Adhering to the ‘Just say Yes to life’ philosophy, I recently accepted an invitation to visit Rinaldini Vini, near Reggio Emilia. A lovely spring day awaited me, and the sunshine and the warm welcome reminded me that this region is known for its hospitality. And great food – but I’ll get to that part in a minute.
Snow-capped Apennines in the distance, the landscape of dormant vines with just the slightest hint of a green shoot starting are what greeted me.
This is Lambrusco territory. I hear you snickering from here! But you can stop, because not only was Lambrusco the most-sold wine in the world prior to Prosecco (still snickering?), it is currently undergoing a Renaissance.
Paola Rinaldini was the hostess with the mostest, explaining with painstaking care all aspects of the family business, the cultivation of the vines, the cellar, the wines, and her family’s fascinating history.
In the beginning, Paola’s grandfather Giuseppe – called Il Moro, or the dark-haired one – started a small restaurant, Trattoria Dal Moro, with his wife Maria. (Giuseppe and Maria? Mary and Joseph? Sounds familiar…) Maria was an excellent cook, and the place became famous. She passed down the great culinary traditions of the area to their son, Rinaldo Rinaldini (love that name!) who turned the restaurant into something more – even earning a Michelin star and recognition from Cordon Bleu.
In the ‘60s, Rinaldo purchased 15 hectares of land and a wine estate so that he could supply his own successful restaurant with the best wines and freshest produce, and supervise it all. A visionary, way ahead of the farm-to-table or Slow Food movement.
The beautiful shop in the wine cellar, displaying bottles, even balsamic vinegar!
Is there something in the water around here? In Emilia, in particular near Parma, there has been great attention to gastronomic science all along: Gualtiero Marchesi founded ALMA, the international culinary institute, in nearby Parma. And Pellegrino Artusi also came from Emilia-Romagna! Who doesn’t know Artusi’s book Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Easting Well? (That is required reading if you are going to keep reading this blog!)
The good Rinaldo Rinaldini also wrote a delightful cookbook that is a compendium of recipes and traditions (see photo to the left).
I love how this small – only just over 100,000 bottles – winery maintains the traditions and cultivates important native grapes from the area. Keep in mind, there are Lambrusco producers making over 10 million bottles, with groups of producers pooling their grapes. So Rinaldini is a niche producer. They are even doing some Metodo Classico, as you can see here…
Have I said how much I enjoy visiting the vineyards?
This is soil with a lot of loose stone, so high in minerality.
Paola explained how they harvest mechanically, and I never really had gotten so close to this impressive machine, which must be easier to use here given that the land is so flat, unlike many other hilly wine regions!
I love the juxtaposition of that witch’s broom and heavy machinery on the left
No visit to a winery is complete without an inspection of the cellar. After seeing the cement tanks and the bottling area, we descended to the cantina. And boy do I love dark, dank wine cellars!
Emerging back to the warm sunlight, Paola bore testimony to the generous hospitality of Emilia with a beautiful spread, which gave us a chance to sample Rinaldini’s fabulous, different wines.
A quick review to brush up on your Lambrusco: there are four DOC varieties: Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce (red); Lambrusco di Sorbara (red or rosé); Lambrusco Reggiano, (rosé sweet or red dry) and Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro. But there are actually many grape varieties that may go into a Lambrusco, such as Marani, Maestri, and even Ancellotta may be used.
A fabulous pairing of sweet Lambrusco and a homemade cake. With its low alcohol content and fresher temperatures, this Lambrusco makes a delightful accompaniment to a scrumptious dessert.
Rinaldini has recuperated and cultivated an older, rare variety – Pjcol Ross (in dialect) – said to be related to the more famous Friuli grape Peduncolo Rosso (a name that is fun to pronounce!). Most people won’t grow it because it has such a low yield. Not only do they do a fabulous Lambrusco from it, but Moro del Moro IGT is an Amarone-style wine, with 60% Pjcol Ross that is partially dried before pressing. A tasty treat!
Thanks to Bruno D’Ascanio of Montcalm Wine Importers USA, who introduced me to Paola.