Lugana, a Lovely White Wine

Near the banks of Lake Garda along the 100 mile coastline in both the Veneto and Lombardy regions of northern Italy grows a grape that is not terribly well-known.  There are so many grapes grown in Italy, they can’t all be famous. Everyone knows Pinot Grigio, the distant relative of Pinot Noir. Many have heard of Trebbiano di Soave of the Veneto region and Verdicchio of the Marche region. But not many have heard of Turbiano. It is related to both Trebbiano di Soave and Verdicchio di Marche and makes up 95% of the vineyards of Lugana along the banks of Lake Garda.

A young Turbiano has a lively acidity with aromas of orange, almond, herbs and spice. The flavors will change as it ages. Yes, it can age. After two years of aging, the Lugana Riserva takes on more pronounced spicy characteristics. The late harvest Lugana has more candied fruit flavors. The sparkling Lugana is very floral.

From the young to the aged to the spumante, Lugana wines are crisp, vibrant and complex; a symphony of citrus with varying degrees of spice, dried fruit and floral notes.

The Three Sisters of Veneto

ItalyCorvina laughed an acidic laugh, a laugh that reflected not bitterness, but a crispness that was larger than her small stature,and lighter than her thick skin. She was clearly the bright leader of the three sisters of Veneto. Rondinella always dressed in full make-up, well-colored and perfumed, her displays of ultra-femininity disguising a stout, hearty constitution. Molinara, pale and light, the most delicate of the three, echoed her beloved sister’s acidic-voiced laugh, quietly, subtly. Their laughter and conversation blended and mixed until you could hardly tell one from the other. They became as one in Valpolicello.

When it comes to wine and grapes, Italy confuses me. Though it makes wines with noble grapes, most regions in Italy depend on indigenous grapes, so many indigenous grapes. Perhaps, if I personify them all, put them into a story, I’ll be able to keep them straight.

There once were three brothers. Moscato, Arneis and Cortese were like the three white knights of the Piedmont. Though he was often a very sweet fellow, few people would openly admit that they liked Moscato. “Do you like Moscato?” “Yes, I do.” “Well, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.” “Why would I be ashamed?” “Oh, no reason…” The truth was, spending time with Moscato was like spending a late summer’s evening in a fragrant peach orchard, lovely, but at times too soft, too sweet. Arneis was elegant and exotic, and like his brother, sometimes a little flabby, rather than crisp. Cortese, was pleasant enough. He didn’t exude the flair and perfumes of his flabby brothers, but what he lacked in exotic characteristics he made up for in his structure and acidity. The white knights stayed in Piedmont to defend and protect their beautiful sisters, Barbera, who was quite elegant in her kingdom of Alba, unlike her cousin, also named Barbera, who could be a bit rough, having grown up in the hills of Asti. Dolcetto, Freisa, Grignolino and Brachetto, though not as bold as the Barberas, had some similar qualities, such as a crisp demeanor. Alas, the white knights were no match for the strength and power of Piedmont’s queen, Nebbiolo, perhaps the strongest ruler of all time. She commanded many areas, including Lombardy where she went by the name Valtellina-Chiavennasca, but was especially known for her work in Barolo and Barbaresco. She spoke in more feminine tones in Barbaresco, though still with strength and conviction. Wherever she went, she was recognized for her large, muscular, powerful frame…and her mustache.

And don’t get me started on the Sangiovese clan! Good old Sangiovese, so well-loved in Chianti. But, what on earth is in his past that every time he moves to a new town, he changes his name? In Montalcino he’s Brunello. In Montepulciano he goes by Prugnolo Gentile. And in Scansano, he’ll answer to Morellino. Was it his recent dalliances in Bolgheri with the sophisticated Bordeaux girls that, while it gave him the reputation of being ‘super,’ forced him to go incognito? He may be a devil, but he ages well and has so many interesting aspects to him. It’s no wonder he goes by so many different names.

Hey, Trebbiano! Malvasia! Pipe down, with your Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone! I can hear you all the way from Latium!

The action of the story has steered clear of Trentino-Alto Adige, with its German-style natives, including Traminer and his old friend, Muller-Thurgau. Nor has the story ventured into Friuli-Venezia-Guilia where are harbored four native characters, Refosco, the sister, and three brothers, Verduzzo, Picolit and Friulano, a distant relative to Sauvignon Blanc. I have yet to introduce Verdicchio, Marches’ neutral white grape. I have left Umbria and with it Grechetto, himself a bit nutty and his sister, Sagrantino, an intense gal who smokes. Perhaps, Falanghina isn’t even worth mentioning. He may be weak, but he manages to stand up to the volcanic ash soil of Campania. Aleatico hides out in Apulia, being far outshone by his much more famous sister, Primitivo. And before I can make it all the way to Sardinia to introduce Cannonau, who goes by her French name, Grenache when in Rhone and her brother, Vermentino, whose ancestors traveled here from Spain in the middle ages, and who may be distantly related to Malvasia up in Latium, I said ‘quiet!’ I realize that if I did try to personify every indigenous grape of Italy, I would have to write a story with more characters than can be found in a Russian novel. But unlike the Brothers Karamazov, the three sisters of Veneto lived happily ever after as did Prosecco, their party-boy brother.