Grasparossa is the star of the lambrusco show, often reaching greater ripeness, darker color, and making more concentrated, tannic and intense wines than its siblings. It prefers the slopes and hills of the Castelvetro area to the valley bottoms shared by its brethren. It makes what is arguably the classic Lambrusco full-fruited fizz, with tons of plum and black cherry and a touch of tannin. Grasparossa can only be 85% of the blend to qualify as Castelvetro DOC, showing that it gets by with a little help from its friends.
Though Vittorio Graziano’s family has always owned farmland and vines in the village of Castelvetro di Modena, his father built furniture for a living. Vittorio started drinking wine at 18 to please a girlfriend who loved the dry, sparkling reds of the area. After a few years working a miserable desk job as a youth, Vittorio decided it was time, with no formal training, to take on his family’s 1.25 acres of vines from his family farm. Vittorio soon began befriending the village’s old contadini, asking about farming methods, local varieties and soils, and heeding their advice, he started sourcing land and replanting vines. The acquisition of more vines around his house in 1992 and re-plantings brought the estate up to 12 acres currently.
Vittorio has never used chemicals in his vineyards and refuses to use manure, opting for wild herbs and planted legumes to improve his soil. He also grows about a dozen local grape varieties, and with the exception of Trebbiano, Lambrusco Grasparossa and Malbo Gentile, he has no idea what their names are. Both white and red grapes are destemmed, then fermented in fiberglass containers. For the sparkling wines, Vittorio racks the wine off the lees with about 10g of sugar left before bottling, with refermentation in bottle for 2 to 3 months. Many consider Vittorio to be the maestro of traditional Lambrusco, and this bottling is an incredible insight into his bizarre and beautiful world.
This is a trove of winter baking spice, like the three C’s of Chai: clove, cardamom,and cinnamon galore. So dark and a bit meaty and brooding, this sparkling red finishes lean and lip-smackingly dry. The palate is perky with fresh-cracked black peppercorn, allspice and waxy black licorice, and so very super herbal with hints of Fernet Branca. This is a mineral driven, Christmas pellegrino! Pop this grasparossa and trim a tree, hang some lights, bake some goodies, and dare to pair with roast beast.
“Fontana dei Boschi” means fountain of the forest, or maybe frizzante forest froth, bubbly of the trees, woodland lambrusco, thicket fizz or maybe jungle bubbly?