The origins of Lambrusco lie in antiquity. The ancient Romans used the term labrusca vitis for a wild grape that grew on the edges (labrum) of cultivated fields (ruscum).
Virgil, Cato and Varro mentioned it in their works, but it is known that the Etruscans were already familiar with this plant. However, it was not until the 14th century – as described in the agricultural treatise written by the Bolognese author Pier de’ Crescenzi – that wine began to be produced from these wild vines.
From that moment on, Lambrusco became increasingly popular. Admired by the Dukes of Este, sought after by Matilde di Canossa, exalted by the poet Giosuè Carducci – to mention just a few of its most famous admirers – Lambrusco became one of the best known and most widely consumed wines in the world. Sparkling, joyous, aromatic, Lambrusco has the versatility to please any palate.
Many theories have been put forward about the origins of its name, some scientific (like the one mentioned above from labrum and ruscum), others rather more inventive.
One of the most memorable was proposed by the writer Luigi Bertelli, known as Vamba, who wrote a playful verse about Lambrusco. Here he tells how one day, during the war between Bologna and Modena for the possession of the Stolen Bucket (the “Secchia Rapita”), Venus, Mars and Bacchus came to assist the Modenese.
They stopped at a local inn to dine. When Bacchus ordered the wine the host asked him “Dolce l’ami ovver ch’abbia il bruschetto?” (“Do you prefer sweet or brusque?”), and Bacchus replied “Io l’amo brusco” (“I love brusque”). This was perhaps the origin of the name Lambrusco.
The philosophy of the Cavicchioli company is embodied in the history of a family that has worked together to achieve a common goal, sharing the same values of professionalism, commitment and expertise.
These strengths have been carried on by the company’s successors, who are well aware of the links between the past, present and future.
Their constant objective remains that of enhancing the quality of Lambrusco, where possible using advanced production techniques while maintaining Cavicchioli’s inimitable style.
Their forward-looking entrepreneurial spirit combines sophisticated technology with time-honoured methods of good winemaking.
The history of the Cantine Cavicchioli winemakers began back in the twentieth century, when Umberto Cavicchioli, who already cultivated and sold his own grapes, decided to start producing wine. He transformed his workshop into a cellar and began processing his Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes to produce the most prestigious of wines.
This excellent wine is still produced today and sold under the highly symbolic name of Tradizione. From these simple beginnings, the family’s experience and passion were passed down from father to son through the generations.
Today, the Cantine Cavicchioli winemakers are an institution and a key player in the local Modenese economy. Although the techniques used are a far cry from those of the past, when pressing and bottling were both performed manually, the character of the Lambrusco has nonetheless remained unchanged, with the same genuine and sparkling qualities of its origins.
The Cavicchioli family owns numerous vineyards in the area around the town of Sorbara, situated between the Secchia and Panaro rivers in the province of Modena.
Considered the original production area of Lambrusco, it is here that they have built their wineries. Alongside the bottling plant in San Prospero, the Due Madonne winery is characterised by densely-planted vineyards.
A few kilometres away, the village Staggia is home to the Forcirola winery, which grows Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Grasparossa varieties. In Bastiglia, an eponymous winery is reserved for the production of white wine.
Alongside these sites in the province of Modena, Cavicchioli also owns the Castel Faglia winery in Franciacorta which specialises in the production of traditional-method sparkling wine.
Before being declared fit for bottling, every batch of wine is carefully analysed and tasted by expert oenologists.
Blending is the crucial stage at which the various raw materials used to make Lambrusco are selected and combined to give the finished product the unique qualities for which it is renowned in the market.
When pressing Lambrusco, there is a preference for virgin rather than fermented pomace.
Delicate pneumatic presses apply a constant pressure to separate the must from the grape skins. Inside the presses, a plastic-coated fabric sac inflated with compressed air expands and crushes the loaded pomace and the resultant liquid drips down through special openings into the collection vats.
The grapes are weighed at every pressing cycle, and only the first 50% of must is used to make the best Lambrusco.
This percentage varies slightly from year to year and according to maturation.
After being refermented, the wine is transferred to the bottling machine by means of a pressure differential rather than using pumps.
This operation is preceded by filtration, which eliminates the yeast cells and bacteria and prevents microbial damage. The equipment is sanitised with steam to ensure sterile bottling.
In some cases (particularly when the wine that is to be bottled contains residual sugar), the wine is pasteurised for greater safety. For this purpose, the filled bottles are passed through a tunnel where they are sprayed with hot water to heat the wine to a temperature of 50°C for 30 minutes.
The bottling machine works on an isobaric or back-pressure principle as it brings the pressure inside the empty bottles to the same pressure as the wine. The bottling machine’s precise mechanisms and operation prevent froth formation and oxygenation of the wine, further safeguarding its quality.
The bottling stage ends with corking and labelling, and finally the wine is packaged for transport.
Lambrusco produced by the Cantine Cavicchioli is made from grapes grown in an area carrying the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata or “Controlled Denomination of Origin”) quality label. As a further guarantee, the Consortium checks the quality of the wine by analysing samples taken during the production process.
There are three different types of DOC Lambrusco wine produced in the province of Modena: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, and Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce.
But Lambrusco di Sorbara is considered the most characteristic of the three.