Meet Lambrusco Cremonese: from the Gonzagas to the Caleffi brothers

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It is thanks to Davide and Emanuele of the Caleffi winery that today we can taste this exceptional wine, son of a unique terroir on the border with the Mantua area: the two pioneers have recovered traditional winemaking methods, starting with refermentation in the bottle. And so, where once there were marshes, now verdant vines flourish, healthy and rich in fruit

Lambrusco Cremonese? Yes, you got it right, precisely Lambrusco Cremonese. And if today it is mentioned for the first time, it is due solely to the enterprise of two farmer brothers from Spineda, Davide and Emanuele Caleffi, who four years ago, out of a shared passion, decided to convert part of their livestock and cereal business into a wine business. They are located on the border between the provinces of Cremona and Mantuain a tongue of land that the Gonzaga donated to the Marchesi Cavalcabò of Cremona. The gift also included some vines of cabernet sauvignonin turn received as a gift by the Gonzaga from the King of France; this explains why these grapes are called indigenous and used to be used here as a cut to 'strengthen' Lambrusco.

Once marshy and overgrown with brambles and brushwood - hence the name of the municipality of Spineda - this area, historically, had as its reference wine the Mantuan Lambrusco produced in the neighbouring municipalities of Viadana and Sabbioneta - which are in the province of Mantua, but belong to the Diocese of Cremona.

Davide and Emanuele, aware of the hitherto unexpressed goodness of the terroir - are still the only producers and bottlers in the province - have recovered 'traditional' production methods, resorting to the ancestral method of bottle re-fermentation; and thus declining four types of lambruscowith the native Viadano variety playing a leading role, alongside Ancellotta and salamino. In the five hectares of vines they own, to which they add three hectares for rent (30 thousand bottles), characterised by fertile, clayey soils, the rows are left grassed over and manure from their cattle breeding is used to fertilise them. Also fundamental is the 'important' green pruning, which they carry out to reduce the number of bunches and over-leafing.

Proof of their daily commitment is the very pleasant Lambrusco Frizzante Rosso 'Ven Ros', from lambrusco viadanese (75%), lambrusco salamino (20%) and ancellotta (5%) grapes that spend five days on the skins. We have before us a rustic, vinous lambrusco, with hints of dried fruit (walnut) and then a creamy sip that corresponds to the invitation of those rosy bubbles bouncing in the glass.

Next, it is the turn of a black Lambrusco, the 'Ven Negar' (ancellotta 60%, lambrusco viadanese 30% and lambrusco salamino 10%), eight days in wooden vats, which reveals an almost impenetrable colour, and is full, fresh, intense, a wine to be eaten with its typical spices that are sometimes found in Lambrusco di Viadana. Really good and surprising these wines!

Therefore, the Lambrusco Rosato 'In Fiore', from lambrusco viadanese grapes (80%), with a smaller percentage of salamino and something of fortana. Obtained from must flower, on the nose you feel pure cherry and hints of salami skin. In the mouth it goes down dry and enveloping.

Finally, for the Le Regone' line the Mantua Ancellotta  'Terra Forte' a pure ancellotta grape that spends 6 months in tonneaux and the same amount of time in cement. Interesting right from its bright, dense ruby colour with generous violet reflections, the nose reaches for citrus and almond notes. In the mouth it is velvety, round and with fine, subtle tannins.

But there is also the Pure Cabernet Sauvignon, also from the Mantua IGT, which is relaxed, less floral than expected, but spicy. It has the same softness as the Ancellotta, but a different complexity.

Final note with the Frizzante Malvasia 'Ven Bianc': dry, very drinkable, revealing pleasant acidity and savouriness, fruit notes (apple, pear). In the mouth, the freshness is expressive, marked, with a very fine bubble offering a dry, relaxed, really pleasant prototype.

All wines that represent the nostalgia of festivals and recall the combination with vanilla sausages and cured meats from the Cremona area, an agri-food district to be rediscovered.

by Paolo Massobrio

Article from 'Il gusto', food and wine column in the national daily La repubblica.

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