Lugana: The Little Wine Region that Could
By John Dunham
Perseverance, hard work and a little luck can also help a little wine region become an important producer and in the case of the Lugana DOC a major tourist destination as well.
Located at the very southern tip of Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda, the Lugana DOC is known mostly from white wines produced from the Trebbiano grape, although the grapes produced in the region are given the name Turbiana. Established as a DOC in 1967, the region has just 4,400 acres under production and bottles about 1.4 million cases.
The southern prevailing winds coming off of the lake keep this small 100 square kilometer region much warmer than the surrounding areas allowing for a longer growing season. They also keep the vines dry and the area does not tend to suffer from any of the fungal diseases that are common in grapes.
Five types of Lugana wines are produced. These are: Lugana, which is a young white wine (90 percent of the wines produced in the region are designated Lugana); Lugana Superiore which is aged at least one year; Lugana Riserva, which is aged at least two years, Lugana Tardiva, a late harvest wine, and Lugana Spumante, which is a sparkling version of the wine.
In general, all Lugana wines are a pale straw yellow color with greenish highlights. The wines have a floral nose with hints of almond and a fresh palate, featuring citrus, melon and herbal notes. The wines tend to become more complex and herbal as they age, and the reserve bottlings have tropical and vanilla notes.
These wines pair very well with the types of foods produced in the region. This includes pizza, fresh water fish like trout and perch, pasta dishes – particularly those with cheese sauces or fish based sauces like clam sauce – and cheese. The sweeter late harvest wines are good for strong cheeses and slightly sweet deserts.
Olivini Lugana (2016: $18) and Pasini San Giovanni Lugana (2016: $20) Light and citrusy with some cantaloupe melon up front and some Italian spices on the finish. Great for light pasta and clam sauces.
Selva Capuzza Lugana (2016: $33). This wine had a lot more acid, and was a bit “tighter,” than the other Lugana wines. Good for salted meats and salami, and fresh water fish like trout or pearch.
Fraccaroli Lugana Riserva (2014: N/A). The nose on this wine reminded me of bananas Foster, and it was more tropical on the palate than the non-Riserva wines. Lighter in acid the wine felt heavier, nice tropical flavors and some almond on the finish. This is a cool wine if you can find it, and well worth just savoring all by itself.
Zenato Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato (2014: $25): On the nose it reminded me of a Sauternes, raisin, currant, and sweet. The wine was light and fresh on the palate, with citrus, almond and Italian spice (rosemary and lavender) on the finish. Enjoy with fish, chicken or softer cheeses.
Maragona Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva (2016: $29): This is a dessert wine with 18 grams of sugar. Light citrus and woods on the nose, the wine was super sweet up front but with citrus notes. Almond dominated the mid palate, and the wine finished like a Bit-o-Honey candy. Not just for deserts and cheeses, this wine would pair well with spicy foods like Indian or Thai.
These wines are not easy to find in the United States, but be on the lookout for them. They are great food wines, and bring something special from a little region of Italy.
For more on Lugana visit: www.consorziolugana.it