Lu­gana: six names to watch

Decanter - - LUGANA -

Cà dei Frati The Dal Cero fam­ily is a ma­jor player in Lu­gana, and not only here: it also pro­duces red and sparkling wines from a to­tal of more than 200ha. The ba­sic Lu­gana here is the fruit-driven I Frati. The sin­gle-vine­yard Bro­let­tino bot­tling has a strong fol­low­ing and is made in sub­stan­tial quan­ti­ties – it’s a bar­rique-aged style and the oak is ev­i­dent on the palate yet rarely dom­i­nates it. How­ever, there is an oc­ca­sional ris­erva from I Frati, which is un­oaked and of­ten shows a greater vi­brancy than Bro­let­tino. But it’s ques­tion of style rather than qual­ity, which has al­ways been very con­sis­tent. Cà Maiol Driv­ing past this large prop­erty at De­sen­zano, you can’t miss the large struc­ture boldly iden­ti­fied as ‘ Show­room’. Cà Maiol pro­duces one mil­lion bot­tles an­nu­ally, and ea­gerly reaches out to vis­i­tors keen to pur­chase this very re­li­able wine. The some­what mis­lead­ingly la­belled Pres­tige is the ba­sic bot­tling, while Molin comes from older vines, re­ceives some skin con­tact, and is aged longer on the lees. The oaked Lu­gana Fabio Con­tato spends six months in bar­riques and is prob­a­bly the best of the bar­rique-aged wines from Lu­gana. The win­ery was ac­quired by the large Santa Margherita group in 2017, but for the mo­ment the Con­tato fam­ily re­mains in place. Ci­tari Founded in 1975 by Francesco Get­tuli and passed on to his daugh­ter Gio­vanna, Ci­tari is to­day run pri­mar­ily by her son Francesco Mascini with the help of his fa­ther Ugo. It’s a mod­er­ate-sized es­tate, with 25ha of vine­yards planted. Un­like most prop­er­ties in Lu­gana, Ci­tari em­ploys a rel­a­tively high den­sity of 3,800 vines per hectare. Some red wines are made here too, but the main fo­cus is on Lu­gana. Sor­gente is the ba­sic wine and sees no oak, and nei­ther does the Conchiglia bot­tling, which is made from riper fruit. The top Lu­gana is Torre, which is partly aged in ton­neaux, but con­tains some late-har­vested grapes, giv­ing the wine a

‘A grow­ing recog­ni­tion of the qual­ity of Lu­gana wines is why the area un­der vine has ex­panded con­sid­er­ably’ Luca For­men­tini

softer and broader pro­file at the ex­pense of the raci­ness that marks the out­stand­ing Conchiglia.

Le Morette Two broth­ers, Fabio and Paolo Ze­nato, run this 35ha prop­erty, which also pro­duces some Bar­dolino in the Veneto re­gion. Fabio Ze­nato wrote his uni­ver­sity dis­ser­ta­tion on Tur­biana, and the prop­erty is still in­volved in viti­cul­tural re­search. Decades ago Le Morette be­gan its ex­is­tence as a vine nurs­ery. An im­mense new win­ery was built in 2013, fea­tur­ing so­lar pan­els for heat­ing and other tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions. As well as a ba­sic Lu­gana for drink­ing young there is a bot­tling called Bene­dic­tus, part of which is fer­mented in small oak bar­rels. There’s a touch of oak too on the ex­cel­lent ris­erva, which is made from late-har­vested grapes and lim­ited to around 5,000 bot­tles.

Mon­tonale Al­though the Girelli fam­ily has been farm­ing in the Lake Garda area for more than a cen­tury, it was only in 2010 that Roberto Girelli and his two broth­ers es­tab­lished this win­ery to vinify white and red wines from their 25ha. Their top Lu­gana, Orestilla, comes from a 2ha vine­yard, from which only the free-run juice is vini­fied, and the wine re­ceives ex­tended age­ing on the lees and in bot­tle. It’s a wine that has won a Plat­inum in the 2017 De­can­ter World Wine Awards. Even the ba­sic Lu­gana bot­tling Mon­tu­nal is of very good qual­ity, if without the rich­ness and tex­ture of the Orestilla.

