I was having a chat over a beer with Finest founder Lee the other week and he was telling me that he’d just got back from Bilbao, and while over there all he drank was sparkling red wine.
“Sparkling red wine?! Is that even a thing?” I incredulously asked.
No, he wasn’t pulling my leg – sparkling red wine is a thing and has been rather popular on the continent for some time now, especially around the northern regions of Spain and Italy. And it seems like there’s one reason why I don’t think it’s caught on over here yet, and that’s because one of the most popular varieties is… Lambrusco.
Lambrusco. Those massive bottles of crap, fizzy plonk that people used to buy in the 70s and 80s whilst trying to be sophisticated on a park bench.
Back in the 1970s the Italians began exporting super-sweet Lambrusco to the UK and the States – making a fat wedge off our desire for sugary drinks. This then evolved into Lambrini and pretty much destroyed most people’s association with the drink forever.
But now is the time to throw those sickly-sweet memories away and out of your noggin, because Lambrusco is SO MUCH more than that – and it’s having a revival not just across Europe, but over here too.
I spoke to Travis Adshead who runs the PR and Marketing at Ancoats’ KERB and he explained it all rather clearly to me: “We usually get two responses when we offer Lambrusco to customers: I’ve never tried it, or I’ve had a horrible cheap one in the 70s and hated it.”
But Lambrusco and these new Sparkling Reds are nothing like what people associate with those drinks, and are actually becoming firm favourites amongst both staff members and customers at KERB.
After Lee and Travis’ introductions, I purchased two bottles of sparkling red to see just what they were like. Expecting a boozy version of fizzy Vimto, I was pleasantly surprised to find them both extremely suppable and shockingly complex.
The first was the Camillo Donati, Lambrusco Rosso, a bone dry, tart naturally fizzy wine that is packed full of black, blue and red berry flavours.
The Donati family founded their vineyard back in 1930 and its run today along strictly biodynamic lines by 3rd generation winemaker, Camillo Donati, who cultivates the vines 250 metres above sea level.
Travis explains “For the people who’ve never tried it it’s usually a surprise. At first you get the cold fizz and it tricks you into thinking you’re having a standard sparkling wine, and then you get the red flavour which throws you off.”
Continuing this was the Casa Belfi, Rosso Bio Frizzante, a super-light red fizz that smells like Strawberry Ribena and “tastes like cranberry juice with a black pepper surprise.”
Again, I loved this, essentially a red Prosecco made using traditional methods that I just piled through on a Friday evening without it hardly touching the sides. There’s definite sour cherry vibes in here – and it’s perfect for this hot weather we’ve been having.
If you want to try some red sparkling wine for yourself then you can head on down to KERB to give it a try. You should probably also expect to see sparkling reds elsewhere across the city too, from Flawd, to Wolf at the Door and potentially from the Vin de Bodega guys. It’s the drink of the summer – so you’re going to see it everywhere soon – trust me!