Elegant, structured and fragrant, Lugana is perfect to enjoy all year round. Like all Italian wines with centuries-long traditions, Lugana whites pair perfectly with the local cuisine. ‘The great thing about these wines is that they go so well with food,’ a London restaurateur told me during a tasting.
Lake Garda’s microclimate (caper bushes, lemon trees and olive trees flourish on its banks, even this far north), the fertile layers of morainic and sedimentary clay soil, and the local grape Turbiana combine to make a full-bodied, ageable wine renowned for its complexity, vibrant acidity and distinctive almond, floral and citrus aromas.
The soil structure is key: whilst the top layers are primarily clay and limestone with some chalk, the subsoils are sometimes underpinned with peat, and often gravel, and rich in lime and mineral salts. That’s why many Lugana wines have the saline character more typically found in coastal wines.
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Turbiana is extremely flexible and produces five different types of Lugana; here’s how to pair them:
Lugana food pairings
The most youthful white. The wine is a light straw-yellow colour with green tones. Its aroma is a delicate mix of floral and almond notes, its flavours harmonious, rich and defined. Lugana pairs well with seafood antipasti, fried freshwater or ocean fish, boiled shrimp, and lake fish such as luccio alla gardesana (pike in vegetable sauce), sarde in saor (marinated sardines), and tinca affumicata (smoked tench).
Lugana Superiore must be aged for at least one year after harvest. The colour leans to golden, with aromas of wild herbs, ripe apple and mandarin joining spicy or hazelnut notes. In the mouth, Lugana Superiore has greater structure, with lively yet supple acidity and a savoury, saline touch. It pairs wonderfully with seafood pasta, vegetable dishes, soups, purees, raw fish and oysters. The perfect match for Asian cuisine.
The natural evolution of Lugana Superiore. Aged for at least 24 months, with six of those in bottle, it shows brighter colours and more evolved aromas, with smoky and balsamic accents, and warmer mineral notes on the palate.
Lugana Riserva complements richer cuisine such as grilled eel, trout or crustaceans, baked turbot, and chicken or rabbit. Try it also with a creamy seafood risotto.
Vendemmia Tardiva is a remarkably different type of Lugana that lacks the sweet viscosity of a traditional passito. Made with grapes left on the vine into late autumn, Vendemmia Tardiva (‘late harvest’) wines are softer and denser, with sweetness nicely balanced by acidity. They’re ideal with cheeses, from fresh varieties such as Ricotta, Robiola and Crescenza, to piquant types including Monte Veronese, Grana Padano and Provolone Valpadana.
Spumante is sparkling wine produced using either the charmat or classic method. With the former, the wine is simpler and crisper, displaying citrus notes and a creamy perlage; the latter produces more complex wines with a dynamic bouquet and a graceful, crackling perlage. Try Spumantes with a variety of antipasti, from cold meats to egg-based dishes. The more structured styles can accompany an entire meal.
Tasting the wines of Lugana
Ceresa, Lugana 2019 13%
Founded by Andrea Conti in 1987, Ceresa is now run by Andrea’s son, Massimo. The La Viola vineyard in Pozzolengo, over 30 years old, produces this strictly steel-aged Lugana, which offers cut grass, wild herbs, sage and white floral notes. A full, voluptuous palate, it has good tension that softens towards the finish. 88
RRP £18 / $23
Le Morette, Mandolara, Lugana 2019 12.5%
Le Morette started life as a rootstock nursery over 60 years ago. Founder Gino Zenato left his descendents with a profound knowledge of Turbiana. From the 20+ year-old Mandolara vineyard, this steel-aged Lugana has aromas of wild herbs, acacia blossom and grapefruit. Its soft palate is balanced with tangy, savoury accents. 90
RRP £21 / $26
Le Preseglie, Hamsa, Lugana 2019 13%
Cristina Bordignon set up this winery in the early 2000s in a renovated 19th-century farmhouse with 15 hectares of vines. The grapes are washed and sanitised using an innovative system, before pressing. An intriguing nose with mineral, sulphureous notes leads to a savoury, citrussy palate with a lingering finish. 89OK
RRP £35 / $22
Zenato, Santa Cristina Massoni, Lugana 2019 13%
Zenato was established in the 1960s by Sergio Zenato, one of the first to see Lugana’s potential. The family history continues today with Alberto, Carla and Nadia Zenato. The grapes for Santa Cristina come from the estate’s oldest vineyard, the 50-year-old Podere Massoni. A bouquet of tropical fruit and balsamic notes is followed by a lovely, harmonious palate. 90
RRP £25 / $30
More on the Lugana wine region