Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC | White Wines


Type: White wine

Disciplinare (regulations)

Lugana is the name of a magical land nestled within the ancient Quadrilateral defence system of the Lake Garda region, bordered by Sirmione and Pozzolengo north and south, Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda east and west (with Lonato del Garda being the firth town).

The Lugana wine region encompasses two provinces (Brescia and Verona) and two regions (Lombardy and Veneto) in the morainic plain south of Lake Garda. The white, refined lakeshore native known as Lugana has an illustrious pedigree: although its origin was certified in the 1700’, the viticultural heritage of the area traces back to the Roman Empire. Its unique qualities originate from the beneficial microclimate of the lake, the local clay soil, and a particular variety of grapes named “turbiana” that make it full-bodied, age worthy, and grant it a floral and citrus bouquet. Today Lugana is one of the best-selling Italian wines on the market.

The plain itself nurtures most of the hectares of vineyards responsible for this prized wine; it is a generous land, characterized by fertile layers of morainic and sedimentary clay soil, mostly calcareous, rich in mineral salts and rather difficult to cultivate: compact, hard and inviolable in dry weather, boggy when it rains. These belts of stratified clay, which become increasingly sandy as the DOC terrain rises, actually store the organoleptic heritage of the Lugana appellation itself: thickness and warmth, acidity and tanginess that form its body, the intense, clean and distinctive notes of almond and citrus that grace its unique aromatic bouquet. The Lugana microclimate, which benefits from the temperate breezes of Lake Garda, is mild and seldom subject to sharp changes in temperature between night and day. It truly is the perfect “climatic cradle” for nurturing and enhancing the peculiar characteristics of grape cultivars like the Turbiana. This variety is closely related to the Trebbiano of Soave (and defined as such by the production standards), grown nearby but in a different type of habitat (old pergolas on volcanic hills). For many years the Turbiana was considered akin, if not utterly confused with, the verdicchio of Castelli di Jesi when in fact the latest studies prove it has aromatic characteristics of its very own. Although genetically related, the trebbiano of Lugana is a different variety from a phenological, agronomical and oenological standpoint.

It’s easy to understand why considering that trebbiano is the most popular grape cultivar in Italy (it is used to make about eighty different types of wine), the most productive in the world (high-yield and disease resistant) and is universally renown for its organoleptic “anaemia” that confers a light, acidic, minimally complex style to white wines made from it. In other words, it produces a “neutral” white, especially at an aromatic level, hardly in line with either modern taste - which tends to favour fragrance - or the most intimate and personal characteristics of the turbiana variety, which translates into smaller yields that careful hands can transform into a scented, thin and flavourful white. The Turbiana produces medium-large, compact, elongated pyramid-like grape clusters with round seeds, a thick, pruinose skin (pruina is a flour-like or white patina that can be seen on grapes butches in the ripening stage), and a juicy, loose and slightly acidic pulp, with a neutral taste. It is sensitive to rot, powdery mildew and downy mildew. It is versatile and can be used for classic as well as sparkling white wines. It is a noble, ancient vine capable of producing a white rich in undertones and personality.

Although production standards foresee the presence of complementary varieties of non-aromatic white grape at a ratio of 10%, today winemakers in the area tend to make Lugana only and exclusively with trebbiano grapes. This purist approach is possible thanks to a vine that proved to derive from this terroir resources beyond belief for any variety of trebbiano. The current production standards include five different types of Lugana wine: the “basic” version, Superior, Reserve, Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest) and Spumante.

The “basic” Lugana is the driving force behind the entire appellation, its keystone, the quality control gauge for the appellation area: its production range covers almost 90% of the Doc. It’s colour is light straw-yellow with green reflexes; its aroma is a delicate, subtle mix of floral and almond notes; its taste is harmonious, rich, defined, tight and luscious.

The Lugana Superiore was officially introduced in 1998, and in order to bear this label the wine must age or mature for at least one year after the grapes are harvested. Its profile is more variegated and complex: the colour has a more golden reflexes, with more articulated aromas, hints of wild herbs, chlorophyll, ripe apple, citrus (primarily mandarin), mixed with notes of filbert nuts or spices from the wood used in the aging process (ever less new and green these days, with greater capacity); its mouth feel has greater structure, supported by lively yet supple acidity crossed with a hint of minerals that confer to the wine a very subtle and intriguing “saltiness”. The Lugana Riserva, introduced with the last revision of the production standards in 2011, is the natural evolution of the Superior: it must age or mature for at least 24 months, 6 of which in a bottle, has brighter colours, more evolved and complex aromas with smoky notes and balsamic reflexes, warmer mineral notes on the palate but otherwise just as enveloping, luscious, and persistent.

The longevity of these “dry” and “still” versions vary from type to type, but also from style to style. The longevity of Lugana is nonetheless greater today than ever before, as production has become increasingly oriented towards steel vat vinification and “sur lie” (by which the wine remains in its own yeast for longer periods of time to enhance both body and flavour), as well as mixed aging techniques (part in steel, part in wood) for top selections (Superior or Reserve). The “basic” version can hence safely remain in the cellar for two-thee years, while the Superior and Reserve selections can be expected to fulfil their evolutionary potential in about ten years.

The foremost novelty obviously is Vendemmia Tardiva, a remarkably different, more “experimental” type of Lugana that lacks the sweet viscosity of a traditional passito. Lugana of this type is in fact made with “over-ripened” grapes that have been allowed to remain on the vine till the end of October-early November, instead of being harvested and then stored till suitably dry. The rich, more concentrated flavour of these grapes confer to this Lugana a “late” profile, softer and denser but not excessively sweet, where sugar content is balanced by acidity in a fashion similar to Alsatian Vendange Tardive or German.

First introduced by the standards in 1975 the Spumante version, exiguity of production numbers aside, represents a consolidated tradition instead. It is said, or rather Camillo Pelizzari recounted in his fundamental book La Lugana e il suo vino (1942), that at the end of the nineteenth century a group of Champagne industrialists, while visiting San Martino della Battaglia, tried without much success (due to scarce production) to invest in a sparkling version of Lugana, and even intended to set- up a winery in Rivoltella in which to make spumante according to the classic methods of Champagne. Today Lugana Spumante is produced using both the Charmat or Martinotti method (autoclave refermentation) and the classic method (bottle refermentation). In the first case, the organoleptic profile is simpler and crisp, with primary notes of citrus (mainly citron) and a creamier, more luscious perlage, while in the second is more refined and complex, with a more elegant and dynamic bouquet and a more graceful, “crackling” perlage.