Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine that originates from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It is made from the Lambrusco grape, which actually refers to a family of grapes rather than a single varietal. The most common Lambrusco grapes used are Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Montericco, Lambrusco Salamino, and Lambrusco Sorbara.
Lambrusco is a lightly sparkling wine, with its bubbles coming from a second fermentation in the bottle, rather than being injected later as is done with many other sparkling wines. It is known for being fruity, refreshing, and easy to drink.
One of the defining characteristics of Lambrusco is that it tends to be sweeter than other red wines. This leads many people to wonder – just how sweet is Lambrusco? Is it high in sugar compared to other wines?
Sugar Content of Lambrusco
The sugar content of Lambrusco can vary quite a bit depending on the style and producer. Lambrusco ranges from bone dry (secco) to mildly sweet (amabile) to very sweet (dolce).
Here are some guidelines for sugar content based on style:
– Lambrusco Secco: Less than 10 grams/liter of residual sugar. This is a very dry style with just a hint of sweetness.
– Lambrusco Amabile: Between 10-35 grams/liter of residual sugar. This off-dry style has perceptible sweetness balanced by acidity.
– Lambrusco Dolce: Over 35 grams/liter of residual sugar. This sweet style is rich and dessert-like.
To put those numbers into perspective, a very dry table wine might have around 2 grams/liter of residual sugar. On the sweeter side, moscato d’asti has around 130 grams/liter of residual sugar.
So while Lambrusco Secco is only mildly sweet, Lambrusco Dolce does have sugar levels approaching those of dessert wines. However, the high acidity in Lambrusco makes it taste less cloying than the numbers would suggest.
How Does Lambrusco Sugar Content Compare to Other Wines?
Compared to most dry red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, even the driest styles of Lambrusco tend to be higher in sugar. Dry reds usually have under 5 grams/liter of residual sugar.
Lambrusco has sugar levels more similar to white wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer that often have some sweetness to balance acidity. It is closer in sweetness to sparkling wines like Moscato d’Asti and Brachetto d’Acqui.
Here is how the sugar content of different Lambrusco styles compares to other popular wines:
|Wine||Residual Sugar (g/liter)|
|Lambrusco Secco||Less than 10|
|Lambrusco Dolce||Over 35|
|Dry Red Wine (Cabernet, Pinot Noir)||Less than 5|
So Lambrusco Secco and Amabile have similar sugar levels to off-dry whites like Riesling. Lambrusco Dolce gets closer to the very sweet moscato.
Factors that Influence Lambrusco Sugar Levels
Several factors impact the residual sugar levels in a bottle of Lambrusco:
The different Lambrusco grape varieties have varying levels of natural sugar. For example, Lambrusco di Sorbara tends to be drier with higher acidity while Lambrusco Salamino is darker, richer, and fruitier.
How long the grapes are allowed to macerate with the skins and stems affects sugar extraction. The fermentation temperature and type of yeast strain also impact residual sugar levels.
As mentioned above, Lambrusco ranges from secco (dry) to amabile (off-dry) to dolce (sweet). The fermentation is stopped earlier for amabile and dolce styles to leave more residual sugar.
Some Lambrusco producers favor a drier style while others focus on sweeter wines. Smaller boutique wineries tend to make drier styles while large co-ops may produce mainly high-volume commercial sweeter wines.
Tips for Choosing Lambrusco Based on Sugar Content
With such a wide range of sweetness levels, how do you pick a Lambrusco wine based on your tastes? Here are some tips:
Look at Alcohol Content
Higher alcohol indicates a drier wine, while lower ABV is found in sweeter styles. Lambrusco Secco tends to be over 12% alcohol while Lambrusco Dolce can be under 11%.
Check the Label Description
Labels should indicate Secco, Amabile, or Dolce to identify the sweetness level. Secco is dry, Amabile is off-dry, and Dolce is sweet.
Wine reviews often describe the sweetness level of Lambrusco, from bone dry to candy-sweet. This helps guide you towards the style you prefer.
Know Producer Style
Learn which Lambrusco producers tend to make drier wines vs. sweeter styles. Lini 910 trends drier while Fiorini leans sweet.
Request a Taste
Don’t hesitate to ask your wine shop to open a bottle to sample the Lambrusco you’re considering purchasing. A small taste makes it easy to judge the sweetness.
Tasting Different Lambrusco Sugar Levels
The best way to appreciate how sugar content changes Lambrusco is to taste different styles side by side. Here’s a guided tasting to experience the range of Lambrusco sweetness:
Lambrusco Secco – Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium
With just 9 grams/liter of sugar, this is a very dry style of Lambrusco. The bubbles are frothy and prickly. Bright red berry and cherry flavors mingle with bracing acidity and subtle tannins. Tart and refreshing.
Lambrusco Amabile – Cantina di Soliera Morassi
The middle ground style with 24 grams/liter of sugar. The palate has more body and richness but still has vibrant acidity. Flavors of ripe plums and dark cherries with a smooth, moderately sweet finish.
Lambrusco Dolce – Fiorini 1947
A full-on sweet Lambrusco at over 50 grams/liter of sugar. The abundant bubbles feel soft and creamy. Intense jammy fruit flavors of blackberry and blueberry candy. Thick, syrupy texture with balancing acidity on the finish.
Tasting these wines together really illustrates the diversity of Lambrusco styles from dry to sweet. It lets you experience the effects of higher sugar on the body, texture, and fruit flavors. You can decide which balance of sweetness and acidity suits your preferences.
Pairing Food with Different Lambrusco Sugar Levels
The trick to pairing food with Lambrusco is to match the weight, intensity, and sweetness level. Here are some pairing suggestions:
Dry Lambrusco Secco
The crisp dryness pairs well with saltier foods like prosciutto, parmesan, fried foods. It also works with lighter meats like chicken or turkey.
Off-Dry Lambrusco Amabile
The touch of sweetness complements umami flavors like mushrooms, aged cheeses, and tomato sauce. Try with pizza, pasta, or antipasto platters.
Sweet Lambrusco Dolce
The higher sugar matches nicely with desserts like tiramisu, chocolate cake, and fruit tarts. It also pairs well with bold cheeses like gorgonzola.
In general, sweeter styles of Lambrusco pair best with dessert while drier versions work better with savory dishes. However, the high acidity in all styles allows flexibility with food pairing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with pairings!
Lambrusco can range widely in residual sugar content depending on the grape, production method, and winemaker style. Dry Lambrusco Secco has only a bit of sweetness while Lambrusco Dolce ventures into dessert wine territory.
When choosing a bottle, consider your preferences. Dry styles work well as an aperitif while sweeter versions pair deliciously with dessert. Tasting different styles side-by-side helps you determine your perfect sugar level. With its food-friendly acidity and range of sweetness, Lambrusco offers lots of versatility with both savory and sweet pairings.