The Return of Lambrusco

January 03 2009 - 5:26 PM

Some of you may remember the ads in the '70s and early '80s for Riunite Lambrusco:  "Riunite on ice, that's nice".   I wasn't of drinking age during Riunite's heyday, and even before I was I generally drank wine coolers (remember those?) or beer.   I've never tried Riunite personally, but many remember it as a fizzy sugary-sweet concoction perhaps belonging  next to the jug of Paul Masson Burgundy, Mogen David, and Blue Nun.

I did some digging around Web sites to unearth more of Riunite's history.  At its peak, according to an article in Men's Vogue magazine, Riunite, owned by a cooperative of Italian wine growers, peaked its production in 1984 at 11.2 million cases.   The article states dry Lambrusco apparently was not even exported to the United States until 1995.

For those not in the now Lambrusco is a frizzante (which means it's lightly sparkling) rosso (red) wine that is almost purplish in color, although some producers produce white and rosé versions (white lambrusco, like some champagne, is made from red grapes by removing the skins).    Most Lambrusco is produced in the norther Emilia-Romagna region best known for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham.  Twice I've tried Lini 910 "Labrusca", which has flavors of dark cherries and even black olives.  This Lambrusco is mostly dry, though it does have a hint of sweetness.  It's carried at Pastoral for, roughly, under $20.

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