Canetto sul’Oglio, Italy.
Years ago the sagacious wine writer, Frank Schoonmaker, penned that Lambrusco was “as nearly undrinkable as a well-known wine could be.” My view too. But while making the short drive from Canetto for dinner at Dal Pescatore, the hallowed Michelin three-star restaurant, a thought of pairing a bottle of local Lambrusco with the restaurant’s Menu dalla Campagna (country tasting menu) emerged.
Lambrusco is the home wine of this area west of Mantova. Dal Pescatore even has its own house bottling. The proprietor, Antonio Santini, beamed with pride and delight when I ordered the Lambrusco. We are not talking about the sweet Lambruscos normally encountered on the US market (here, it’s dry, but still frothy). The delectables that chef Nadia Santini sent out of her kitchen not only paired well with Lambrusco, but also interacted with it.
First up on the tasting menu was a slice of seared veal liver crowned with fried artichoke slivers, or Carciofi de Primavera con fegato di vitello al burro e rosmarino. Though I’m no liver lover (sorry Portnoy), the acidity and prickle of the Lambrusco placated the palate. Next came agnoli in a chicken broth (Sorbir di agnoli). Good grief! They had taken my glass of Lambrusco and poured it into the broth! And the results were sensational.
The most revered dish at Dal Pescatore is Santini’s pumpkin ravioli (Tortelli di zucca), and with this the Lambrusco enlivened the sweet flavors of the pumpkin, amaretti, mustard and parmigiano filling. The meat and truffle stuffed pasta, Occhi di lupo, that came next not even a light Chianti could’ve paired better with. The next dish, a beef brazed in Barbera on a bed of soft polenta was calmed by the flavor of the wine. For the penultimate dish, a cheese plate, the Lambrusco did a dandy job. But depending on choice, desserts could negatively react with Lambrusco, yet Variazioni di cioccolato Grand Cru, chocolate, provided a fair fight. The versatility of the dry Lambrusco with this assortment of dishes was an epiphany. I will never denigrate Lambrusco again and neither should you.