from Riunite Lambrusco! Get over your preconceptions about Lambrusco and pick up a bottle of this wine. It is an excellent value and is also very food friendly, from pasta to burgers. It would also be a great choice for the summer, as well as the fall. Kudos to Adam Japko for introducing me to this killer wine.

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