Lugana DOC – Under the Radar White Wines from Northern Italy

Lugana is not a region that I was familiar with, so when I had an opportunity to receive samples of wine, I was excited. New wines from unfamiliar regions are irresistible to me.

Once I started my research, I was surprised to learn just how under the radar this region really is. My World Atlas of Wine and the Wine Bible, my “go to” resources, were lacking any real information. I’m still digging in and have a webinar coming up at the end of March that I’m sure will be very informative, but I’ve learned a few things about the two wines I’ve sampled so far and couldn’t wait to share.

The Region

Graphic from Italian Wine Central

Located in northern Italy, the DOC overlaps into two regions, Lombardy and the Veneto , from Brescia to Verona, with the vast majority is in the Lombardy region. It is a small, roughly 11 miles from east to west and 5 miles from north to south. The latest data I could find was from 2017 reporting 4,400 acres under vine and production of around 1.4 million cases annually. It makes you wonder why it is not more well known, but I learned that most of their exports go to Germany.

Lugana lies in a mostly flat fertile plain at the south end of Lake Garda. The soils are very fertile clay and limestone. Living in Georgia, I have to admit I never knew clay could be fertile. The soils are mineral rich and the white Turbiano grape thrives here.

The Lake Garda influence results in a mild climate with small diurnal shifts. Low diurnal shifts and fertile soil? Absolutely fascinating since I’ve always learned that most grape vines prefer the opposite. The region includes olive and lemon trees and the lake gives it somewhat of a Mediterranean influence despite it’s northern and central location.

The Grape and the Wines

Turbiana is the grape of the Lugana DOC. A white grape that until the early 2000’s was known as Trebbiano di Soave, in 2008 it was called Trebbiano di Lugana. Although it is now identified as Turbiana, it seems Trebbiano di Lugana is still used extensively. It is imporant to note that the grape is more closely related by DNA to Verdicchio than it is to Trebbiano. Lugana DOC guidelines require that wines are composed of a minimum of 90% Turbiana grapes.

Turbiana produces beautiful wines, from fairly straightforward and easy drinking to quite complex and serious. There are 5 types of wines being produced here, and like all Italian regions, the Superiore and Riserva designations actually have meaning in terms of aging requirements.

  • Lugana DOC is the benchmark wine of the region, representing 90% of production
  • Superiore must be aged 12 months prior to release
  • Riserva must be aged for 24 months with 6 in bottle
  • Late Harvest the grapes are allowed to ripen until late October or early November. The wine definitely has residual sugar, however, it is not viscous or overly sweet as the residual sugar is offset by the acidity.
  • Spumante sparkling wine in this DOC can be made via the charmant method or the traditional method.

In general Lugana wines can have notes of citrus, minerality, almonds and herbs. The Superiore and Riserva become more complex with notes of salinity, and smokiness.

Let’s take a closer look at the two I have tried so far.

Zenegaglia|Lugana DOC White|2020|12.5% ABV|Sample

Zenegaglia is currently run by three brothers, representing the 3rd generation of family, with the 4th generation actively involved. There are more than 20 HA that include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay in addition to the Turbiana grapes. All of the harvesting is done by hand during September and October.

This white wine is 100% Turbiana that is fermented and aged in stainless steel with 2 months in bottle prior to release. Golden in color, it had tropical fruit and lemon pith aromas. As it opened up I wrote down pear and quinine which I don’t know how else to describe except that if you are a fan of tonic water you will know what I mean. Eventually I picked up an anise note as the wine warmed and opened even further. The wine was medium plus in body with a creamy and voluptuous feel – what a beautiful thing to find in a white wine. There was a long lemon finish that was perfectly pleasant and not at all tart or astringent.

I paired this wine with tuna, tomato, and olive bruschetta all of which were excellent. My favorite might have been goat cheese with a slightly spice bacon jam. The only thing I found to be not agreeable were rosemary Taralli crackers – so surprising.

Marangona|Lugana DOC|TreCampane|2019|13% ABV|Sample

The Marangona winery was a little hard to suss out information on, however, the importer’s website was fantastic and what a beautiful wine this is.

Also currently run by the 3rd generation, the grapes are 100% Turbiana that are grown organically and harvested by hand. The clusters are pressed whole, without destemming. Following fermentation, the wine does ages on the lees in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling which occurs early in the year following harvest.

Tre Campane translates to three bells in reference to nearby bells that ring in the region. Upon opening, the first aroma I noticed was minerality – almost like a talc powder. There was also melon rind, and an almond flower note. This wine appeared to be paler, with a more noticeable green tint in color than the first one, and a bit higher acidity. As it warmed up and opened the wine fell squarely in medium bodied, with salinity on the finish – one of my favorite things in a white wine, just gorgeous.

The pairing for this wine was the same as the first wine and again everything was a win, except the rosemary crackers. I’m not sure why but the crackers with either of these wines gave a hot, unpleasant sensation which I did not expect and would have never guessed.

Have you had Lugana wines? Or better yet have you visited?


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