Marks and Spencer Bring Lambrusco Back

For those of us old enough to remember it Lambrusco was the Lambrini of the 70s and early 80s – it was cheap, cheerful and quaffable. Lambrusco back then came in a sparkling, sweet red and white and to my mind was the fore runner of the alcopop – but that’s a matter of personal opinion and another story.

Marks and Spencer are relaunching the wine which goes on sale at £7.49. Given the reputation that Lambrusco has to combat it may be a big mistake.

I did think that I might be showing my age a bit here and checked out some reactions from a few younger wine drinkers in their early 20s. Their reaction surprised me – it was one of incredulity. The conversation went like this:

“Guess what?” I said.
“What?” Was the reply.
“Marks and Spencer are bring Lambrusco back! You do know what Lambrusco is don’t you?”
“Yes! M&S are selling that?”
“Absolutely. Guess how much for?”
“£7.49 a bottle.”
“You’ve got to be joking. Asda sells it for about 3 quid. It’s rubbish.”

So why are M&S relaunching Lambrusco? Two things come to mind, firstly it’s 11% alcohol volume and low alcohol wines are receiving a lot of interest at the moment and secondly it’s supposed to be good with food. M&S wine expert Jo Ahearne has said that:

“But now customers will be pleasantly surprised that authentic Italian Lambrusco is actually red, goes brilliantly with food, is a zingy, refreshing drink and it’s time they tried the real McCoy . . . In Emilio Romagna, locals enjoy Lambrusco with food.

It goes especially well with meaty dishes such as lasagne and spaghetti bolognese as it cuts through the richness of the sauce.”

If I was going to drink it with anything it would be a curry.

To be fair M&S sourced its Lambrusco from the Medici family in Italy, who have produced the wine for more than 100 years. Lambrusco is cultivated in the Modena (the home of Balsamic Vinegar) and Reggio-Emilia Counties (Centre-North Italy) which are located in the fertile Padana valley where the climate is temperate (cold and foggy in winter, hot and humid in summer).

Lambrusco is named after the grape it is made from – which does have a long history. There is archaeological evidence which shows that the Etruscans cultivated the vine and in Roman times the Lambrusco vine was highly valued for its productivity with Cato the Elder stating that produce of 2/3rd of an acre could make enough wine to fill 300 amphoras.

There are over 60 varieties of Lambrusco grape – which is prone to developing sub varieties. The most commonly found clones are the Grasparossa, Maestri, Marani, Monstericco, Salamino (the most widely planted) and Sorbara.

The grape vines are often trained high above the ground to prevent the development of mildew and in the past the vines were trained to climb up poplar trees.

I have often wondered in the past whether Lambrusco would ever get a revamp – retro wines are resurfacing: Black Tower, Blue Nun, Mateus Rosé etc. However I am not sure that Lambrusco priced at £5 a bottle will sell, let alone £7.49.

There are plenty of other superb low alcohol wines on the market – try the red Brissonet and its white stable mate at £3.15 or the red Prince de Prieur at £3.25 – both are 11.5% and if bubbles are a must then try the stunning Cremant d’Alsace at £8.49. All of these wines are great with food and I can promise that they don’t taste like pink pop!

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