Lambrusco, the other white grape: Le Grotte’s Dell’Emilia Bianco

DSC_0010“I’ll try anything once”–and–“I rarely read the fine print” are phrases I have used many times to describe my adventurous self.  Right before I get myself into trouble due to the aforementioned attributes.This includes camping, when I should have been hoteling, on a 1000 mile bike ride (the ground is not anyone’s friend); saying yes to the job in Minnesota before the coldest winter ever (more than two months of sub-zero temps); and driving 18 hours to said job the night before I started it after competing in my last Ironman race (there is not enough coffee in the world).

This wine, again, is one of those times. Sadly,  I have tried–and liked–it before.

The wine: Le Grotte’s Dell’Emilia Bianco Lambrusco (Dolce, 8%) purchased at Trader Joe’s for $4.99.

I had thought this wine a steal last year in DC during the final heat wave I seemingly would ever experience.  In 2013, it was light, refreshing, bubbly.


In 2014, it was green-grapey alcoholic, fizzy.  (But the temps started out at 57 degrees this August morning, so there is a slight defense in it’s favor).

Truth be told, I have had worse wines in dive bars, at parties and in my own house.  After a few more sips,  it became palatable, in the way that I start to crave banana-flavored Laffy Taffy when the sugar sets in.  My guess is the recommended pairing should be a nice, hot still summer evening devoid of other wine in the house.

Alfred Lloyd Tennyson sums up my experience with this wine: “‘Tis better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all.”  Arrivederci, sweet Lambrusco.  Arrevederci.

The Gold Standard-Meursault, Les Vireuils, 2004

Like a symphony orchestra that gave me the chills with notes of lingering melancholia; or a poem I strain my ears to hear so that I might remember the words as I do old friends; or a sunset I dared not blink through in case I missed the next hue that would top what came before,  this Meursault (White Burgandy, Chardonnay) rivaled all great moments that have caused me to painfully concentrate on its moments of joy.

I know–that’s a lot of expectation to bestow upon a wine, but like all great and welcome surprises, I wasn’t prepared to be enamored.

The setting: I could wane about a terrible trip I had had leading up to this wine, but I prefer to recall the spectacular August night of Minnesota, with a well-cooked filet mignon and quiet company, this wine was a great point of punctuation to what rivals perfection.

The wine:  Meursault, Les Vireuils, 2004-Nicolas Patel hails from Nuit-Sant-Georges, the northern part of the Cote d’Or (“slope of gold”) in France’s Burgandy region, and as I already set the expectation earlier in this post, it was the perfect wine for the perfect night.


Served chilled, but not overly cold, the wine was full-bodied, rich in texture and taste.  The wine was at first subdued butter, but surrendered to mineral tones that lingered on the pallet, and marked a delicate balance with it’s citrus and almond notes that came through the medium plus acidity.  While I could have had the wine on it’s own, it held its own in body against filet mignon (cooked in butter) and its acid and fruit flavors played well off of the steamed and season cabbage, of all things!


The wine was a suspended note of gold wrapping that made me want to linger in the moment longer that what was possible.  Yet, as Robert Frost wrote of gold, it is the hardest hue to hold and ultimately, cannot stay.  But, the good news is the wine is still on the shelf, and will hopefully bring future good memories to bear.

The good (or bad?) bottom line: You can find this in Minnesota.  I found mine at Haskell’s, Maple Grove (Retail: $30-50, depending on sale).