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What: Fertile Emilia-Romagna is home to many wine regions and varietals, but its most famous is Lambrusco, from the local grape of the same name (and which evidence suggests was first cultivated for wine by the Etruscans). An acidic, lively, gently sparkling (frizzante) dark-red wine meant to be drunk young and often, Lambrusco can be sweet (dolce) or semisweet (amabile), but the real traditional stuff is dry (secco), with prominent berry notes and a refreshing quality that perfectly counters the region’s rich cuisine (the sweet varietals are mostly made for export). Hugely popular among locals in cities like Modena, it’s an exceedingly accessible, everyday kind of wine: Whereas in the U.S. good bottles are priced between $10-$15, you’ll often see them for €2-€4 in Italy.
Where: Throughout Emilia-Romagna, in all manner of restaurants, shops, and, of course, homes. One particularly good place to buy Lambrusco—as well as fruits, cheese, meats, bread, pasta, and all the best local picnic fixings—is Modena’s historic covered market, Mercato Albinelli (Via Luigi Albinelli 13).
When: Mercato Albinelli is open Mon-Sat, 6:30am-2:30pm; from May to October, also open 4:30pm-7:30pm on Saturdays
Good to know: There are a few official DOC- (Denominazione di Origine Controllata,or Controlled Origin Denomination) and DOP-certified (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Denomination of Origin, the EU equivalent) Lambrusco zones in Emilia, the western half of Emilia-Romagna, particularly around Modena and Reggio Emilia, and another one in the northern region of Lombardy. When in doubt, look for the consortium’s label on the bottle. There may be up to 60 supposed Lambrusco-grape subvarieties, but only 13 of them are indigenous to this part of Italy. Those considered the best are sorbara, salamino, and grasparossa.
Also good to know: Of the other wines produced in Emilia-Romagna, several hail from Romagna, the eastern half of the region, including the DOC-certified Sangiovese di Romagna (local varietal of the red grape most associated with nearby Tuscany), Albana di Romagna (celebrated white with DOCG status, a more restrictive certification), Trebbiano di Romagna (a refreshingly light, young white), and Cagnina di Romagna (another young, light, sweetish red).
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