This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20070418.php.
One of the most scenic wine regions in a very scenic country, Lugana sits on the border between Lombardy and the Veneto on the south end of beautiful Lake Garda, where the fertile Po Valley plain rises into Northern Italy's lake country and the glacial foothills of the Alps.
In my April 2 article, Touring Lombardy, written at the end of my recent wine-judging trip to Vinitaly in Verona, I touched briefly on the three Lombardy wine regions we toured: Oltrepò Pavese, Franciacorta and Lugana. Starting with Lugana today and following up on the other two in future articles, I'll report in a bit more detail on these regions.
Lugana is hardly a household word for most wine enthusiasts, but perhaps it ought to be: This region's white wines, luscious, full-bodied and surprisingly ageworthy, deserve ranking among the world's great whites for their balance, beauty and food-friendly style.
I expect it's no coincidence that the wine evolved on the shores of one of Italy's largest freshwater lakes makes a stunning companion with just about every kind of fish. I still count a recent lunch at Ristorante Lugana in Lugana Parco al Lago - in which every course but dessert featured fresh local fish, accompanied by an extensive flight of Luganas - as one of my most memorable meals ever.
A favored wine region with its climate influenced by the lake, Lugana boasts a history dating back to the First Century or earlier. The wines of Lake Garda, which the ancients called "Rhetic" wines, were mentioned in the writings of Pliny and Virgil. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Gothic King Deodatus purportedly had large quantities of it delivered to Rome for royal banquets.
All Lugana is white; a small amount is sparkling, but the lion's share is made as a dry, still wine. The grape is Trebbiano, a variety that in most of the rest of Italy (and in France, where it's known as Ugni Blanc) is lightly regarded at best.
In Lugana, however, Trebbiano is different, a serious grape making a serious wine. Whether it's a variant clone of standard Trebbiano or, as some producers in the region insist, an entirely different grape, may have to await future DNA testing. The simple answer, though, lies in the tasting: Luscious and "transparent," exceptional for showing minerality and "terroir," Lugana has become one of my favorite white wines.
During my visit, we sampled wines from Fratelli Fraccaroli, I Frati and Provenza, all fine producers. We tasted well-cellared Luganas from 1998 (Fraccaroli) and 1997 (I Frati) and found them remarkable, holding up very well and showing the kind of richness and depth that you might expect of a great White Burgundy.
Today's featured wine, picked up at local retail after my return home, comes from Tenuta Roveglia, also an excellent and characteristic producer. You'll find my notes below.
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Tenuta Roveglia 2004 Lugana ($14)
This transparent, light-gold wine offers a delicate scent of peaches with a subtle backdrop of fresh herbs. Full-bodied and intense, luscious fruit flavors follow the nose, wrapped up with mouth-watering acidity. An exceptional white wine, worth seeking out. U.S. importer: John Given Wines Co., Manhasset, N.Y. (April 6, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Inspired by a course of tagliatelle with pike served with Lugana at Ristorante Lugana in Lugana Parco al Lago, I came up with a perfect match, a simple dish of fresh Walleye flaked over linguine. Just about any simple dish based on fresh, white freshwater fish would be fine, and I wouldn't say no to Lugana with poultry or pork.
VALUE: In comparison with other world white wines of comparable quality, Lugana is dramatically under-priced in the middle teens. Stock up before it becomes better-known.
WHEN TO DRINK: Lugana is a white wine of remarkable longevity; during my visit, I tasted quite a few decade-old bottlings of great richness and depth. Given good cellar conditions, I wouldn't hesitate to keep it for five to 10 years. Note also that the 2005 vintage is already available in the U.S., and the 2006 has arrived in Europe.
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