Red bubbles, a passion to be (re)discovered

Orazio Vagnozzi
Orazio Vagnozzi
14.3.2022
Read Time: 2'
Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, but also Campania: here are the terroirs from which vermilion-colored sparkling nectars take shape. Here is a complete roundup, from the best-known Lambrusco, to Brachetto d'Acqui, to Raboso to Gragnano, a symbol of Naples also paid homage by Mario Soldati
When thinking of red wine, it is difficult for a sparkling one to come to mind. Yet sparkling red wines are a real feather in the cap of Italian oenoculture. It is produced mainly in the northern regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, and Veneto, although we also find some goodies in Campania. The production process is the same as for white sparkling wines. The base wine goes through primary fermentation, similar to still wines, and at this stage, it also gets its color when the grape juice comes in contact with the skins of red grape varieties. After that, sugar is added (or residual sugar that has not been turned into alcohol after the first fermentation is used), and a yeast-induced secondary fermentation follows. The wine at this stage is kept in sealed containers, autoclaves (Charmat method), or bottles (either the classic or ancestral process).

These methods allow the carbon dioxide released from the transformation of sugar into alcohol to be trapped, forming red bubbles. Sparkling red wine is often underestimated and, perhaps, has excellent value for money. Let's try a roundup of them, starting with the best known Lambrusco, available in different styles, from sweet to dry and from light to deep red. Lambrusco wines are produced in various areas of Emilia Romagna and the province of Mantua. The origin of the name seems to have to do with the spontaneous growth of the pian- ta, which was often found at the edges of streams, roads, or ditches. Lambrusco Grasparossa, in the area of Castelvetro, Salamino in the area of Santa Croce, a hamlet of Carpi, Sorbara, the only one with a rosy color, also in the province of Modena. And then, in the region of Reggio Emilia, among the red bubbles are Ancellotta, Reggiano, and Maestri, and in the area of Mantua that of Viadana.

So many plant varieties that, in some cases, as in the province of Modena, also give their name to a DOC, but in most cases are the blend, pure or blended Lambrusco that is produced in Reggio, Parma or Mantua. Lambrusco is a wine with excellent pairing qualities, which, thanks to its bubbles, tannin, and acidity, accompanies well the rather fatty traditional dishes of the region. In addition, its slender structure makes it excellent with cured meats and similar. In the province of Piacenza, obtained from the Barbera and Croatina grape varieties, sparkling Gutturnio Doc is produced. Also available in the still version, it is an important and complex wine, rich in fragrant notes ranging from floral to fruity to spicy and caramel hints with vegetable and dried fruit notes. From Picentino, we move to Lombardy, where great sparkling wines are produced in Oltrepò pavese: Barbera, Bonarda, and Sangue di Giuda.
Sparkling Barbera has a fruity, winy aroma and a broad, lingering, slightly acidic taste reminiscent of small red berries-currants, strawberries, and raspberries. Sparkling Bonarda, made from barbera and Croatina grapes is a dry wine with fine bubbles and a deep ruby red color with aromas of red fruits, plums, and pepper. An intense, pleasant wine that is dry, soft, and low in tannins on the palate.

Sangue di Giuda is a blend of Pinot Noir, Barbera, and Croatina grape varieties, among others, and has a sweet grape flavor. It has a deep ruby red color and a very vinous aroma. And let's move on to Piedmont with Freisa d'Asti and Freisa di Chieri both available in sparkling Doc versions, wines with a ruby red color with garnet notes for Asti and sometimes tending toward cherry for Chieri, both with fine red bubbles, a delicate olfactory profile characteristic of raspberry rose and violet and a soft, fresh palate.

Also, in Acqui Terme and neighboring towns, we find Brachetto d'Acqui, a wine made from brachetto grapes. It is sweet, delicate, low tannic, and moderately structured, with typical notes of strawberry, rose, and musk on the palate. Veneto also has a tradition of sparkling red wines, such as Raboso Rosso frizzante. Fresh and pleasant, it is considered the native grape variety par excellence in the Piave area. The wine drunk young reflects the distinctive characteristics of the grape of origin: thus, high acidity and fruity hints of morello cherry and currants. Then there is Merlara Marzemino Doc, a bubbly red wine with a pleasantly fruity bouquet that stands out from others of the same kind because of its deep ruby red color.

On the palate, this wine reveals its full and harmonious flavor, marked with notes of berries. And then we have Recioto, also produced in a sparkling version in the Valpolicella and Valpantena areas, made with the same grapes and drying techniques used for Amarone: a "vinone," sweet, in that it contains a residual sugar that comes from a partial fermentation of the abundant sugars contained in its dried berries. Recioto is a complex, sweet wine with a fruity aroma, between raspberry and black cherry, with a final taste of cherry jam and raisin.

And last but not least, in the Sorrento peninsula, based on the same grape varieties, mainly piedirosso, aglianico and sciascinoso, we find red bubbles such as Lettere. They call it so if it comes from the municipalities of Lettere, Casola, Sant'Antonio Abate, and Gragnano, which some consider the authentic wine of Naples if it comes from grapes from vineyards located in the municipalities of Gragnano, Pimonte, and Castellammare di Stabia. Cheers!
Author's personal opinion
This article constitutes and reflects the exclusive personal opinion and assessment of its Author; it does not replace and cannot be considered in any way equivalent to professional advice on the subject matter of the article.
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Director of Passione Gourmet's wine section and angel investor Orazio, after more than 20 years as a partner in a multinational management consulting firm, decided to devote himself to food and wine, his passions. He has attended a self-taught, professional taster since 2002 as a member of the Grand Jury Européen, some of the best-known wine experts on the planet, and has set up a cellar housing over the years 15,000 bottles. He makes appraisals of fine bottles and, in his spare time, likes to share the wines from his cellar with friends.

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