Profile: Lugana

Posted May 30, 2017

Summary: Lugana DOC is a small denomination that straddles the border between Lombardy and Veneto and produces only white wines from the high-quality Turbiana grape variety, also known as Trebbiano di Lugana.

Location: Lugana lies south of Italy’s largest lake, Lago di Garda, partly in Veneto and partly in Lombardy. The denomination is of the few denominations that cross a regional border. It is defined by a fairly flat basin bounded on the north by Lake Garda and on the west, south, and east by low morainic hills that were formed by the southern push of the great Alpine glaciers of the Ice Age. The uniform clay soils, the temperature-moderating influences of the large lake, and the confining hills combine to create a clearly distinct terroir.

The Lugana DOC is roughly diamond shaped, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) across and 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) north to south, centered on the town of San Martino della Battaglia. Anchoring the top of the DOC to Lake Garda is the resort town of Sirmione. Around 90% of the denomination is in Lombardy, in the province of Brescia. The eastern tip is in Veneto’s Peschiera del Garda (Verona province), and it is here that some of the larger producers are located. There is approximately 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres) under vine, mostly in Lombardy.

Grape varieties: The denomination is focused on one grape variety, officially known as Trebbiano di Soave—but only because the national register has not caught up with the scientific studies that show Lugana’s variety to be distinct, though closely related. The local variety is more properly known as Trebbiano di Lugana or by the historic name Turbiana. Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana have long been considered the highest quality members of the gaggle of grapes that go by the Trebbiano name, and in fact it has been shown that Trebbiano di Soave is genetically the same as the respected Verdicchio grape of Marche. Neither Soave nor Lugana is interested in adopting the name Verdicchio for their grapes, because they feel that would just confuse things further, but they are quite happy to be rid of the Trebbiano association. Thus, local producers in Lugana tend toward the name Turbiana.

Styles of wine: More than 95% of all Lugana DOC wines are dry, still, white wines, although sparkling wines and late-harvest (vendemmia tardiva) dessert wines are allowed as well. All styles require a minimum of 90% Turbiana, and most are 100%. Turbiana is naturally high in acidity and is known for aromas of white flowers and citrus. The most likely blending partner, if any, is Friulano. There are superiore and riserva categories for the still wine, requiring riper grapes and a minimum aging period of 1 and 2 years, respectively.

Commercial aspects: With a total production for 2016 of around 130,000 hectoliters (1,440,000 case equivalents), Lugana is a relatively large denomination in terms of volume. Due to its fortuitous location in a popular holiday area, sales have been driven by both local consumption and exports to vacationers’ home countries, particularly Germany and eastern Europe. North America has been a lesser export destination, but its importance has been growing.

There are more than 125 producers of Lugana wines. The largest of them include Cà dei Frati, Zenato, and Cà Maiol. Many producers make other wines in addition to Lugana. Lugana DOC overlaps with Garda DOC in Lombardy, giving options for producing red wines, and those in Veneto may also produce Bardolino and/or Valpolicella reds if they have vineyards in those areas.

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