I wrote about a Lambrusco back in August and had very little interest in more of the same. By “more of the same” I mean I didn’t want another cheap bottle of mass produced red fizz, particularly when I keep hearing that there is good Lambrusco being made. I will do a wine tour of Italy at some point, but in the mean time I was able to find an interesting bottle just by heading up to the Adelaide Hills with this Parish Hill Frizzante Lambrusco 2009.
[Apologies for the especially bad photo - the label is essentially red paint on a dark green bottle which looks fine in person but which does not photograph brilliantly.]
First off, as with a number of proper grape and location names, “Lambrusco” has been abused within Australia and generically applied to cheap, low alcohol, somewhat sweet red wine. However, that is not the case with this bottle. Not only is it made from grapes of the Lambrusco family, it’s specifically made from Lambrusco Maestri, which is worth a word or two.
Lambrusco, as I mentioned in August, is a collection of Italian grapes which are classed together as a family and not just different clones of the same variety. Wine Grapes lists twelve distinct varieties, though it’s not clear if there are others yet to be identified. The word “Lambrusco” apparently means “wild grape” in Italian, and it is believed that all grapes with that name in Italy were domesticated locally from wild grapes.
Lambrusco Maestri is thought to originate around, and take it’s name from, Villa Maestri in Parma, where it is used in both still and frizzante Colli di Parma DOC wines. However, it is more widely planted in Emilia-Romagna where it is used in the production of a variety of wines at DOC and IGT levels. In the New World, in addition to a very small number of plantings in Australia, it is grown in Argentina in Mendoza and San Juan. While neither as popular as Lambrusco Salamino nor as well regarded as Lambrusco di Sorbara, it performs well in the vineyard as far as both growth and yields. Wines of Lambrusco Maestri are often considered rustic but can have distinct strawberry notes.
Parish Hill Wines was founded in 1998 by Andrew Cottell and Joy Carlisle in the Adelaide Hills, and is somewhat unique in its dedication to Italian varieties. Production is tiny, with a maximum crush of 15 tonnes and an annual production of roughly 700 cases. All wines are made on site by Cottell from estate grown fruit.
In the glass this wine is clear, bright, and frothy when poured, with a slight rim of bubbles after. It has a deep purple colour and quick stained legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium plus intensity and notes of blackberries, sour cherries, cough syrup, and a little liquorice. On the palate it is dry with medium acidity, medium body, medium minus fine tannins, medium plus intensity, medium alcohol, and a medium plus length. There is some slight spritz and notes of sour cherry, liquorice, and some earthiness. It’s certainly not sweet, nor even overly fruity.
This is a very good wine. It’s possible I’m being too generous as a result of such a poor first experience with Lambrusco, but objectively this wine has some richness, notes of complexity, and some flavours i can’t quite pin down. It’s an interesting style, and it gives me hope that I might someday be able to taste a Lambrusco from an Italian producer of similar, high quality.