Thursday, September 7, 2017

Spotlight Italy: The Wines of Lugana DOC

There are many well known Italian wines that we are all familiar with (i.e. Prosecco, Chianti, Barolo, etc), but there are a ton of lesser known Italian wine regions.  Wine is such a fragmented industry with consumers facing shelves upon shelves of choices.  Lugana is not a choice many consumers see on their local shelves, as it is a smaller DOC with most of the wine production consumed within the region.

I had the pleasure of attending two different Lugana DOC wine events in the Los Angeles area this year. In April I was invited to the Valpolicella & Lugana tasting put on by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella and the Lugana DOC Consorzio Tutela. And just last week I attended a Lugana luncheon conducted by Laura Donadoni (Laura Wines) and put together by Cori Solomon (The Written Palette) of LA Wine Writers.

Lugana DOC is located between Lombardia and Veneto on the south shore of Lake Garda. The Lugana region has a Mediterranean climate, but Lake Garda gives maritime influences including cool breezes and relatively mild weather. Lugana DOC was the first all white wine DOC in Italy. Turbiana, which is a clone of Trebbiano specifically grown in Lugana, is the sole white grape used.  All wines are monovarietal. Sometimes the grape is referred to as Trebbiano di Lugana.

The Valpolicella & Lugana tasting took place at the beautiful and recently renovated Park Plaza Hotel. While Valpo and Lugana wines are VERY different, it makes sense to pair the tasting as we are in the same gegraphic region. Also, Lugana wines are all white, while Valpolicella wines are just about all red. Some highlights from this trade tasting include:

Villa Canestrari

This is a family winery with its 4th generation winemaker at the helm. The Museo del Vino onsite showcases old winemaking equipment and tools that have been used since the winery’s opening in 1888.  I thoroughly enjoyed their Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012 “A”.

Shots from the Museo del Vino

Loving this Amarone

The award for most interesting wine I tasted at this event goes to Cantina Bulgarini Fausto with their Lugana DOC Superiore 2014 “Ca’ Vaibo”. The grapes for this wine undergo a short drying period before pressing. The final wine is a straw-yellow color (almost gold) and has notes of stone fruit (peach, apricot) along with a strong nuttiness.

Cantina Bulgarini

The most recent Lugana event I attended was the Lugana Luncheon put together by Cori Solomon with the LA Wine Writers Group. Laura Donadoni walked us through her portfolio of Lugana wines beautifully paired with the cuisine of Cafe del Rey by Executive Chef, David Vilchez. See details below on each pairing. Each course was better than the next. I could have eaten a plate full of each of them! I’m hungry again just thinking about it…….

Laura Donadoni telling us about Lugana

1st Course
Amuse Bouche: Seafood Salad on Toast
Pairing: Cascina Maddalena, Lugana Brut, Metodo Classico ($20 retail)
This was an unexpectedly delightful bubbly made in the Metodo Classico (2nd fermentation happens in the bottle). It is crisp with good fruit (citrus and yellow apple) plus white flower notes. What I love is that you also get nice creamy, yeasty, and brioche flavors from bottle fermantation, yet it is still very fresh and clean. This is a nice Champagne alternative at about half the cost of an opening pricepoint Champagne.

2nd Course
Smoked Salmon, Pita, Tzatziki, Mixed Greens, Olive Vinaigrette
Pairing: Montonale, Lugana DOC 2015
This is my White Wine Summer Pick.  Clean, refreshing, and a nice honeyed quality, yet bone dry.  It's also got a nice medium + body and creaminess that comes from battonage (lees stirring for 6 months).

3rd Course
Seared Scallop, Saffron Risotto, Capers, Olive Oil
Pairing: Ca’ Lojera, Lugana Superiore 2014
I love this wine.  It is more honeyed than the basic Lugana DOC and has great structure and acidity. Once the wine got closer to room temperature, it developed a super nutty (almond skin) quality.  The scallop risotto pairing was OUT OF THIS WORLD.

4th Course
Swordfish, Squash Blossom, Passion Fruit Vinaigrette
Pairing: Zenato Lugana Riserva 2014
Zenato is famous for their Amarone wines, but they also have holdings in Lugana.  Great viscosity on this wine, which paired famously with the swordfish. A beautiful orange blossom nose.

Bucheron Cheese, Grilled Peach, Honey, Sourdough
Pairing: Perla del Garda, Vendemmia Tardiva
This was a lovely medium dry dessert wine, that would also serve well as an aperitif before dinner.  Personally, I could have a glass of this for dessert on its own!

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