The “unhidden gem” of Italy: Lugana DOC (1)
By Rita Tóth, for wine-chronicles.com
(This three-part blog also has appeared in Jens De Maere’s Belgian Wino blog with full permission of the author)
Even though more than 70% of Lugana DOC wines are exported – mainly to Germany, USA, Belgium, Northern Europe, China, Japan and UK – many people may have never heard of this fine Italian wine region because it is a small appellation in the southern part of Lake Garda in Northern Italy. A gem of a location, divided between the provinces of Veneto and Lombardy.
During a 4-day trip organized and fully paid by Consorzio Tutela Lugana and Fermenti Digitali, our group of #winelovers managed to taste wines from over 25 producers which gave us thorough insight into this 1,200 ha large region which actually packs in some 120 or so producers.
CLIMATE – The surrounding of Lake Garda has a special mesoclimates due to the tempering effect of the lake itself. There is no significant diurnal change in the climate and therefore the area is noted as the ‘gate to the Mediterranean’ within Italy. Up north the climate is continental, but from south of the lake it is Mediterranean.
SOIL – The predominant soil type is clay, very dense, compact and rich in mineral salts. It has good water retention and in order to lessen this, some vineyards are ‘wavy’ so that the water can gather and flow away.
GRAPE VARIETY – Lugana DOC enables the use of only one grape variety, namely Turbiana, that is genetically identical to Trebbiano di Lugana and Verdicchio Bianco according to ‘Wine Grapes’ (by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, Jose Vouillamoz). Local people tend to stick to using the name ’Turbiana’ in order to distinguish the variety grown in this particular region. The Turbiana grape is a thick-skinned, late ripening variety that has many faces and styles:
’basic’ Lugana – fresh, fruity, dry, for early consumption – mainly consumed within Italy
Superiore – since 1998, requires 1 year maturation (not necessarily in oak); with lower yields
Reserva – aged for min. 24 months, 6 months in bottle; oak maturation is not compulsory
Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest) – contains approx. 12 g/l residual sugar; only made by 3 wineries
Spumante (sparkling) – very limited production of both Charmat and Metodo Classico Lugana grape varieties
Harvesting starts at the end of September and can go well into November in the case of late harvest wines. It is done manually by the best estates.
The vineyards of Lugana are highly ranked by the consorzio and there is very limited space for further expansion. The lands within the DOC are expensive, but outside the DOC lands are used for different agricultural activities and cost only a fraction of those within the DOC borders.
The title of this blog is “unhidden gem” because indeed Lake Garda attracts thousands of tourists every year. Lake Garda is where most Lugana lovers meet to taste these wines, so it was no surprise that they wanted to “bring back” great memories home. And no wonder, for example, that Germans started to import these wines and that Germany represents the biggest percentage of wines exported from Lugana.
THE FUTURE OF LUGANA
As mentioned above, a high portion of the production is made up of ‘basic Lugana’ wines and although the quality of this category is improving, the best producers of the area believe that higher quality Lugana wines can be made. They point out the potential to improve via yields and further quality control, greater research and pure vinification of 100% Turbiana.
Giovanna Prandini, owner of Perla del Garda recommended that the region take advantage of the complexity of the different crus (having different soils and altitudes) and create a new classification of the soils within the restricted borders of the region.
All in all, the future is very promising and we can ascertain that Lugana is on the right track to gain more international appeal and attract more #winelovers around the world who are greatly encouraged to grab any opportunity to taste these wines.
In the second and third parts of my Lugana blog, I include details on the aging potential of the higher quality wines, the metodo classico sparklings and on some of the best producers of the DOC that brought unforgettable wine moments during our trip.
About the author
Rita Tóth, WSET Diploma aspirant and dedicated #winelover and #travellover, was born in Eger, Hungary where her family has a tradition in vinegrowing and winemaking. After gaining a BA in Business Administration she moved to Australia, where she started her career in the field of recruitment, but also drew inspiration from the vineyards of Barossa and Hunter Valleys to move towards the wine business. This career change occurred in 2011, when she was an intern at a winery in Basilicata, in southern Italy. Rita has experience in importing wines and had been traveling extensively within Europe over the past years to visit wine regions and attend wine fairs. Being an #winelover Ambassador she considers sharing her wine experience with the greater public as a mission.