Co-Owner Medici Ermete
On the occasion of the Italian Cuisine World Summit 2016 organized by Rosario Scarpato here in Dubai, I had the honor of interviewing Alberto Medici, of the historic house of Medici Ermete, which produces top of the range Lambrusco. Not only classed top of the range for over 8 years in a row, they also hold the title of the winner of the famous 3 Bicchieri for the notorious Gambero Rosso, the most authoritative guide to Italian wines.
Talking with Alberto, he points out that Lambrusco is probably one of the oldest grape varieties known to man. Seeds have been found from the “terre maris” period, when the land came above the water, probably in the era of Emilia Romagna. Also, the Romans created the name Labrusca, from the Latin Labrum, which means margins, and Ruscum, which means camp. With this, they were describing a plant that was growing spontaneously outside of their camps. This means that this grape variety has been growing in this area for so long that one can only conclude that the way it grows here is unique and has specialist properties that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
As well as the history of the Lambrusco, we also spoke regarding the present and most importantly the future of the Lambrusco. Below are some of the most thoughtful insights from when we met.
ALBERTO: Lambrusco is one of the many indigenous grape varieties that Italy has to offer. It was found and produced in the province of Reggio Emilia e Modena. The only defect that this plant has is the fact that the people love it. So due to the fact that the plant is vigorous and the soil is fertile it allowed for sky-high production of the Lambrusco in the 60’s and 70’s, which technically flooded markets such as America. The export numbers were incomparable with any seen ever before, which lead to the demise of the Lambrusco image. Who doesn’t remember the commercial of the Riunite on Ice, which saw it dubbed the “Red Cola” by the American people.
At the end of the 80’s my family made a turn on the overproduction of Lambrusco and chose to treat this vine like one of the great vineyards of the world. This meant focusing on quality, reducing the yields of production drastically per hectare and selecting cru’s for their single vineyards cru’s. Nearly 30 years ago the first Grand cru was born under the name of Concerto, which is the wine that for the last 8 years has won the 3 bicchieri by Gambero Rosso.
LUCA: Have those Cru’s been recognized by the appellation?
ALBERTO: Unfortunately not, sadly only a few wine experts within our field recognize these Cru’s. The majority of the people still think that Lambrusco is an ordinary wine, light, bubbly and often sweet.
However the Lambrusco has been divided in different DOC’s such as: Lambrusco Reggiano, Lambrusco Mantovano, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco di Salamino di Santa Croce and Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvertro.
Our Concerto which is a cru of 20 hectares is produced in the Lambrusco Reggiano using the Salamino variety, which gives great fruitiness, and creates a full bodied Lambrusco. However, we need to keep in mind that we cut the yields to 40% to get this high concentration and abundant red fruit flavors.
Another wine we partially produce from the Salamino (Lambrusco Marani is the other variety used for this wine) is the Quercioli Reggiano DOC, both dry and sweet versions.
Other Lambrusco noble varieties are: Lambrusco Sorbara, which produces a lighter color than the Salamino but still maintains a high level of acidity.
Lambrusco Gasparossa, which produces the most tannic Lambrusco so leaves quite a bitter taste at the end. For this reason, we have created a cru called Il Bocciolo, which is a sweet Lambrusco that with its added sugar element, hides the bitterness of the Gasparossa.
Lambrusco Marani is the least tannic of all, with great acidity and elegance, from this we produce our rose’ called Unique.
LUCA: From quantity to quality, what changes are most prominent?
ALBERTO: First of all we needed to identify the best grape variety that can bring about this change, if you think that hundred years ago there were more than 50 varieties of Lambrusco vines. We had to select the best varieties that were most resistant to the difficult years. Secondly, it’s important to treat each grape variety for it’s characteristic and style that we want to produce. For example for our Concerto we allow long skin contact at a low temperature, approximately 6 days, then we bring the temperature to 14 degrees to induce the fermentation. This way, we can extract more color and tannins before the fermentation starts.
For our Bocciolo, we do not need long skin contact because the Grasparossa is already very tannic so we more dedicate more time to the extraction of the color during fermentation. For our rose Unique, the contact is very limited and instead of using the Charmat method, we produce it with the classic method and we leave the wine on the yeast for 30 months. It’s not one produce every year, but save it only for great vintages.
Also, we select our indigenous yeast, mostly from the Salamino grapes, as we work with some Italian university on this selection and have done for many years. We’ve noticed a great improvement in our wines since, with much more fruit, acidity, and elegance.
LUCA: What’s the Gran Concerto?
ALBERTO: it’s almost a secret wine, and as with all outstanding vintages we take some of the grapes coming from the vineyard of the Concerto and we do the second fermentation in bottle opting for the Classic method. We leave the yeast for 30 months in contact with the wine, in order to have something very different from the Concerto, so that it can develop much more complexity, structure, tertiary flavors and with less dosage.
LUCA: What’s your idea of the perfect food pairing for Lambrusco?
ALBERTO: One of the reasons why Lambrusco is back on-trend nowadays is because quality Lambrusco’s are very versatile with food, and not only Italian dishes but it also pairs well with international cuisines.
We have tried our Concerto with Indian curries and other spicy dishes from Asia and the results were very impressive as the sugar, bubbles, and fruity notes compliment the palate well and soften the spicy characteristic of the dish.
Another great match is with gourmet pizza’s as the Lambrusco blends very well with many different types of toppings and especially well with the bitterness of whole-wheat doughs. Regarding our fine Italian cuisine, the perfect pairings are with cold cuts, cannelloni, lasagne, fried seafood, boiled meats and roasted pork.
LUCA: What does the future hold for the Lambrusco:
ALBERTO: We will definitely have many more quality Lambrusco’s on the market and we hope to see our products featured on the best restaurant’s wine lists around the world. It’s a long journey but we are working hard to curate our product and help to change the mentality on this outstanding product.
LUCA: Apart from Lambrusco, what else do you like to drink?
ALBERTO: I love the Nebbiolo grapes, so Barolo and Barbaresco are my favourites.