Cantina Ceci lies just North of Parma in the flat farmlands of Emilia-Romagna. An old lambrusco family, Ceci’s new generation is a young, vibrant and passionate family of sisters and brothers who are taking their wines to the next level. The quality that has been most intrinsic to the success of lambrusco is reinvention, and Ceci are all about that.
‘We want to turn lambrusco on its head- to provoke, personalise and innovate. To make it new! To make it exciting!’
As soon as we arrive at the winery, we know we’re in for an adventure!
Lambrusco refers to any one of six grape varieties around Emilia Romagna. The Romans called it labrusca- from Latin labrun, or edge, border, and ruscum, wild.
Lambrusco has come a long way since Roman times, via its first boom as a table wine made by Emilia-Romagna farmers who gave bottles to their workers as a nutritional staple! But if there’s one thing the family Ceci has retained, it is its wild side.
Grandfather Otello had a trattoria in the 1930s named Trattoria Ceci- a classic osteria con vino (serving food and wine). Otello and his wife Teresa loved lambrusco so much they decided to start making it themselves, and the winery Otello Ceci e Figli was born. As some of the first producers in the Parma area, Otello and Teresa had a hand in shaping the lambrusco reputation at the time and the family influence has stayed strong through the generations. To this day, the Otello line of wines made by Ceci is one of the best sellers in the world.
Today we’re with Teresa, the granddaughter of the same name. She is proud of the winery, much like her grandparents, and her strong spirit and vivacity comes through in every part of our visit. Teresa remembers lambrusco from when she was very young. As her grandmother cooked a classic Emilia dish of tripe, she would have a glass of the family lambrusco at her side to drink and another to pour into the sauce. She smiles at the memory- “We always encourage people to cook with our wines- there’s no better way to bring harmony to the table”
As Teresa takes us around we see the personality of the family that shines through in their product. The wines are explosions of rich color, effervescence and fresh fruit. They are approachable and always exciting. An extravagant experience, colorful and strange, and totally uplifting.
When it comes to production, the Ceci family are masters of precision, leaving nothing to chance. New stainless steel tanks ensure the fresh crispness, retention of juicy fruit flavours, and dashing acidity of the charmat method. The level of control they command allows them to play with variables, almost scientifically, to create their superb and varied stable of wines.
The experiments don’t stop in the winery. The myriad of bottles seem more like sculptures; jewel-like in colour, and in every shape and size- some short and pleasantly rounded in the hand, some elegant and elongated and reminiscent of Alsatian flutes. They use a variety of materials too. Some bottles feature leather tags, while the ‘to you (a te)’ line are painted chalkboards to write a message to whomever you gift them.
You can tell that the family Ceci isn’t afraid to get in touch with its artistic side.
As Teresa talks us through the bottles, we are in awe of all the different expressions of this wine-- anyone who thinks lambrusco is a one-trick-pony needs to have the Ceci experience.
Elegant and colorful, kooky and wonderful…
Still, frizzante, and spumante...
Deep red, bright pink, to brilliant white...
From the unabashedly traditional La Luna, made the same as it was 100 years ago, to the sensual whole-bunched pressed Radames rosé, and even a beer made from lambrusco yeast!
Lambrusco and cured meats are a match made in heaven, so naturally Teresa insists on a tour of their neighbour's Fattoria....
Cristina and Paolo Pongolini, great friends and collaborators of the family Ceci, take us on an aromatic tour of their fantastic aging rooms at La Fattoria di Parma, in the heart of the region. The Pongolinis have been creating heritage products for 150 years, but it wasn’t until 1968 when parents Guido and Anna Maria decided to buy the factory, and go public!
We can barely believe the rows upon rows of local cured meats- Culatelli, Culatte, Strolghini, Salami Gentili, Fiocchetti Coccolati, stacks Parmigiano-Reggiano, and many more. The union of the traditional meats and wine of Parma is unbeatable, and we decide we have had enough of just eating with our eyes…
As bottles popped open we were treated to the full Emilia-Romagna experience- an abundance of delights from the Pongolini aging room, ‘Re Delle Nebbie’ or ‘The King of The Fogs’. The plates kept coming, and we continued feasting until our minds, bellies and hearts were full.
We left in a whirlwind of color, flavor and emotion. Lambrusco is much misunderstood globally, but here with Ceci, the Lambrusco innovators, we are convinced of their vision and we want to take you along for the ride.