Americans fell in love not long ago with prosecco from northern Italy’s Veneto region, and is just now discovering what it’s been missing with quality lambrusco from Veneto’s southern neighbor, Emilia. Both wines are Italian, both are sparkling, and both are named after the grapes from which they are produced.
There the similarities end. Prosecco is white, and lambrusco is red; lambrusco normally has less alcohol than prosecco — 8 versus 12 percent is not unusual — and prosecco is floral and fruity. Lambrusco also has a definite savory, herbal edge with hints of bitters to rein in the fruity qualities.
Mionetto is one of the primary producers of prosecco, while Cleto Chiarli is making a name for itself in America as a food-friendly lambrusco sparkler. Here are notes on their recent releases:
2013 Cleto Chiarli “Vecchia Modena” Premium Lambrusco Di Sorbara Secco ($15)
Like a spritzy, slightly tart strawberry wine with a touch of bitters at the end and a crisp finish. Simple, but satisfying.
2013 Cleto Chiarli “Enrico Cialdini” Lambrusco Grasparossa Di Castelvetro Secco ($15)
Dark cherry flavors with highly tart, savory finish. It has good density, pairing quite nicely with a grilled salmon filet.
NV Cleto Chiarli lambrusco Grasparosaa di Castelvetro Amabile ($11)
Light in alcohol at 8 percent, it has tangy dried strawberry and raspberry flavors, and its light sweetness is balanced by great acidity and refreshing savory bitters.
NV Mionetto Veneto Prosecco ($12)
Lightly sweet with tastes of vanilla, apple and fresh baking herbs with a very clean finish.
NV Mionetto Treviso Prosecco Extra Dry ($10)
Made from organic grapes, it is mildly sweet with vanilla notes, good structure, and clean finish.
NV Mionetto Treviso Prosecco Brut ($12)
Some minerality and a pleasing, lightly gamey taste, good intensity and an herbal finish.
NV Valobbiadene Superior Prosecco Extra Dry ($15)
Richer and more complex with intense bubbles, baked meringue flavors and a great finish. (My wife wanted this with a smoked fish spread, while I would have liked it with a custard tart — but, alas, neither was in the fridge.)
NV Mionetto Cartizze Prosecco ($24)
The Cartizze cru vineyard is to prosecco what Romanée-Conti is to Burgundy. It is a beautiful hillside and hilltop vineyard that produces great sparklers, this one with lots of intense bubbles, a little wood vanilla, candied almonds and a lot of polish if not extreme complexity. A real crowd-pleaser.