Tasting the Wines of Italy’s Lugana Region

IMG LUGANA (11)

What, you’re not drinking Lugana wines every night? You can be forgiven if the name doesn’t ring a bell. Lugana is a tiny region in the north of the country, nestled between the better-known areas of Lombardia and the Veneto, snug against the southern shores of Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy.

It’s here that Lugana makes primarily white wines, almost all from the turbiana grape, aka trebbiano di Laguna. What’s turbiana? There is significant debate about this — scientific in nature, even — and there’s no concensus quite yet. It’s not the same is trebbiano, but some researchers claim it is the same grape as verdicchio. Others say it is its own unique grape that lies somewhere between these two — and possibly other grapes — and even the many producers and importers that attended a recent lunch showcasing Lugana ultimately had no idea what the truth is. (If you want to get really into the weeds, Fringe Wine will help you.)

Lugana wines are, as is the case with most Italian white wines, crisp and acidic and loaded with minerals. The wines have similarities to Soave, to Pinot Gris, and to Sauvignon Blanc, depending on the bottling.

Tasting through a couple of dozen wines reveals a lot of commonality — high acid and generally low alcohol (12.5% or 13%), zippy mouthfeel and a cleansing finish with a touch of bitterness. Generally I preferred the younger wines to the older bottlings. After only a couple of years these fresh wines start to take on a pungency and develop some oiliness in the mouthfeel — similar to what happens to riesling as it starts to age. Nearly universal at the event was the opinion that Lugana wines were best when consumed with food.

Lugana wines typically run $16 to $20 in the U.S., and up to $25 for reserve bottlings. In Italy or neighboring Germany, where much Lugana is reportedly consuming, you’ll likely find these wines for under 10 euros.

L003ugana isn’t in hefty supply stateside, and that could be threatened in the near future by a new high-speed rail that’s being constructed to connect Milan and Venice. It will cut directly through the Lugana region and reportedly cut wine production by 30 percent in the process.

Brief thoughts on all wines — the majority of which are not currently imported to the U.S. — follow.

Tasting Report: Wines of Lugana, 2015 Releases

2014 Bulgarini Lugana / B / lots of zip, herbal aromatics
2012 Cesari Cento Filari Lugana / B / notes of cheeses and roast meats, apricots, some coconut
2013 Cà Lojera Lugana / B+ / nice tropical notes, some astringency, lovely aromatics
2014 Ca Maiol Fabio Contato Lugana / B- / lots of funk, meaty and vegetal at times
2014 Citari Conchiglia Lugana / B+ / tropical, lots of citrus, good balance
2014 Le Morrette Mandolara Lugana / B+ / pine needles, brisk finish
2014 Lenotti Decus Lugana / B+ / mild, fresh
2014 Le Preseglie Hamsa Lugana / B+ / fresh, zippy, floral and citrus
2014 Malavasi Lugana / B / quite herbal
2014 Marangona Lugana / B+ / brisk citrus, followed by light meat notes
2013 Marangona Tre Campane Lugana / A / good mouthfeel, well balanced, better structure; a standout here
0062014 Montonale Montunal Lugana / B+ / rougher, chewy body
2013 Pratello Lugana / A- / organic; higher altitude bottling; fresh herbs, citrus, lots of acidity
2014 Pilandro Terecrea Lugana / A- / nicely bitter edge, zippy, acidic; good balance
2014 Selva Capuzza Selva Lugana / B / meaty, rustic
2014 Selva Capuzza Antica casa Visconti Lugana / B-
2014 Tenuta Roveglia Limne Lugana / A- / bigger fruit, acid, tropical notes
2011 Tenuta Roveglia Vigne di Catullo Lugana / B+ / showing significant age; roast meats, oily
2014 Villabella Ca del Lago Lugana / B / meaty edge, fruit hits later
2014 Zenegaglia Carlo Montefluno Lugana / B+ / some briny notes
2014 Zeni Marogne Lugana / B- / off balance
2014 Zeni Vigne Alte Lugana / B+
2013 Il Lugana Lugana / A- / vanilla and coconut notes, sea spray, nice tang
2014 Ca dei Frati Il Frati Lugana / A / massive acid, big zing, another standout
2014 Olivini Lugana / B- / off balance

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