~ A rustic casual Trattoria in lower Manhattan was the site of our relaxing lunch ~

Last month I received an email from a friend who represents Ermete Medici and she asked me if I would be interested in having lunch with Alberto Medici so that we could taste his recent releases. Would I be interested?  I responded affirmatively before the ink on the email had dried.  Well, you get my point.  I was going!

Medici Ermete’s story begins with Remigio, who founded a wine cellar in the late nineteenth century with the aim of making the most of the family vineyards.  Remigio’s son Ermete expanded the business and consolidated its reputation, before handing over the reins to his sons Valter and Giorgio, who carry on the work of their father and grandfather.  Today,  the company owns 75 hectares of land spread among the finest wine growing areas in the Emilia Romagna region. Now run by the fourth generation of the Medici family, the company boasts sound experience both in the vineyards and in the winery, which allows them to make the finest wines from their vineyards in Emilia Romagna.

What lies behind the family’s success is the idea of creating a close link between the individual vineyards and the wines produced. Coupled with rigorous grape selection that often leads to yields as low as 30-40% less than the quantity permitted by the DOC, it’s easy to see why the family’s wines have earned several Tre Bicchieri awards from Gambero Rosso.

~ 4th generation winemaker Alberto Medici hosted the lunch and guided us through the tastings ~

We began with assorted antipasti and a wine I have come to love.  Paired with burrata, cured meats, olives, focaccia and extra virgin olive oil Alberto opened his “Solo” wine.

The 2017 Solo Reggiano is a  what Alberto referred to as “almost a Lambrusco”.  Because the wine contains more than 15% of the Ancellota grape variety, it cannot legally be labeled Lambrusco but you would be hard pressed to tell the difference and I adore this wine.  The aromas are dotted with ripe figs, plums, and soft earth notes that combine with blue flowers. On the palate, there’s a floral nuance to the blackberry fruit flavors and the vibrant acidity simply lifts the entire package and cleanses the palate of whatever you’re eating.  We paired this with the antipasto and tagliatelle Bolognese at Alberto’s suggestion.  “After all he said, they are both from Emilia Romagna.”  A wonderful combination.  91 points.   Price should be under $15.  Find this wine.

~ Produced from Lambrusco Salamino and Ancellota grapes, this outstanding wine just may be my favorite of the three we tasted ~

I wanted this article to be a bit more than “I sat with the winemaker and drank his wines” so while we were relaxing,  I dove into some Q&A with Alberto who was eager and generous with his discussion.

Let’s face it, if you ask most Americans what they think of when they hear the word Lambrusco, many may not even know what it is other than a wine.  Some may know it’s semi-sparkling, some may think it’s sweet and when you mention Riunite, they may remember the famous slogan “Riunite on Ice”.   But it pretty much stops there.  So this is where Alberto and I began.

Alberto, many people have negative opinions of the Riunite brand asserting that it has damaged the reputation of Lambruso.  However, one could argue that were it not for Riunite, no one outside of Emilia Romagna, let alone Italy, would even know what Lambrusco is.  What do you think of this?

“Giovanni, what you say is very true. From both aspects. Riunite is very different.  It is not a bad product but it’s different than what we at Medici Ermete and other small producers are attempting to do.  Riunite is very sweet and we mostly make dry wine. Secco wine.  Riunite is clearly an important part of our past. We shouldn’t ignore it.  It’s just different.” 

The next wine we tried is a true trail blazer.  A perennial Gambero Rosso Tre-Bicchieri winner, it is a wine worth seeking out.  The 2017 Arte Concerto Lambrusco is a single vineyard wine produced with 100% Lambrusco Salamino grapes. Alberto says that this wine represents their pinnacle of the Lambrusco expression which is why the yields used to produce this wine are often 40-50% less than what is allowed by the DOC.

The brilliant shimmering purple black color is well, very  sexy to look at.  The nose is expressive with vibrant blue flowers, blackberry and black plums.  Spices and pepper join in as well.  On the palate the wine is brisk with acidity and the black fruit flavors expand against the fat of the Bolognese.  Fresh, juicy and vibrant, I think this is one of the most versatile food wines you could ever imagine. About $20.  91 points.  Find this wine.

~ Concerto is also vintage dated which is unusual for Lambrusco. I asked Alberto why more wines weren’t vintage dated and he said simply it’s because Lambrusco is always meant to be drunk young and you should just assume the wine available is from the current vintage because by the time that wine is released, the previous vintage would already be gone, drunk. This is changing slowly but the wine is still best in its youth. ~

Lambrusco is comprised mostly from three grapes:  Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Marani and Ancellota.  Alberto opined upon what each varietal brings to the blend.   “Lambrusco Salamino is the best of the three and the #1 grape that we use in our wines.  It brings structure, body and tannin to the finished wines.  Marani contributes freshness and acidity while Ancellota, which is related to, but not in the same Lambrusco family, contributes color and aroma.”

Alberto, being in the family business is often a difficult decision to make.  What path got you here and do you have any regrets?

“Well, I was born into it!  But it’s true. Initially at 16 years of age I was resistant to it. I wanted to study economics. But when one realizes a passion, that’s how you contribute to family, to life and to learn an appreciation for the land where you live. To be an ambassador. It was important to me.  No, I don’t have any regrets about joining the family business.  In fact, I made a special point of not forcing my son Alessandro to join us.  But he is done with school now and decided to do just that.  He started with the company in October and is now the 5th generation of Medici to be in the company.”

The next wine was served with cheese and fruit.  The NV I Quercioli Lambrusco Dolce is a pretty dark violet color.  It’s labeled Dolce as opposed to Secco but truthfully, it’s not that sweet and clocks in at the same grams of sugar content as the other wines.  The difference lies in the levels of acidity which makes the wine “seem” sweeter.  Lovely berry and vanilla crème nose accents wild flowers. These notes carry through on the palate with vibrant bright plum flavors and hints of baking spices. Although it’s non-vintage, this is again mostly from the 2017 harvest. 87 points and a fitting pairing with the cheese. About $11.   Find this wine.

As lunch was winding down, we got to the last of our few questions….

Alberto, let’s talk about challenges then.  What is the goal for Medici Ermete and Lambrusco in general?  How do you change the perceptions?

“Well, I think first and foremost the goal is that we want people to realize that Lambrusco is a wine worth seeking out.  We want them to know how versatile it is with food and that they should treat it like any other prominent red wine.  The way to affect that change is to let people taste. Be an ambassador and have more events like this!”

Do you think possibly trying to elevate the wine to DOCG would improve the image of Lambrusco and increase the markets awareness? 

“Yes, I think elevating it to DOCG could be a good thing.  But it cannot simply be done only to get the “G”.  It would need to come with stricter production laws, yields and much more structure for the process of production.  But yes, I think if done properly it could help.”

~ A wonderful day with Alberto Medici and it’s fitting to say that since this lunch, I’ve bought a case of both Concerto and Solo and will be enjoying them all summer as I did with lunch in my garden; the cover photo for this article. Open your mind and taste! ~

You can learn more about Medici Ermete here:  Lambrusco Medici Ermete


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