Initially I planned to do this as a regular wine post, but after acquiring this bottle I decided it needed something special.
Back when I started this wine adventure, I listed out the major varietals and styles of wine that I wanted to try to “complete” my education. I based my list on the varietals listed in the Wine Folly book and decided that I needed to acquire a bottle and drink a glass of the varietal in order to check off the varietal in my list. (Yes, there is a spreadsheet with notes for each varietal also but that is a different story.) I’ve made a good dent in this list as many of the varietals, even some odd ones, proved not that difficult to acquire thanks to the internet and inter-state shipping. One wine that eluded me, however, was Lambrusco.
Over the last year I’ve checked my usual suppliers – Total Wine, the local wine shop, my internet sources – multiple times, but Lambrusco proved difficult to find. I was cautious abut the type of Lambrusco to pick up after listening to a podcast (Wine for Normal People if anyone wants an easy to listen to wine podcast) and hearing the stories of the horrible, sickeningly sweet wine that is generally Lambrusco in the U.S.; I really wanted to try a good, dry version of the wine.
When Bob and I were at our local wine shop around the holidays I saw a bottle of Lambrusco on the shelf. This was new and it was pretty inexpensive so I decided to try it. As I picked up the bottle one of the staff commented that he didn’t realize I liked sweet red wine. I told him I didn’t and he said, “don’t buy that.” I told him about my quest to try the major varietals and styles and this one was proving difficult so I thought I would take a chance. He just kept asking if I liked sweet red wine and when I would say no he repeated, “don’t buy that, you won’t like it.” After a few rounds of this conversation, the owner of the shop came over and said, “you like sweet red wine?” I told him the story of my quest and the difficulty I had finding Lambrusco so I decided to give it a go, knowing that I probably would not like it. Carmen, the owner, told me not to buy the bottle in my hand and said he would bring me a bottle of a good, dry Lambrusco from his cellar. I told him I just wanted to try the varietal and was ok with not liking it. He insisted and so I gave up. I kind of figured that if two people in the business of selling wine are telling me to not buy something, and one of them is offering to give me a bottle of the thing I am trying to buy, I had to just give in. Part of me thought that this offer was something that would be forgotten in the light of day and I didn’t think much about it after that.
Fast forward to February. Since most of January I spent getting sick or getting over being sick, we didn’t attend the Friday wine tastings at the local shop for most of the month. When we did arrive in the beginning of February the first thing Carmen said to me was that he had a bottle of dry Lambrusco in the back for me. I was pretty surprised. I was really touched too. How often does someone do something nice for someone they only tangentially know? It was a really nice feeling. So two bottles (yes, two not one) of Lambrusco came home with us earlier this month and we opened one because I just had to.
The results – it was one of the most interesting wines I’ve tasted.
Look: Slightly translucent raison colored wine. No noticeable fizz in the glass.
Smell: Prune, strawberry, some sugar and overripe fruit.
Taste: Light, not very bubbly but definitely fizzy. Little prune flavor and a lot like port. raison, red fruits – kind of juicy.
Conclusions: I loved this bottle not because I was ga-ga over the wine, but because of how I acquired it. I did drink a few glasses of this over a couple of days and while I can’t say it is my favorite, I did enjoy it. I’m not a port fan, finding it too heavy, so this was a nice alternative. I loved the texture of the wine in my mouth and how interesting it was. I do think this was a fantastic wine when it was younger (both Carmen and Robin told me it was an older bottle) and it might be a bit past its peak. I have every intention of opening the other bottle in the near future and enjoying it fully – probably after I get over this round of being sick – on the back patio on a beautiful day to remind me how lucky I am. Sometimes wine is wine and sometimes it is much more than that.