I must have driven through the region a hundred times. Never stopped. Always on my way to somewhere more important. Alba, Montalcino, Fiumicino, Ciampino. It was often a spot on the highway where I’d zone out. It was flat. It was boring. I was tired. We’d already been to too many places for Italian wine.
And then I spent a few days in the region. No Brunello, no Barolo. I remembered back home, my pal Paul and his love for the stuff. He had people driving all the way from Beaumont, Shreveport, and Abilene to Dallas to get the fizzy wine from him. I didn’t pay any attention to it. Figured they were people who just hadn’t developed a taste for Italian wine and were stuck in a genre. Boy, was I wrong.
I had just finished a very long meeting with Italian apparatchiks, listening to their boring speeches and then listening to the translations. And then having to listen to the Italian speaker correct the translator as to the way she incorrectly translated him. It was long. It was tedious. Staring at the ceiling. Here I was again in this area, not on the highway this time, but the same sensation. Boredom. And then someone announced that lunch was being served and everyone came to life.
I don’t remember ever having had a meal standing up in Italy, except for at an Autogrill or Vinitaly. There was an array of foods from the area, cured meats, cheeses, some over béchameled lasagne, a scant few greens. And over in the corner there was some radioactive looking green fizzy kiwi juice and a bucket of wine. A winemaker came up to me and started pouring me his sparkling Malvasia. Nice. And then his sparkling rosé that he named after his beautiful wife. I liked his wife better. And then he poured me his Lambrusco. And the lights went on.
This was the kind of wine I wanted when I would go into a restaurant in my hometown. I’d probably never find it, though. It wasn’t cool enough for Dallas. Not big and voluptuous with lots of poofy hair and mammalian charm. It was a little subtler than that.
It was tasty. I sucked the first glass down. I feared the afternoon of headache from drinking red wine syndrome. It happens to me. I didn’t need that, what with the nose bleed syndrome that was cramping my style. But I went in for another glass. Wow, this was an epiphany!
Several days later we were at a dairy/bar/salumeria and the same wine popped up. I had a glass. And then another Lambrusco showed up. And I had another glass. After my last two-glass-of-red-wine-lunch-with-no-headache I wanted to test the waters. And the wine was sooo good. I was hooked.
A day or so after that lunch we were in Modena at Antica Moka and another Lambrusco was being poured, strange looking bottle. Looking big. Looking important. Lambrusco di Sorbara “Vecchia Modena” by Cleto Chiarli. I gave it a try. Wow, it was even better than the other two I’d had.
I had this as we were heading out of Emilia towards Lucca and Viareggio. So my little Lambrusco affair was over as soon as it had started. But I will return. This is too good to let another 20 years pass by. I’ll be back.
I ♥ Lambrusco
Note: this post was written as a result of being on an invited tour of Emilia and Tuscany by the Italian Trade Commission