Monday, November 11, 2019

New Discoveries -- Lugana DOC and Turbiana

One of my favorite aspects of Italian wine is that there’s always a new region or varietal to explore. I was recently turned on to wines from the Lugana DOC – and its autochthonal grape, Turbiana.

(In case you’re wondering, “autochthonal” is WineSpeak for “grape native to the region” – and I’ve written about these wonderful discoveries previously.)  

Lugana is a small growing region that lies just south of Italy’s largest lake, Lago di Garda, and is one of Italy’s more popular areas for in-country vacation travel. My colleague Michelle at Colangelo, who sent these samples along to me, vouched for the beauty of the region and the lake itself. She called the wines “unique” – and based on my first experience with them, I’m certainly inclined to agree.

About 95% of all wines made in Lugana are dry whites. As I mentioned, the primary grape grown in the region is Turbiana – and all whites from that region are required to be at least 90% Turbiana in the blend, although most are 100%. Turbiana was known as “Trebbiano di Lugana” for awhile, but genetic studies indicated that it’s not related to that other white grape.

Turbiana is a late-ripening, high acid grape which responds well to oak aging, meaning it can be produced either in a clean “drink young” style or one that could be more age-worthy. On trying this pair of whites, I found it quite interesting how two wines from the same region, same grape could provide such a stark contrast in flavor profile.

The first one we cracked was the younger one – the Armea Vitium 2018 Lugana DOC. ($16) This wine was fairly fruit forward in style. The nose was nicely fragrant, with nicely fragrant warm apple and vanilla aromas. Pears and apples overlaid a backbone of mineral, with a touch of a fruity sweetness. The finish is a bit creamy, with more of that apple flavor lingering for a good long while. Overall, it’s fairly dry and pretty nice to drink on its own.

The other – the Podere Selva Capuzza Menasasso 2015 Lugana Riserva ($20) -- was quite a contrast once you get past the nose. Up front, this wine displayed a similar warm apple and spice flavor, although more on the baking spice end of the scale. The body, though, held a world of difference. There’s far less fruit here initially. Although there was still the apple and pear, it quickly gave way to a wall of flint and a bit of an astringency that reminded me initially of a Muscadet. The finish is sharp and flinty, with a lemony linger. I thought that this wine improved a *lot* once it got some air. I thought the flavors smoothed out quite a bit the next day, so give this one plenty of time to open up. On their own, I still preferred the younger wine.

On the information sheet, one of the recommended pairing was herbed malfatti – which was a dish I’d never heard of. Turns out that they’re small ricotta and spinach balls, mixed with herbs and boiled briefly, served over a plate of sauce. “Malfatti” translates as “badly formed,” which accurately described my first attempt at making these little guys. Pushing through, though – they were quite tasty. The Riserva, I thought, was the better wine with these – although if I had it to do over, I’d have used a white wine and butter sauce instead of my typically fabulous red sauce.

All in all, I thought these were really fascinating whites. They hit a bit of a sweet spot between Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay – which makes them a really nice choice as the weather gets cooler but you still have a hankering for a white. Might be a nice possibility for Thanksgiving, truth be told.

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