Nun­zio Ghi­raldi Mo­tor­cy­cling en­thu­si­ast Ghi­raldi bears the same name as his grand­fa­ther, who ac­quired the es­tate in the 1950s. To­day it ex­tends over 32ha, with an av­er­age vine age of 30 years. The wines are not that well known, but are of con­sis­tently high qual­ity. Il Gruc­cione, which takes its name from the bee-eat­ing bird that vis­its each sum­mer from North Africa, is the ba­sic wine, but is made only from free-run juice and has ex­em­plary clar­ity of fruit. Sant’Ono­rata comes from 60-year vines that are picked late, giv­ing a wine of greater vis­cos­ity and power.

en­joyed young, al­though they can age sur­pris­ingly well. Many wines do have some resid­ual sugar, but it is rarely de­tectable; its role, as in Ger­man Ries­lings, is to bal­ance the wine’s nat­u­ral acid­ity that might other­wise seem too stri­dent. And in some cases, there is a sim­ple pref­er­ence for a rounder style of wine that won’t chal­lenge the palate.

There are also some sin­gle-vine­yard wines, which tend to be based on yields lower than the gen­er­ous max­i­mum for Lu­gana, and may be given longer age­ing be­fore re­lease. Then there are su­pe­ri­ore wines from lower yields that re­quire at least 12 months of age­ing, and the more am­bi­tious ris­er­vas, which are aged for two years, of which at least six months must be in bot­tle.

Some pro­duc­ers shun oak bar­rels; oth­ers treat their su­pe­ri­ores or ris­er­vas to a spell in large or small oak for part of the pro­duc­tion. There are no rules. A ju­di­cious use of oak can ac­cen­tu­ate the nut­ti­ness of flavour and add

some struc­ture, as with the Fabio Con­tato from Cà Maiol, al­though there are some wines, such as the bar­rique-aged ris­erva Ser­gio Ze­nato from Ze­nato, in which the palate, in my view, is flat­tened and thick­ened by the oak.

To com­plete the of­fer­ing there are a few ven­dem­mia tar­diva (late-har­vest) wines at the low end of the sweet­ness spec­trum, and some metodo clas­sico sparkling wines. Some of the lat­ter are rou­tine, but there are some su­perb ex­am­ples, such as Perla del Garda’s Brut 2011.

Cel­lar­ing op­tion

Av­er­age qual­ity is high, but there is a lot of stylis­tic vari­a­tion. There are as­sertive, brac­ing styles with pun­gent acid­ity, and softer styles that can of­ten verge on flab­bi­ness. It does ap­pear that in the south­ern part of the ap­pel­la­tion, away from the lake­side, the morainic de­posits in the clay-dom­i­nated soils can re­sult in a broader, fleshier style, ex­em­pli­fied in the range from Perla del Garda, wines with am­ple fruit but lit­tle bite or cut. But they clearly have a fol­low­ing.

What’s im­pres­sive about Lu­gana is its ca­pac­ity to age. The young wines quaffed in the lake­side bars are zesty and of­ten de­li­cious, but they have lit­tle aroma and can lack com­plex­ity. My tast­ing of more than 100 Lu­ganas in­cluded a few wines that were about 20 years old. They were fully ready to drink, but only a few were flag­ging. It’s en­tirely un­der­stand­able that most Lu­gana is drunk within a year of re­lease, but I find it’s a wine of­ten at its best at around four or five years, when a range of aro­mas be­gins to de­velop, and more com­plex­ity on the palate.

I don’t think ex­ces­sive claims should be made for Lu­gana. It doesn’t rise to the great­est heights, nor claims to do so. It’s a wine for the ter­race or the din­ner ta­ble, rather than for com­pe­ti­tions. Think of it as a sen­si­bly priced al­ter­na­tive to good-qual­ity Soave Clas­sico, but with a min­eral char­ac­ter of its own.

Stephen Brook is an awarded au­thor and has been a De­can­ter con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor since 1996

Cà Maiol

Nun­zio Ghi­raldi

Le Morette cel­lars

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