Saturday, November 22, 2008

Re: Our Lini So Nice!

Lini LambruscoMy experience with Lambrusco comes mostly from watching Riunite commercials as a young'un, so you'll pardon me if I was confused by the word "Labrusca" used for the NV Lini Lambrusco Bianco Labrusca. The Oxford Companion says that vitis labrusca is a Latin name for certain American grapes, and I was nonplussed by the idea of any Italian producer using such discredited grapes, even in a region as (overly) scorned as Lambrusco.

As it turns out, labrusca is, according to Lini importer Domenico Valentino, "the Etruscan name for Lambrusco which comes from the Latin labrum, meaning 'edge,'" as the Lambrusco grapes historically grew at the edges of the Etruscans' cultivated crops. And indeed, Lini uses only indigenous grapes, here 80% lambrusco salamino (the grape bunches apparently look like small salami) and 20% lambrusco sorbara, which is reputedly the finest of the 60 subvarieties of lambrusco. No contact with the grapes' red skins is allowed during fermentation and the bubbles are derived from the Charmat process.

Knowing all the above beforehand, I still would not have expected such an unusual and terrific wine. Seriously, I've never had anything like it. The Labrusca is creamy and fresh and gentle, with a sublime mousse, but most exciting is the barely-sweet and quite savory nuttiness, which recalls fino sherry in that regard. I associate nuttiness with age and/or oxidative wine making, but this wine is totally fresh, and while I do not believe that Lini is a natural wine maker, there's nothing confected about this wine. If Hugh Johnson himself came for dinner I'd proudly serve this as an aperitif, but as it has the cut and presence for prosciutto and fresh egg pasta, I could pop this open for dinner — as I indeed did, sans HJ.

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