I met Ambra Berardi of the Consorzio Tutela Lugana at the 2018 Wine Writer’s Conference in Walla Walla, Washington when I was looking for light and delicate white wines at the opening tasting reception.
I was hooked instantly by the fresh, aromatic profiles of the wines from Lugana DOC. I was even happier when Ambra freed up three bottles for me to take home to pair with an Italian-themed tasting menu.
Lugana was named the first white Italian DOC 50 years ago, and uniquely, half of it is in Lombardy and half in Veneto. Situated at the southernmost tip of Lake Garda, and only 65m above sea level, there’s little frost here because of the warming effect of the lake.
Lying half way between Milan and Venice, Lugana is a small area of only 2,113 ha covered with clay and gravel that the late ripening Turbiana grape loves.
Now we just need guests.
Turbiana is often confused with Verdicchio, but it’s actually more closely related to Trebbiano di Soave and all 3 grapes prefer different soils. Lugana wines must be 90% Turbiana, and any other grapes used must be grown in Lugana.
We enjoyed the Tenuta Roveglia, Vigne di Catullo Riserva, 2015 from 50 year old vines with a profile of high acidity, almonds, soft white flowers, lemon mousse and saline olives, and Ottella’s Back to Silence, 2017 aged on the skins and in terra cotta amphorae, also with great acidity, pear, quince, herb, ginger, white flower blossoms and a medium body.
Both were delicious and paired well with seared scallops, tagliatelle with parsley, Pecorino and pine nuts, risotto Milanese, west coast sashimi, and a caprese salad.
The late harvest (Vendemmia Tardiva), botrytis affected semi-sweet Rabbiosa from Marangona Cantina, 2015 was a serious match made in heaven with Cambozola cheese, walnuts, and apple strudel.
These are not wines that try to impress with power. They’re studies in delicacy and subtlety. The ones we paired were absolutely outstanding and such a tribute to this tiny wine region that is punching above its weight out there in the world. The Consorzio Tutela Lugana is doing a great job at educating global wine lovers about its product. If you can find Lugana DOC wines in your market, buy them. They’re great value, reasonably priced (US$18-25), and accessible to all drinkers.