In Emilia-Romagna (Italy), the land of real Lambrusco, good eating isn't just a way of life... It isn't just a religion... It is a sine qua non, a that without which life simply could not exist.
When you live in Emilia-Romagna, Italy's richest region, where there is a higher number of pigs and Ferraris per capita than in any other place in the world (go figure!), the first thing you think about when you wake up is food (I can't mention the second thing here because this is a family-friendly publication). When you sit down for breakfast, you begin planning your lunch. And when you sit down for lunch, you begin thinking about dinner. And when you sit down for dinner, you talk about what you ate yesterday and what you will eat tomorrow.
This is the land of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma, culatello (salt-cured pig's rump) and tortellini, and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, costing up to $200 for a few precious milliliters of 100- and 200-year-old viscous gold (not the cheap "aromatic" stuff they sell you in the supermarkets here in America). And, of course, the land of real boloney, balony, bolony, or bologna (so-called after the name of Emilia-Romagna's capital city, Bologna): Mortadella, one of the great pork sausages of Europe, finely ground pork seasoned with nutmeg, coriander, and myrtle (the Italian mortadella comes from the Latin myrtillus, myrtle, the most important seasoning for this heat-cured sausage which already enjoyed worldwide renown during the Italian Renaissance).
And when you sit down to eat in Emilia-Romagna, you will not find Barolo or Barbaresco, Chianti or Amarone on the tables of locals.
No, in Emilia-Romagna, they drink only one wine: Lambrusco.
Red Lambrusco, rosé Lambrusco, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino, and even white Lambrusco. But always Lambrusco.
Lambrusco may just be the most food-friendly wine in the world. When it's good, it's low in alcohol and has bright acidity; it's grapey and naturally fruity; and its gentle fizziness helps to cleanse the palate -- a property especially welcomed when you're eating heavier foods like the foods they eat in Emilia-Romagna.
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Yesterday, as I slathered spicy pickle relish on my Fourth of July hotdogs (yes, I ate more than one), it occurred to me that the topping is reminiscent of Emilia-Romagna's mostarda, pickled fruits that have been spiced up with ground mustard seeds and then served with boiled meats.
So as we head into the height of summer grilling season, what better wine to reach for than Lambrusco? You'll find the real stuff -- Lini Lambrusco, red and white -- at Spec's for under $15. Serve it chilled and drink it with someone you love.