Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Enrico Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco NV

Medium ruby color; black plum, blueberry, blackcurrant, cherry on the nose; plum, blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, plum on the palate.

Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Enrico Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco NV

Secco is Italian for dry, but in the world of sparkling wine—or semi-sparkling, as this is—dry means there is some sweetness. Mouth-drying tannin—grasparossa is the boldest lambrusco in color, flavor, tannin. Fresh, balanced. Zesty, lively tartness on the finish. Fine, light bead of bubbles—although the bubbles are hard to see in the darkness of the wine. The Enrico Cialdini name on the label honors Enrico Cialdini, a famous general during the unification of Italy.

Simple, fruit-forward. Lambrusco wines are renowned for their freshness and deliciousness, even in their boldest iteration, which this is. They also are relatively low alcohol—this is 11% ABV—so they can easily be enjoyed with lunch or on a walk to an eye-pleasing destination where you savor a light snack, baguette and cheese, cured meats.

Secco is charged with its own carbon dioxide, giving it a suggestion of sparkling. Although this is Italian wine, secco is a German term for semi-sparkling, while sekt is German for fully sparkling. Italy uses some German words to describe lambrusco: secco; semisecco—off-dry with more fruitiness; amabile and dolce—very sweet wines that typically pair with desserts, including milk chocolate.

Instead of the traditional sparkling wine cage, this bottle’s cork is secured with a metal clamp. The easiest way to open it is to use wide-blade screwdriver and twist to release the clamp from the bottle neck. The knife on your bottle opener will work, but the screwdriver is sturdier. That said, it does not take excessive force to pry the clamp. It looks more formidable than it actually is.

Cleto Chiarli bottle closure
Cleto Chiarli bottle closure

This wine is 100% lambrusco grasparpossa grapes. Vinified in stainless steel tanks with no secondary fermentation. “Lambrusco” means “wild grapes” in Italian. Lambrusco is a family of eight closely related grapes used in winemaking (some studies suggest there may be more than 60 lambrusco varieties). Lambrusco grapes grow almost exclusively in north-central Italy. Lambrusco grasparpossa—the grape in this effort—produces the boldest and darkest wine. It is noted for power and fruitiness rather than the refinement and delicacy of lambrusco di sorbana.

Cleto Chiarli makes quality lambrusco. The tank/Charmat process allows a winery to make sparkling or semi-sparkling wine cheaper and quicker than secondary fermentation in the bottle, and winemakers churned out gallons of puerile plonk in the past. Forget sugary dreck of yesteryear. Italian winemakers reduced yields, cleaned up their acts, developed a drier and more sophisticated inventory of lambrusco wines. This is a leader in that welcomed quality wave.

Cleto Chiarli vineyard and winery
Cleto Chiarli vineyard and winery

The Chiarli family’s history is closely tied to lambrusco. Visit the website (link below) for the interesting story. It started with Cleto Chiarli making wine for his Modena restaurant in the mid-1800s. The winery thrived and became the largest privately-owned producer of lambrusco. It is the oldest winery in Emilia Romagna.

The website notes: “Our belief in the our ‘terroir’, a combination not only of the climate, the soil, and the grape varieties grown in the area, but also—and above all—the culture. It is not a static concept, fixed in time, instead it changes continuously with the arrival of new and innovative techniques.”

As a result of this philosophy, Cleto’s great-grandsons Mauro and Anselmo Chiarli “decided to spin off a new production center that would move away from mass-market Lambrusco into a more artisanal, quality-driven style. In 2002, they began building a new facility to produce a higher-end line of Lambrusco wines using carefully selected, estate-grown grapes and state-of-the-art equipment. The new company was named Cleto Chiarli after the founder.” This effort comes from that new direction and winery.

Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Enrico Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco NV is intense, fruity superb. Boldest lambrusco type, this delivers excellent acidity to contribute to its food-friendly other attributes. It is Cleto Chiarli’s top-of-the-line lambrusco grasparossa and well worth a taste. Pair with first courses with meat sauces; vegetables with strong tastes—even mushrooms and asparagus. Bolognese ragu with tomato sauce; stuffed pasta—tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni. Interesting tip: foods you can pair with beer also pair with lambrusco. $14-17

Chiarli website

Dalla Terra winery direct; importer to U.S. website

Cleto Chiarli vineyard
Cleto Chiarli vineyards
Cleto Chiarli winery
Cleto Chiarli beginnings
Cleto Chiarli today
Cleto Chiarli principals