I recently came back from a wine trip focused on Lugana and other wines from the lake of Garda and whilst I already knew the area and its wines, it was an amazing discovering journey even for me. When my personal wine journey started, about 20 years ago, the wine industry was black or white, producers were either rebels or followers with no many shades in between, it was all about making and selling wine. Italy and Italian wine had a good reputation and wines would sell.
Fast forward 20 years and the whole industry has changed, some time for the better, other for the worst, with plenty of shades in between and thanks to social media and the many channels wines are sold through nowadays, each one has its own voice and tribe, and each voice is different, sometimes very different, difference that 20 year ago would have been unimaginable and would not have sold.
Lugana is a DOC wine made with turbarga, a white grape variety also known as Trebbiano di Lugana or Trebbiano di Soave that a few years ago rebranded itself and changed name to move away from the cheap, unjustified, reputation that Trebbiano grapes have, for at least 90% and the remaining 10% made of other local white grape varieties and the Lugana DOC “discliplinare” includes 5 wines: Lugana, Lugana Superiore, Lugana Riserva, Lugana Vendemmia tardiva and Lugana Spumante all made from grapes grown in an area between the provinces of Brescia and Verona around the Lake of Garda.
Despite Lugana being a single appellation, I tasted dozens of Lugana wines, wine makers are now, more or less successfully, trying to create their interpretation of Lugana exactly like a chef would cook a lasagna, not two final dishes are the same, even though most of the ingredients are.
This was what I experienced when I started the tasting session, each winery had its own interpretation, some well made wines and some less, some were good, some not, some wines really impressed me and some I could not wait to move to the next table. I was really surprised to discover the impact of terroir on Lugana wines, terroir is as important for Lugana as for the more famous Chablis or Bordeaux or Barolo and Turbaga is proving a grape that can hold ageing, can hold wood exactly like Cortese
Terroir is often underestimated especially in “normal” white wines because Lugana is considered to be just another white wine but I tasted huge differences in the wines due to the terroir. But it wasn’t just terroir, there is a new generation of winemakers that are pushing the boundary, want to change the definition of Lugana, everyone following a different approach and philosophy, approach that not always suits the grape, but nevertheless is unique and different creating thousands of wines, but when it does, it creates exceptional wines and I tasted a few.
If 20 years ago the wines were mainly divided into well and poorly made and the one well made were all following the same approach creating very similar wines, nowadays, even wines like Lugana have plenty of shades in between.