During the past few years there has been a big push on in the media and in wine shops everywhere for people to drink more and more rosé. Think pink! Drink pink! I know I’ve been pushing as hard or harder than most. I still believe that more people need to enjoy the growing number of good rosés, foreign and domestic, that are now available, but I also think that it’s time to add another pigment to our wine palette.
It’s time to say hello to Lugana.
What have you been drinking so far this summer, you know, besides gallons of pink wine? What have you been serving with your fresh garden salads, grilled fish, and bowls of ripe fruit? I’ll bet it hasn’t been Lugana. Maybe it should be.
Lugana is not the name of a grape variety but an area in northern Italy just south of Lake Garda. Stretching from eastern Lombardy into the western Veneto, this region’s viticultural history, like much of central Europe’s, dates back to the Romans. Blessed with the winning combination of a nourishing lakeside microclimate, ideal soils (calcareous clay giving away to sand as the land rises), and a versatile and hearty grape variety called turbiana, the winemakers of Lugana are smiling as their bottles enjoy rising popularity at home and, slowly, abroad.
The wine from this region used to be known as trebbiano di Lugana, very similar to trebbiano di Soave, and therefore nearly identical to another popular Italian variety, verdicchio. Well, that’s at least what people used to think. With recent scientific advances, the DNA of grapes is more easily determined, which leads, occasionally, to centuries of historical knowledge getting dumped on its head. Turbiana is a perfect example of that. If you like a good mystery, and the zigs and zags that go along with a challenging puzzle, dive into this explanation from the blog Fringe Wine. You’ll learn more about Italian white wine grapes than you ever thought possible. http://fringewine.blogspot.com/2012/02/turbiana-trebbiano-di-lugana-veneto.html (When I discovered this blog recently, I wrote to its owner, Rob Tebeau, to ask if I might use some of his material. I was saddened to receive a note from his wife saying that he had died, but I was welcome to use, with attribution, any material I found useful. If you love learning about wine and some of the more esoteric grapes from around the world, I doubt you’ll find a better site than Rob’s. Fringe Wine is a unique and valuable collection of grape knowledge. Thank you, Rob, and peace to you and your family.)
At a tasting last month at the restaurant 25 Lusk in San Francisco organized by Consorzio Tutelo Lugana D.O.C. (the Lugana Tutelage Consortium), producers from Lugana, along with a few importers, gathered to share their wines and help spread the word about this too-often overlooked region. They were supported by Deborah Parker Wong, Northern California editor for Tasting Panel magazine, who was on hand as both educator and regional ambassador, taking time to pour and explain some of the more challenging details of the wines and the region they come from for members of the trade in attendance.
Winemakers explained that their area is so ignored by American wine merchants that they have trouble finding importers and distributors in the United States that will carry and promote their wines. They hope that tastings and other gatherings focused on education will spread the word and help them find their niche in the American market.
Many of the wines I tasted that day were bright and citrusy, bone dry and filled with mouth-watering acidity. Others were mineral-driven, with notes that ranged from talc to flint, and finished with smoky, savory notes while still offering crisp, refreshing acidity. The majority of the wines showed delightful complexity. With low alcohol levels and prices ranging from $15 to $25, many of these labels have to be among the best values on the white wine market these days. Why more importers aren’t buying these wines and promoting the hell out of them is beyond me.
Here’s the list of the wines poured at the tasting, with my favorites listed in bold. As mentioned, only a few of the wines have domestic representation. I was disappointed to see that my favorites are not yet available in the U.S.. So, seek out and try a few wines from Lugana. And then tell your independent wine merchant that you’d like to see more. You’ll be doing yourself, and wine lovers in your area, a huge favor. Happy hunting!!
**Cà Lojera 2013
Cà Dei Fratti 2014 “I Fratti” (overall favorite)
Ca Maiol 2014 “Fabio Contato”
Le Morrette 2014
Le Preseglie 2014
Montonale 2014 “Montunal”
Perla del Garda 2014
^^Pilandro 2014 “Terecrea”
Selva Capuzza 2014
Tenuta Roveglia 2014 “Vigne di Catullo”
Villabella Ca del Lago 2014
Zenegaglia 2014 “Montefluno”
Zeni 2014 “Marogne”
* Siena Imports, Romano, www.sienaimports.com, email@example.com
** The Wine House, Anya Balistreri, Anya@wineSF.com (415) 355-9463
^ Oliver McCrum Wines, Oliver, firstname.lastname@example.org
^^ Tamalpais Wine Agency, Robert Sawicki, email@example.com (415) 456-0425
Tasting and wine photos courtesy of Stephanie Secrest Photography, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lugana vineyard image courtesy of Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC.