Lambrusco, again?

When it comes to Lambrusco, I seem to keep repeating myself. Every few years I run across another excellent, artisanal example that makes me go “wow!”

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And every time, I have a similar response: “I want to tell everyone about this fizzy Italian red wine that’s not like the old cheap Lambrusco we used to buy.”

Even the headlines are similar. In 2005, I wrote “Lambrusco – It’s better than you think.” I followed up in 2006 with “Serious Lambrusco.” A decade later I was at it again in 2015 with “A fresh look at Lambrusco.

And now another decade has gone by, almost, and here I am again, excited about Fiorini 2022 “Becco Rosso” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro.

Should I simply repeat myself again for the fourth time? It’s tempting. It would be hard to improve on the overview in my 2005 report …

As the spokesman for Cella Lambrusco for more than 10 years, James Manis played the iconic character Aldo Cella, touring the nation spreading liquid cheer.

As the spokesman for Cella Lambrusco for more than 10 years, James Manis played the iconic character Aldo Cella, touring the nation spreading liquid cheer.

Back in the ’70s, when a lot of us were first learning about wine, two fancy imported wine styles seemed like the height of sophistication. One was the Portuguese rosé wine that came in intriguing, old-fashioned squat bottles: Lancer’s and Mateus. The other was an Italian wine called Lambrusco. Red, sweet and a little bit fizzy, the ubiquitous Riunite and Cella brands went great with pizza and, well, just about everything.

Years went by, our tastes matured and became more sophisticated, and nowadays many of us who can remember that generation look back on these once-favored wines with a mix of embarrassment and disdain.

But is that fair? After all, Lambrusco (named for its grape variety) is a wine with a long and respected history around Modena, where folks know their food and their wine. The traditional home of balsamic vinegar, Modena is smack-dab in the middle of Emilia-Romagna, not far from Bologna, a region that may just be the culinary epicenter of an entire country known for wonderful things to eat and drink. Would they drink lousy wine? I don’t think so.

Riunite and Cella still sell very well, if not necessarily to wine enthusiasts. Riunite sold 1.4 million bottles in the U.S. in 2020, making it the nation’s seventh most popular imported wine. Cella appears to have dropped from the top ten, but remained No. 18 in U.S. imports in 2011.

But as the years have passed, Modena producers – not unlike their French cousins in Beaujolais, perhaps – have evolved into an increasingly visible band of artisanal producers whose wines merit more serious attention. In contrast with the old Lambrusco’s low-end placement, the new Lambruscos command (and deserve) prices in the upper teens and twenties, and offer excellent value at that price point.

Last June, Decanter celebrated World Lambrusco Day on June 21, highlighting Five award-winning styles to try. “It’s a region and wine style well worth exploring,” Decanter‘s Olivia Mason wrote. “Discover the charming semi-sparkling red of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna with award-winning styles from the Decanter World Wine Awards.”

And, demonstrating that I’m not the only one, The New York Times’ wine writers have repeatedly sung the praises of new Lambrusco, hailing its evolution from the boring old days. Lambrusco Shakes Off Its Cloying Reputation, the columnist Eric Asimov wrote on April 27, 2017. (The link goes to a gift article, bypassing the newspaper’s paywall.)

So what’s going on in Lambrusco? To make a long story short, more and more producers are bringing modern wine making to the region, nurturing quality grapes from older vines, focusing on organic and sustainable production, creating single-varietal renditions from the three primary Lambrusco grapes: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Grasparossa, and, in short, seeking to make relatively dry, complex, interesting, and food-friendly Lambruscos that, nevertheless, highlight the wine’s reputation for easy enjoyment and fun.

I believe today’s featured wine achieves all that. If you haven’t sampled Lambrusco since those old Chill a Cella days, I encourage you to give Fiorini or another Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro a try. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.


Today’s Tasting Report

Fiorini 2022 “Becco Rosso” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro ($16.99)

Lambrusco "Becco Rosso" Grasparossa di Castelvetro

Made with organically grown Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro grapes, Fiorini “Becco Rosso” opens with a resounding sparkling-wine pop. Very dark purple color, it pours with a fizzy lavender mousse that piles up like soft-serve ice cream, then falls back to a persistent foam that rings the glass. Aromas open up after a few minutes for its chill to fade, revealing juicy cherries and a whiff of cranberry. Fizzy and tart on the palate, its firm acidity more than balances slight residual sugar, presenting as fully dry. Its fresh and tart black-cherry flavor and stony minerality work well with light tannins and moderate 11.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: DeGrazia Imports LLC, Chicago. (March 7, 2024)

FOOD MATCH: The producer suggests (translated from Italian), “Becco Rosso is a wine suitable for any type of meal. Remarkable even if tasted together with a good pizza.” I love pizza, but spaghetti with tomato sauce and Beyond Meatballs worked just fine.

WHEN TO DRINK: Lambrusco is not a wine meant for aging. Enjoy the 2022 and, if you like it, watch for later vintages next year.

My local price is consistent with’s $17 average U.S. retail. In contrast with the cheap, fizzy Lambrusco of the old days, this wine offers good value in the upper teens.

Here’s a fact sheet from importer DeGrazia. For more information, check this page from importer Skurnik Wines. Producer Fiorini offers more information (in Italian).

Check prices and find vendors for Fiorini “Becco Rosso” Lambrusco on

Read more about Lambrusco at this Wine-Searcher link, but then turn to this Wine-Searcher link to discover why Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro deserves a niche all its own.


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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