Lugana is a small Italian wine region that you’ve probably never heard of before. It straddles Veneto and Lombardy, right around the Southern shore of the the stunning Lake Garda. It's neighbors are Soave and Valpolicella and there are just a little over 100 producers. Lugana wines are made from an indigenous varietal called Trebbiano di Lugana or most accurately Turbiana which is related to Verdicchio. The clay soil adds a touch of salinity and savory quality and the wines are zesty and bright with lemon, grapefruit and tangerine and sometimes sweeter notes of peach, almond and even mint. I visited Lake Garda and Lugana in the Fall of 2015 and Cantina Castelnuovo winery. I was struck by how much more delicious and compelling the wines were than the more common and often insipid Pinot Grigio. The most challenging thing about Lugana white wines is finding them in the US.
The un-oaked Lugana DOC wines are fun and fresh and represent about 90% of the wines that are produced. The Superiore wines are aged for one year and Riserva wines are aged 2 years, they have an added layer of salinity and minerality in addition to a rounder character but still have great acidity and freshness. I think of these wines as an analog to the Margarita. Youthful, juicy, refreshing with great acidity the wines are easy to enjoy (with salt of without!). They go great with spicy food but also seafood and even blue cheese. I opened a bottle of Lugana and served it chilled with a Cobb salad. It was perfect. But honestly, it’s a wine that drinks well as an aperitif too. Not surprisingly these wines are popular with Germans who are accustomed to drinking wines like Riesling.
Recently I was at a tasting and particularly enjoyed trying wines from producers including Borgo La Caccia, Selva Capuzza, Ca Dei Frati and Bulgarini. Unfortunately these were not the wines I was able to locate in stores here in the Bay Area. However I did find a bottle or two of Lugana at Biondivino, Enoteca Vino Nostro and K&L Wine Merchants. But the best selection was from The Wine House. They import directly from Ca’ Lojera and had seven different bottles of varying vintages, including the Riserva and Superiore. The prices for the wines generally range from the mid teens to the high thirties. Personally I’ll be heading back to The Wine House to buy more of the 2014 Ca’ Lojera Bianco, on sale for just $9.99, it’s a riduclous bargain and is destined to be my house wine this Summer.
Disclaimer: I was a guest at a Lugana tasting and dinner, however I purchased the full bottle of wine.