Here in Babbo wine land, we’ve been engaging in some serious seventies revivalism. You’ll see us proudly pouring both Asti Spumante and fizzy red Lambrusco at the bar, and, if you missed (or avoided) them there, you’ll see them used in our tasting menus (on the Pasta Tasting Menu, a refreshing Asti Spumante from Bera is paired with Gina DePalma’s bright and beautiful Saffron Panna Cotta, while on the Traditional Tasting Menu, Coach Farm’s Finest Goat Cheese with Cranberry Mostarda gets an acidic counter-punch from Cantine Ceci’s dry red Lambrusco).
Lambrusco? At Babbo? Hey, if anyone can make Lambrusco trendy again, we can. Although Mario’s abiding love of Emilia-Romagna doesn’t extend to Lambrusco, I’ve got a soft spot for the stuff, so he allows the occasional foray into the world of frizzanti. In its more traditional dry state, Lambrusco is a great appetite-whetting aperitif, and with food (cheese in particular), its tooth-chattering acidity goes to work on fat like a chainsaw through wood. Made in a frizzante (semi-sparkling) style, Lambrusco recalls the olden days when wines fermented naturally over the course of a winter, in fits and starts, and ended up in bottles before that fermentation had totally finished — resulting in fizzy wines.
Lambrusco is a grape, one with many sub-varieties, whose home range is the vast plain north of Reggio and Modena in Emilia-Romagna. It is a very deeply colored and super-fruity variety, and, according to the four different site-specific DOCs for Lambrusco production, it can be made in either a secco (dry), amabile (semi-sweet), or dolce (sweet) style but always frizzante. Most Americans got to know Lambrusco in its sweet incarnation (Riunite on ice: that’s nice!), but the dry versions are the ones you’ll see on tables in Modena or Reggio. Sweet Lambruscos were confections created for the export market, and of course they still have a big following here.
You won’t, however, find sweet Lambrusco at Babbo. That would be an overly ironic, foam-trucker-hat-type of wine trend. Think of dry Lambrusco as the vinous equivalent of that Shuggie Otis album everyone bought a couple of years ago. It’s authentic, and you can pretend you’ve always liked it.
Lambrusco “Metodo Ceci,” Cantine Ceci 2002
Deeply fruity and yet tartly acidic at the same time, as if both the bass and treble knobs were turned to 10. A lightly alcoholic aperitif or something to sip with a plate of prosciutto during the appetizer course.