The Best Ways to Pair Summer Food With Italian Lambrusco [Infographic]

Summer’s here! That means beaches, pools, picnics, travel, boats, street fairs, and backyard parties. All of that activity requires our favorite warm-weather foods, from light bites to rich, deep-fried fare.

It also means setting aside the heavy red wines and brown spirits for something bubbly and refreshing. And while beer, rosés, or Prosecco might be your go-to, did you know there’s a refreshing sparkling red that matches summer’s vibe perfectly? It’s called Lambrusco, and Cleto Chiarli is here to help pair your summer menus with Lambrusco.

“Lambrusco is a big category,” Tommaso Chiarli, export manager and fifth generation of the family that founded and owns Cleto Chiarli, says. “Yes, they are sparkling and typically red or rosé, but there is a huge variety and difference in styles. There are differences in their color, fruitiness, bubbles; some sweeter, some more acidic.”

Lambrusco is a grape with several distinct varietals (clones) grown across Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, home to gourmet specialties like Prosciutto di Parma, Balsamic di Modena, and Mortadella Bologna. While much of the Lambrusco available to consumers outside northern Italy was traditionally made in bulk blends and focused on the semi-sweet end of the wine’s range, the Chiarli family has always been focused on crafting higher-quality wines. In the early 2000s they launched the Cleto Chiarli label to focus on single-varietal, estate-grown wines and to honor the family’s first winemaker, Cleto Chiarli, who started the family’s legacy in the 1860s.

Rather than ferment an entire harvest at once and adding bubbles in a second fermentation, Cleto Chiarli deep-chills the grape must (juice) using only what’s needed for a bottling run while employing a single fermentation technique that traps the CO2 toward the end of the fermentation process to create a frizzante (lightly sparkling) wine. The resulting wines are incredibly fresh and fruit-forward. Additional sugars are never added, so any sweetness is due to residual sugars in the wine.

“In all different seasons, Lambrusco is applicable to a variety of foods,” Chiarli says. The high-acid, low-sugar Lambrusco grapes mean that the wines are lower in alcohol (generally 8 to 13 percent ABV), and emphasize bright, fresh fruit notes. The bruts have elegant, dry, crisp finishes perfect with Texas barbecue, any kind of long-cooked pork, and pizza. It really is a wonderful pizza wine and very food-friendly.”

Ready to dive into the summer of Lambrusco? Consider these bottles and pairings. Don’t be shy: chicken wings, cold Asian noodle salads, beef barbacoa, Italian hoagies, you name it. Almost anything that shows up on your grill or in your picnic basket plays well with Lambrusco.

Pairing Lambrusco Wines and Summer Foods

This infographic is sponsored by Cleto Chiarli.