Four ways to conquer your fear of Lambrusco (and the wines that'll help you do it)

Categories: Booze

Lambrusco: Don't be scurred; these wines are delicious.
Remember a couple of weeks ago, when we systematically broke down the entirely undeserved bad rap (pun intended) on moscato? That put us in the mindset of another, equally beleaguered wine that we now feel compelled to turn you onto. We already know this one's gonna be a tougher sell, because people are clinging tighter than lint on denim to their stereotypes of this wine: Lambrusco.

Well, if it makes you feel any better, it's not like we begged our mommies to swap out our Enfamil for the stuff; we've only been fans of this delectable Italian cultivar for the past half-dozen years. But after springing a few of these refreshing, remarkably low-alcohol bottles on a few of unsuspecting guinea pigs -- er, our dearest friends -- over the past several months (and getting genuinely rave reviews), we think it's time to give you the lowdown on everything you never knew you'd love about Lambrusco.

But first, a primer: We realize that we need only to utter the name "Riunite" -- the most infamous incarnation of Lambrusco wine ever -- to strike utter fear into your hearts. For those of you not old enough to recall the incessant refrain of that omnipresent commercial, just know that this wine was the best seller of 1981 -- a year in which five of the top six imported brands were in the Lambrusco category. (Go ahead and let that sink in for a moment.) Just when America's Lambrusco fever had reached its height, a huge scandal involving tainted juice (one word: antifreeze) followed by the veritable takeover of that other sweet, pink wine we now love to hate -- white zinfandel -- pushed Lambrusco right off the country's store shelves and wine lists and into exile.

Although ridiculously drinkable DOC-quality Lambrusco has steadily been regaining popularity in major U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco for the past fifteen years, most people still cringe at the mere mention of the wine. So what if we told you that there was a Lambrusco out there for just about everyone, if only they knew how to pick the right one? Here's a challenge for you: Ask yourself if you fall into any (although we'll bet you're actually gonna have to cop to more than one) of the below guaranteed-to-love-Lambrusco categories. If you do, then you are 100 percent ready to embrace these wines -- and to score these four bottles that'll prove it.

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Lambrusco Knight
Lambrusco Knight

Wow Lambrusco Day, someone is condescending.  I'm pretty sure that any wine you can legally purchase is "commercial." Or does "real" lambrusco come from non-profit organizations?

Lambrusco Day
Lambrusco Day

A very easy method to find "real" lambrusco is to look for the alcohol percentage and the word 'secco' (bone to off-dry) on the label. DOC/P Lambrusco (includes 'amabile' too) has to have a minimum of 10.5% of alcohol. Commercial versions have somewhere between 7 to 8%.

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