Emilia - Romagna, a region dubbed by many as the culinary epicenter of Italy, produces a variety of world famous products: Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto from Parma, mortadella from Bologna, and Aceto Balsamico or Balsamic Vinegar from Modena. The region is also home to Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine that comes in many forms" Spumante or Sparkling, frizzante or semi sparkling, amabile or semi sweet, or dolce or sweet and rose. Other wines or importance are the malvasia, Sangiovese di Romagna, and Albana di Romagna a dry white or sweet passito.In Emilia the premier wine is lambrusco, in frothy shades of purple to pink, made from grapes grown on high trellised vines, mainly in the flatlands south of the Po. Romagna's wines come primarily from the native sangiovese, trebbiano and albana. Lambrusco is produced in volume in the four DOC zones around Modena and Reggio, though few consumers abroad have tasted the wine in its authentic dry style. Most Lambrusco shipped away is amabile or sweet, while most of what is drunk at home is dutifully dry and more often than not in a DOC zone.Though there are historical precedents for both types, the dry is considered the unparrelled match for the region's rich cooking.
Even the hill wines of Emilia tend to be frothy. Vineyards in the foothills of the Apennines to the south render fun loving whites made from Malvasia, trebbiano and ortrugo and zesty reds from Barbera and Bonarda. But there is a definite trend in the DOC zones of Colli Piacenti, Colli Bolognesi, and Colli di Parma to make still and somewhat serious wines from such varieties as Sauvignon, Chardonnay, the Pinot's, Barbera, Cabernet and Merlot. Natural conditions favor wines of depth and finesse, but markets seem to favor the lightweights. Moving into Romagna the plains of the Po basin between ferrara and Ravenna are noted for fruit, vegetables and ultra productive vines, most of which are sources of blending wines. The hills south of Imola, Faenza, forli, Cesena, and rimini are known for wines from the native Albana, sangiovese, and trebbiano all of which carry the name Romagna.
Albana di Romagna which emerged in 1987 as Italy's first DOCG white wines, is often dry and still with a distinctive almond undertone and occasionally some complexity. Albana's best expression seems to be as a richly sweet passito from partially dried grapes. The traditional semisweet and bubbly versions are usually consumed at home in the region. Romagna's trebbiano distinct from other vines of the name, is almost always light and fresh, whether still or bubbly with a fragility that is best in its youth. The favorite of Romagnians is sangiovese usually a robust red with a certain charm in its straightforward fruity flavors. But increasingly producers of sangiovese are making reserve wines of greater depth and capacity to age. In the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena, lambrusco vineyards extend from the slopes of the hills to the line of the Po River, which separates the district from Mantuan territory.
All four of the existing Lambrusco DOC are found in that zone. In fact, lambrusco virtually monopolizes viticultural output. While Bianco di Scandiano is made in that district the output is insignificant in comparison with the production of Lambrusco. Lambrusco has an extremely noble background. The wild vine from which the existing variety originated was called Labrusca in Latins, which it was known by the Etruscans and Romans. The Romans made a bitterish beverage from "Labrusca Grapes" which pliny the elder recommended for its therapeutic effects. The elder Cato cited the productiveness of the emilian vines, which he described as tricentennary because a single jugerum about half an acre yielded 300 amphoras of wine. Despite its extremely ancient origin, lambrusco was never well known or appreciated outside it's production area until it achieved a remarkable commercial success in the United States in the seventies and eighties. Despite the fact that it is now widely distributed, there are still many prejudices about the wine. Matters are now made easier by the widespread conviction that there is only one Lambrusco when in reality there are many each different from the other in style and range of sweetness.
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