Budget Wine Review: Riunite Lambrusco Emilia Romagna NV

riuniteBack in the 1970’s, if you were inviting the boss over for dinner chances are Riunite would be on the table. “Riunite on Ice, That’s Nice” was an advertising slogan recognized by anyone with a television. Launched in the American market in 1967, by 1973 it was the top selling imported wine in the U.S reaching its peak in 1985 at 11.5 million cases which afaik is still a record. What began as the product of a co-op of grape growers in Emilia Romagna in 1950 is today still one of the top brands in supermarket sales.

I haven’t tasted this wine since the 1970’s but there has to be a reason why it had such success. Since I was making macaroni and cheese from an old Fanny Farmer recipe ubiquitous in mid-20th century, what better pairing than Riunite, a wine that likely washed down many a forkful of elbows coated with creamy cheddar.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course it is a fruity, one dimensional wine designed to be smooth and inoffensive. But it doesn’t try to be anything else. The red raspberry fruit is round and soft, and there is some sweetness. But it isn’t cloying. Helped along by the sparkle of a bit of “frizzante”, there is just enough acidity to keep it fresh and buoyant, and the tannins are drying enough to provide contrast and give it bit of length on the finish.

That level of sweetness in fact makes this a versatile food wine. A dish with some sweetness will cause most dry wines to taste thin and sour. The milk sugars in mac n’cheese ruined the Chardonnay I poured. But the Riunite was fine. It won’t make any dish sing but it won’t detract either.  In other words this is the paradigm of “supermarket wine”.

Innocuous, no doubt. Lacking in complexity and structure? To be sure. But when you want something simple, uncomplicated, and a little sweet Riunite can be satisfying. And it will set you back only about $6. This old classic deserves more respect than it gets.

So much simple joy, it is nicely complemented by one of my favorite vocalists, the dearly departed Cesaria Evora singing Milca ti Lidia.

Score: 86

Price: $6 (It can be purchased anywhere)

Alc: 8%

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