In the mid-nineties Lambrusco had become synonymous with Riunite, a cheap, low alcohol sweet wine that sommeliers wouldn’t allow anywhere near their wine lists, but one wine importer, James Koch of JKI, decided to start a campaign to realign Lambrusco with its authentic expression, a fizzy, dry red wine with 11% or more alcohol from Emilia, Italy.
In 1994 Koch imported his first 50 cases of Medici Ermete ‘Concerto 1993’, the only dry Lambrusco shipped outside of Emilia. “The response from my private clients was unbelievable,” says Koch, “yet, not one restaurant or retailer would allow me to taste them on my Lambrusco discovery. Even Medici Ermete didn’t believe that there would ever be a market for real Lambrusco outside of Emilia and Mantova in Northern Italy.”
Koch decided to prove a point, and launched his campaign to raise awareness about authentic Lambrusco focusing on New York and San Francisco restaurants. Two years later Lambrusco was featured by Felidia, one of New York’s trend setting restaurants of the time, and in the following years many more top restaurants stocked true Lambrusco.
Many more US wine importers joined Koch’s campaign for authentic Lambrusco, and in 2010 Banfi, importer of Riunite, stocked two dry Lambruscos. However, while Lambrusco was having a reemergence in restaurants, retailers were still not stocking it. “Wine retailers carry new items only if consumers start looking for it,” says Koch, “hence, my efforts changed in 2011 to create a demand and an awareness of real Lambruscos among wine drinkers.”
The website www.LambruscoDay.org was launched along with two twitter accounts, @LambruscoDay & @ilLambrusco where Koch could interact with consumers, writers, and retailers, and spread his gospel about authentic Lambrusco.
On June 21st , 2014, Lambrusco Day, over ten restaurants are participating with Lambrusco themed events, and more than a hundred different authentic Lambrusco brands are available in New York alone. An example is City Winery in New York, which celebrates Lambrusco Day on Monday June 23 with Alicia Lini, a fourth generation winemaker from Emilia, and a lineup of dry Lambruscos.
“The campaign had perfect timing,” Koch reflects, “without the internet and social media none of this could have happened.”
Though the Lambrusco Consorzios didn’t show any interest in Koch’s campaign until US importers started showing up in Emilia asking for authentic Lambrusco, they benefited from the rebranding not only in America, but in London (Lambrusco Day moments in London 2014) and even Italy where authentic Lambrusco had been as unknown outside of Emilia as it was in the rest of the world.
Update – Lambrusco Day Moments
By Kim Johannsen