It was the chilled bottle a mustachioed man pulled from an ice bucket to pour for his lady friend. It was in the glasses sipped by a couple in the middle of a trout stream or snapped up by skiers slaloming down a hill. And the jingle was hard to shake once you heard it: “Riunite, it tastes so fine … Riunite, pure and natural wine.”
Yet the Riunite Lambrusco hawked via bizarre early-‘80s commercials had little in common with the dry, sparkling red wine originally made from the wild labrusca grape in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna and Piemonte regions. “ Everyone thought it was this disgusting sweet wine,” said Hristo Zisovski, beverage director for the Alta Marea Group, helmed by chef Michael White, who opened Osteria Morini at Roosevelt Field earlier this fall,
Zisovski has pulled a radical move, at least for Long Island: He’s put Lambrusco onto Osteria Morini’s wine list, by the glass — and people are ordering it.
“Classically, Lambrusco is meant to be an aperitif,” said Zisovski, who first rolled it out Lambrusco at Osteria Morini in Soho more than a decade ago, as part of an Italian wine list intended to compliment White’s northern Italian cuisine. “It’s a classic wine of the region that’s fun to drink, and goes especially well with fatty meats and cheeses,” such as the mortadella and salami Osteria Morini offers.
It was Long Island’s own Villa Banfi who began importing Riunite Lambrusco to America in the 1960s, and by 1975, two million cases per year were selling in the U.S. As Zisovski points out, hough, it was a distant echo of a sparkling red wine that is meant to be bone dry, “high toned,” and can come from a number of Italian grapes.
Unlike the darker red Lambruscos you’ll encounter in a wine store, the Lambrusco Osteria Morini pours by the glass (there are two others the bottle) is a dark rose — a gateway version of the style — and has strong strawberry and cranberry undertones, with a sandpapery fizz. It looks, and tastes, like Thanksgiving.
Osteria Morini, 630 Old Country Rd., Garden City. 516-604-0870. osteriamorini.com