Lugana: A bleeding region in a flowering future

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Winelovers surely know the wines from the Eastern side of the Garda Lake such as the Bardolino’s, Valpolicella’s with their
delicious Ripasso and Amarone’s. Few people know the subtle wines of the Southern part of the lake. Our German friends
longer know all the hidden treasures of the region, but is this a coincidence? Since there are a lot of German tourists
during the summer that descend to the lake. Or is there a greater mystery behind these wines?

First one must situate the area. The Lugana wines officially excist since 1967 and are therefore known as the first white wines recognized in Lombardy. But it wouldn’t be Italy if thing wouldn’t get complicated. There is also a small part of the appellation which belongs to the Veneto region. It is one of the rare appellations that is devided in two regions. The wines are made with a majority of Trebbiano di Lugana grapes, it is allowed to add 10% of other (non aromatic) white grapes to the wine. Most growers insist that their wines consist exclusively of Trebbiano di Lugana, but it is difficult to believe as you can discover different styles of this wines where you can distinguish some aromatic compounts of other grapes.
Though it is not an Italian custom between winemakers, you can hear a lot of them complaining and accusing while pointing fingers at there colleagues that certain domains are using chardonnay (for softness), sauvignon (for freshness / acidity) or riesling (minerals / petrol / acidity).
Nonsense claims agronomist and winemaker Fabio Zenato from Agricola “Le Morette” (not the famous Zenato domain). He planted most Trebbiano di Lugana vines in the region and studied at the University of Milan where he wrote his thesis on the origin of the grape. It has everything to do with the PH value of our terroir. The higher the pH value of the clay, the
plumper the wine. This can vary greatly by parcel ”


Do not just say Trebbiano against the Trebbiano di Lugana. The one has nothing to do with the other namesake of Tuscany nor with the one from Abruzzo. Historical and DNA research show that this grape would be the same as Verdicchio from the Marche region. You can find it in Jesi as in Matelica. (NOT METALLICA!). Writings have been found from the 13th century about the Trebbiano grape in the Veneto region, it is only from 1569 that the first writing about the Verdicchio grape has been found. It was in a paper written by Costanzo Felici who lived in Pobbico. Only in 1579 this grape was notarized and recorded in Matelica. We can therefore assume that farmers from Veneto were planting their grapes in the Marche as they were repopulating the southern regions after the outbreak of the plague. Thanks to the thesis of Fabio Zenato, who analized the ampelografic and enzymatic parts of the grape. We are able to determine that the Trebbiano di Lugana grape is the same as Verdicchio. In order to distinguish the bad reputation of Tebbiano in the other regions, the Consorzio of Lugana decided to call their grape “Turbiana”



The Bleeding Past

One of the most important and most horrible battlefields in Italian history was the one of Solferino. The French-Piedmontese-Sardinian army camped by coincidence at walking distance from the Austrian troops, that were retrieving. When morning came both armies noticed each other location and more than 300,000 soldiers went to war without any coordination. There were so many injured men  that Jean-Henri Durant canceled his appointment with Napoleon III. He withdrew from public life and founded the Red Cross



The potential of the present

The Garda lake is one of the deepest lakes of Italy (346m) and was formed during the last ice age. Thousands of years ago the region was much bigger than we know today. The entire Lugana area was under an immense glacier. Due to the immense pressure that the glacier exerted on the soil surface they have now a very compact soil. The terroir mainly consists of clay mixed with limestone and mineral salts that are conducive to the maturity of the grapes and the organolopetic complexity of the wines.
The days are mild with a fresh breeze from the Alps. Even during hot summers, the nights are fairly soft. The Lugana territory is mainly flat and barely hilly. During heavy rains the water can hardly escape due to the compact soil. As a result, many growers are forced to bend their plots artificially  in the form of an ogee (donky’s back) to be able to drain the water.

Exceptional aging potential

It’s incredible how proud some winemakers in Italy. This is no different in Lugana, but they are far more modest. The winemakers know how to make a fantastic wine but do not know how to convince the winelovers outside. Cà dei Frati proposed a vertical tasting of 2011-2007-2003 and 1995. Unprecedented minerality and freshness that makes me reminiscent of older German Rieslings.


This vertical showed the potential of the region and was certainly not an isolated event. So we could have a 2011-2010 –
2001 tasting at Le Morette with similar freshness and unseen length for an Italian white wines.

An other highlight was a 1995 Tenuta Roveglia, it left all tasters around the table speechless. It’s impossible to lay your hands on such bottles, not even for 200€ (I tried!). These bottles are being opened “only for friends”. In such moments you feel very humbled.

 The Flowering Future

For years only large wineries as Zenato, Provenza and Fraccaroli were on the wine map with their Lugana wines. Thanks to
the consorizio of Lugana these times are changing. At the helm you have Carlo Veronese and Luca Formentini, the famous owner of Selva Capuzza. Lucca is a winery with its own style, natural wines with character! A signal for the future of the region which shows that everyone can do his own thing without losing track of the traditions. The region has a lot to thank Carlo Veronese and his team.
They decided that each domain, no matter how big, has as much to say. So everyone gets only one vote for every decision that has to be made.

carlo_veronese_0426          luca-formentini-lugana1

Carlo Veronese                                             Luca Formentini
In addition to traditional Lugana, Lugana Superiore, Lugana Spumante, Lugana vendemnia Tardiva it is now recently possible to make Lugana Riserva wines. They do not necessary need to age on oak barrels to be some massive heavy boms, but to make  more complex wines that can show the full complexity of the terroir.
The Lugana Riserva must be aged for at least 24 months, this is also possible on stainless steel, with a minimum of 6 months of aging in the bottle. These wines are more colorful, with a complex evolutionary bouquet.



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