Lugana is the name of the village on the shores of Lake Garda which lends its name to Lugana DOC, the first DOC from the region of Lombardy. We are in northern Italy but the micro-climate is rather particular: olives, lemons and capers grow here. The Lugana appellation embraces the famously beautiful towns of Sirmione, Desenzano, Peschiera, Lonato, and Pozzolengo which lies inland. It straddles two provinces: 90% of the vineyards are in the province of Brescia, and the remaining 10% in the province of Verona – including Peschiera with its sub-zone San Benedetto di Lugana, which is considered a cru. Production is split too, with 56% in Brescia and 44% in Verona. In short, Lugana has managed to reconcile two rival provinces!
2: The grape and its history
The grape variety, Turbiana, is the local name for Trebbiano di Lugana, which is perfectly at home in this soil. Research carried out with the University of Milan indicates that Turbiana is an indigenous variety. While the name ‘Lugana’ derives from the Latin lucus (meaning wood – this area was once a vast forest) it is not so easy to date the origin of the grape in this area. Many have sung the praises of this wine over the centuries, including the Latin poet Catullus, who lived in Sirmione. Even then, the area was famous for being an unusually mild ‘climatic cradle’.
Almost all the producers use 100% Turbiana, even though the regulations call for a minimum of 90%. Lugana has varied aromatic scents ranging from citrus to wildflowers, almonds, herbs and spices. Some producers use steel, others wood, others still use concrete or amphora.
3: The soil
The area’s soil was created through the shrinkage of an ancient glacier, which left behind morainic hills. At the foot of these hills, morainic detritus blended with clays. These clays, mainly limestone-rich and packed with mineral salts, becoming gradually sandier in the hillier areas, are the custodians of Lugana’s organoleptic heritage.
4: Characteristics of Lugana
Lugana comprises five categories: entry level (around 96% of production), Superiore, Riserva, Spumante and Vendemmia Tardiva. The taste profile displays a distinctly faceted personality, featuring stony minerality, saline bite, vigour, acidity, elegance, softness and savouriness. Lugana is capable of fending off the attacks of time, gaining an impressive nobility with maturity. This is a modern wine, pleasantly drinkable and structured. It also shows off its remarkable versatility with food: try it with Mediterranean and even Indian or Asian cuisine.
5: Wine tourism
Lugana conjures holidays, sunbathing by the lake, strolling casually among the winding lanes of its spectacular villages, and indulging in good food and excellent wine at traditional local trattorias. It is interesting to discover how Lugana’s strategic value was protected back in ancient times by a series of castles: Sirmione, Desenzano, Pozzolengo, the fortress at Peschiera, the Rocca di Lonato. It’s worth climbing the majestic panoramic tower of San Martino della Battaglia to enjoy breathtaking views of the vineyards.
Many wineries offer on-site accommodation for an enchanting experience of this area:
Armea | agriturismoarmea.it
Azienda Agricola Cobue | cobue.it
Borgo La Caccia | borgolacaccia.it
Ca’ Lojera | calojera.com
Cascina Maddalena | cascinamaddalenalugana.com
Cascina Le Preseglie | lepreseglie.it
Podere Selva Capuzza | selvacapuzza.it
Tasting the wines of Lugana
Marangona, Trecampane, Lugana 2018
Turbiana grapes from 40-year-old vines are planted on marly, clay-limestone soil and harvested in two steps; some early (mid-September), the remainder when fully ripened. Complexity and freshness come together in a wonderfully harmonious wine, rich in deep nuances and dynamic details, with an invitingly moreish, tangy finish. 92
RRP £21 / $26
Cobue, Monte Lupo, Lugana 2019
Historic estate Cobue was founded in 1971 by Laura Gettuli in a former convent, and is now run by her children Gilberto and Simona Castoldi. Multiple-pass harvesting and separate vinification produce this 100% Turbiana Lugana, with scents of sage and aromatic herbs. Its fresh, lingering taste is pulpy yet delicate. 91
RRP £15 / $20
Pasini San Giovanni, Busocaldo, Lugana Riserva 2017
A single-vineyard selection from Busocaldo’s 25-year-old vines on four hectares of clayey soil produces this organic Lugana Riserva. It spends 12 months in steel on the fine lees, and its intense, mineral nose reveals hints of sage and elderflower. The savoury, characterful palate is full yet richly fluent and juicy. 91
RRP £30 / $30
Bulgarini, Stelle Brut, Lugana 2016
Managed by its fourth-generation owners, this estate sees its future in metodo classico sparkling wines using Turbiana grapes. This brut spends 20 months on the lees. It has fine, well-sustained perlage and balsamic aromas with citron, broom and bready notes. The creamy palate has a savoury aftertaste and its lively, balanced acidity produces a long, vigorous finish. 89
RRP £22 / $32
More on the Lugana wine region