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5218 Lawton Avenue
Oakland, CA 94114


Oliver McCrum Wines has been importing small production Italian wine and distributing to fine retail and restaurant establishes throughout California since 1994. Over time, our portfolio of producers has steadily grown to over 45 producers from 15 different regions of Italy. We look for typical Italian wines with clarity and freshness, usually made from indigenous Italian grape varieties using clean, transparent winemaking techniques and no obvious use of oak. 


"A good drinker of Lambrusco is not only a proud, warm and generous man, but he is above all free. Therefore what is it, if it isn't Lambrusco that gives the Parmesan people that bright, sincere and dominant air; that sparkle in their eyes, that loud voice and tough expression? It is the wine of freedom and of the free man." 

Curzio Malaparte, Lambrusco and Freedom

There is an English book about Italian wine called 'Life After Lambrusco.' I am more interested in life while drinking Lambrusco, because good Lambrusco is a wonderful thing; dry, grapey, aromatic, and it foams purple when you pour it into the glass. You haven't lived until you've seen purple foam in your glass, particularly if you are about to eat some pizza, a sandwich, or pasta with Ragu' Bolognese. I have eaten Ragu' Bolognese with this wine in the company of Signor Buffagni, who makes it, and it is one of the great food and wine combinations in Italy. The LA Times did a tasting to find out which Italian wine went best with cured meats, and this wine was their favorite.


I went to lunch once with Mauro Buffagni, the owner of Barbolini, and we started with 'Gnocco Fritto' and Prosciutto di Parma. Gnocchi Fritti are addictive little puffs of fried dough; when eaten warm with the ham and washed down with Mauro's Lambrusco di Sorbara they were perfect, one of the best things I ate on my trip. Lambrusco di Sorbara (the name of the particular variety of Lambrusco) is lighter than the Grasparossa Lambrusco we've always imported from Barbolini, more fragrant, a delicious contrast. The grapes are estate grown and fermented into a dry red base wine; three or four times a year batches of the base wine are re-fermented in pressurised tanks to add bubbles. The wine is bottled in a champagne bottle with a champagne cork. As always with sparkling wines made by this method, we import smaller amounts frequently so as to ensure freshness. This is an excellent wine for pizza; I drink it straight out of the fridge. 

Tasting notes: much lighter in color than the Grasparossa, almost dark pink. Beautiful aroma and flavor of violets and berries (Ian d'Agata suggests violets, wild strawberries and red-currants), with a touch of tea-like tannin that makes this a wonderful food wine. Perfect with prosciutto or salumi.


Lambrusco is a family of grape varieties, Lambrusco Grasparossa is the particular variety of Lambrusco, and Castelvetro is where it's from (near Modena). The grapes are estate grown and fermented into a dry red base wine, then batches of the base wine are re-fermented in special reinforced tanks to add bubbles. The wine is bottled in a champagne bottle with a champagne cork. I should emphasize that this wine bears no resemblance to the mass-produced Lambrusco that was popular here some years ago, and if you haven't had a good estate-bottled example you should try it.

Tasting notes: attractive purplish red with vigorous purple foam when poured; aroma of plums and black fruit; medium weight on the palate, dry and plummy, with a faint bitterness at the finish that makes it an excellent match for certain foods. (Pizza, or fresh pasta with ragù, for example.) Drink at cellar temperature (half an hour in the fridge).

"a gift from God, dry, lively, bold and daring and great for flushing excess fat and condiments from the system." Paolo Monelli