Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro is a sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. As implied by its name, the wine is made from Lambrusco Grasparossa grapes (just one of various Lambrusco varieties) grown around the town of Castelvetro di Modena. Inky purple in color (flecked with crimson in the foam), it has pronounced aromas of violets, strawberries, fresh plums and black cherries. Fuller-bodied and higher in alcohol than other Lambrusco wines, it is also more tannic - Grasparossa has the highest tannin count of the Lambrusco varieties. The wine is robust enough to provide an excellent match for the local food specialty, zampone (stuffed pig trotter).
The name Lambrusco is the source of much confusion. Originally it meant 'wild vine' (similar to labrusca), and came to be used for a number of grape varieties and their clones. Many of these survive today, most saliently Grasparossa, Maestri, Marani, Monstericco, Salamino and Sorbara. By extension, the name came to represent not just grape varieties, but also the wine styles made from those varieties. It is now synonymous with the fruity, light-hearted sparkling reds made in central-northern Italy.
Other than Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro there are several Italian DOC titles dedicated to the style, most famously Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce and Reggiano. The wines of the various Lambrusco DOCs are obviously of the same style, but each has its own subtly distinct personality thanks to variations in terroir and differences between the various Lambrusco grape varieties.
Any wine bearing the Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro title must be made up from at least 85% Lambrusco Grasparossa grapes. The remaining to 15% can be made up of other Lambrusco varieties and/or Malbo Gentile. The wines are typically made using the Charmat method (tank method), as is almost all modern-day Lambrusco. Only a tiny number are still made in the methode traditionnelle - typically the very highest quality wines.
This official vineyard area for Grasparossa di Castelvetro covers thirteen communes located just south of the town of Modena. The land in this area is essentially flat and fertile, with soils rich in mineral salts. Although relatively far inland, and not far from Italy's mountainous spine (the northern Appennines lie just to the south) the area lies are low altitude, around 200ft (60m) above sea-level.
Despite its long history, Lambrusco wines were hardly known outside Italy before their commercial success in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s. The style gained a bad reputation in subsequent years and is now seen as a cheap, bulk-produced, low-quality wine. Overcropping and mass production have been the primary causes of this reputation, which, it could be argued, is largely deserved.