Lambrusco, the sparkling wine from Emilia Romagna

This article is a preparation for WSET Diploma Unit 5. It’s about the wonderful world of lambrusco, the frothy, red wine that comes from Emilia-Romagna.

Location, climate & soils

Lambrusco is made in three provinces in Emilia-Romagna. Here, we only focus on the DOCs of the Modena Province. Overall, the climate is warm continental with hot summers and cold winters.

On the flat Po Vally, the soils are alluvial, which tend to produce wines that are lighter in style and meant to be drunk young. The vineyards on the hillside are clay-dominated with sandstone and limestone depending on the region. Here, the grapes get more colour and structure. These wines can develop in the bottle and are often fermented using the traditional method.

Grape varieties

The largest DOC is Lambrusco di Modena and can be made from any variety. The smaller DOCs have the name of the grape variety that must make up the majority of the blend in each DOC:

  • Lambrusco di Salamino di Santa Croce DOC should contain 90% salamino (workhorse grape). Grapes come from the sandy, clay soil near the town Capri.
  • Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC must contain at least 60% sorbara and can be topped up with salamino. Grapes come from the flood plain between the two rivers Secchia and Panaro, soils are mainly sandy.
  • Lambrusco di Gasparossa di Castelvetro DOC must contain 85% grasparossa. Grapes come from the foothhills of the Apennine mountains.


Almost 95% of the production is made using the tank method. However, the traditional method is getting more popular. Pressing may not exceed 80 liter (out of 100 kg grapes). This is a bit higher than Champagne. The fermentation will be done at a fairly low temperature (23-25 degrees) to retain fresh fruit aromas and extract a small amount of tannins.

To sweeten the wine, RCGM may be added.

Styles and production

There is a variety of styles in the world of Lambrusco. The wine can be made frizzante or spumante. It can be rosé or red.

Sweetness levels:

  •  Secco (less than 15 g/l RS): dry style with a touch of bitterness because of the tannins
  •  Semisecco (less than 30 g/l RS): technically off-dry but feels very dry.
  •  Amabile (between 40–50 g/l RS): sweet and fruity
  •  Dolce (above 50 g/l RS): super sweet

Sources & suggested reading:

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