How do you drink red wine in the summer in the middle of the day or on a balmy summer night? For me, the answer is: you drink a dry, frizzante (semi-sparkling) wine called Lambrusco, from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Yes, I know — we’re so used to red wine being still that the concept of red wine with a little fizz might leave you apprehensive. To that, I say — just try it!
About a month ago, prior to my trip to Bologna, my cousin came to visit New York and insisted on getting a bottle of Lambrusco at an Italian restaurant in Tribeca. I liked it, I didn’t love it — but when I hopped a flight and a train to Italy’s culinary capital, that’s when my love affair and what I’m calling the summer of Lambrusco started. I lapped up Lambrusco by the bottle.
For my second dinner, I ordered a bottle of Podere Saliceto Falistra 2018, Lambrusco di Sorbara DOP, a light, a rosé-like variation and I never looked back. I’m told even Lambrusco skeptics like the rosé-ish versions. It did the trick and loosened up this solo traveler. I wound up chatting to the guys sitting at the table beside me in the restaurant. As it turns out, they also live in New York, and we became fast friends. In no time flat, we were sharing bites of our meals, talking until the restaurant was past closing. The next day, I’d met a new friend on food tour, she too was traveling solo, and by that evening, we were splitting a bottle of Lambrusco at dinner. One bottle turned to two and then three when all of my new friends linked up in the open-air courtyard of Palazzo Re Enzo. Live music hummed in the background like the effervescence of this refreshing red wine on my tongue. We each recounted our days, shared stories, laughed, and then we oohed and aahed at pictures of food we’d taken. I shared secrets of the city we’d learned on our tour, videos of the little ladies who start making tortellini with unimagined precision and speed at 7 am. The guys had us beat though, they got a last minute reservation at Osteria Francescana and they met Massimo Botturaas. In short, they did something I didn’t do in Emilia-Romagna, something that will beckon me back sooner than even I think.
If I’ve ever talked your ear off about my travels, you know that my memories of what I’ve eaten and drank are near and dear to my heart. I’ll remember this summer escape to Bologna fondly, and Lambrusco will forever taste like a starry night on a hot summer day in Italy.
If you’re in Bologna, there’s an unassuming bar called Osteria del Sole that is the epitome of life in the city and the perfect place for a Lambrusco. The sign above the door, ‘Vino’, tells you all you need to know — they only serve wine. There’s charm in every detail; ends of wine crates are nailed to the walls, and their communal tables make it easy to meet new people. You can bring your own food, but there’s a handwritten note on the door proclaiming in Italian that “those who do not drink are asked to stay outside.” Or, if you’d like to take it with you, grab a bottle or two from Gilberto’s, one of the oldest specialty shops in Bologna with an impressive wine cellar in the basement.
As for me, I’ll be spending my summer looking out for Lambrusco on menus around NYC.