The ”unhidden gem” of Italy: Lugana DOC (3)

By Rita Tóth, for wine-chronicles.com 

(This three-part blog also has appeared in Jens De Maere’s Belgian Wino blog with full permission of the author)

METODO CLASSICO SPARKLING WINES OF LUGANA DOC

After having tasted some lovely wines in part one and part two of this blog, what really impressed me during our trip was the quality of classic method sparkling wines, especially from wineries detailed below.

The style is different from the ‘Champagne style’, as even the longest ageing on lees (60 months for Ca’Maiol) shows hardly any toastiness or yeastiness, but rather amazingly fresh floral and fruity notes, reminiscent of yellow apple, pear and blossom combined with a hint of minerality. This difference could be explained by the grape variety, which has high and enduring natural acidity, its aromatic profile and that the best producers do not use reserve wine for blending. ‘Millesimato’ means ‘vintage’ and in most cases contains wine 100% from the given year.

These sparklings can be great for gastronomy and provide unique bubbly experiences for those consumers who prefer fresher styles. The metodo classico sparkling Lugana undoubtedly has potential for long term ageing although its position is eclipsed by the success of neighboring sparkling wine regions: the currently very trendy Valdobbiadene and Franciacorta. The sparkling Lugana is a more affordable product compared to Franciacorta, the style is different, but the popularity is pretty obvious within the region.

The Pás Dosé (or Zero Dosaggio) style is getting more important for the market, the name refers to 0 g/l residual sugar level in the finish wine that gives ‘the pure expression’ of the Turbiana grape. At Perla del Garda, the owners were originally engaged in milk production but only started wine making in 2000, having its first harvest in 2006. The estate is situated in the south of Lugana, at the border of the denomination. This estate shows difference compared to the others, because the soil here is not only clay, but calcareous clay with noticeable stony elements and the altitude is higher – 240m above sea level – in the hilly area. To reach the mineral quality of the wine, yields have to be restricted (8-10 tonnes/ha) and the vines need stress, competition with the vegetation grown on the fields, although an irrigation system is also used throughout the vineyards.

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The estate only produces wine from own vineyards (30ha) and 90% of the production is Turbiana from Lugana. It is only one of those few producers who experiment with organic grape and wine production (started 1 year ago), but only on 4 ha. Hail can be a problem in the area. The winery is fully equipped with the latest technologies; carefully selected grapes are immediately cooled down to preserve the primary aromas in the wines. Only selected yeasts are used – even in the case of organic wines – because the size of the production is too big to do it differently and the required elegance in the wines would not be achievable.

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The most impressive wines from Perla del Garda were the metodo classico spumante wines, that are bottled in the uniquely designed bottles by Giovanna Prandini (pictured, above) and are only available in magnum bottles. All 3 vintages (2010, 2009, 2008) were very well-made and had great elegance, lingering finishes and fine, persistent bubbles. The two latter vintages were served by ‘degorgement a la volée’ (Brut Nature) and I preferred these compared to 2010 Brut. Minerality was already present in the nose, combined with quite enhanced saffron and ginger in 2009 and surprisingly more freshness and floral notes in 2008. Both of them were very complex on the palate, lime, lemon, quince and yoghurty notes dominating with pretty long finish.

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All the sparklings of Perla del Garda are ‘Millesimato’ wines and even if the rules allow the use of different vintages, they have made the choice not to do it, because the idea is to produce a wine that is the original interpretation of the vintage. ‘In my opinion a different choice would probably give more continuity in the wines but we would lose the special style of the season. I believe that every year brings different aromas to the wine,’ said Giovanna Prandini. Giovanna is a determined professional who is clearly aware of what principals the winery has to follow to bring out the best quality wine from their grapes. The freshly picked grapes’ temperature immediately becomes controlled as soon as they arrive to the winery and they apply vinification by gravity flow to preserve the primary aromas of Turbiana, because this grape variety is not so rich in that like some other grapes. The wines of Perla del Garda are considered more rigorous than the others and they are drier than the average. Giovanna’s aim is to make fine and elegant wines, more than aromatic and rich wines. Minerality is her main interest and she tries to express it in her wines.

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The Famiglia Olivini winery is managed by Giulio and Graziella Olivini and their 3 children (Giordana, Giovanni and Giorgio) but was bought by the grandfather in 1970. The family is dedicated to transforming their winemaking passion for the Lugana territory into the wines. Antoni Crescini has been a real treasure for the company, being the winemaker for 15 years now. Although charmat method Lugana was made already 30 years ago, metodo classico was introduced 10 years ago by Famiglia Olivini and led to great success. Nothing shows it better than the outstanding quality of 2009 Brut Lugana DOC, aged for 42 months on lees, consisting 8 g/l residual sugar that gives roundness and great complexity. The medium lemon colour –which is typical for sparkling Lugana – in the nose has more herbaceous aromas then fruity ones and the taste is in harmony with the complex aroma profile, showing elderflower, citrus fruits and herbaceous notes combined with minerality. The crisp acidity is balanced by the dosage giving elegance and roundness, good concentration and pleasing finesse. This award winning labelled sparkling impressed me so much that I decided to surprise my sister and brother in law with a bottle after their wedding ceremony at Lake Balaton in Hungary: the picture at the top :-).

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Just like for Perla del Garda, the classic method sparkling wines of Olivini are all vintage (Millesimato). ‘This production philosophy reinforces the remarkable properties of our sparkling wine grapes with excellent acidity and salinity’ – said Giordana Olivini.

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All Lugana wines they produce, starting from the still wine to sparkling wines, are closely related to the typical characteristics of the area’s wines that translate the enhancement of the indigenous territory. The family believes that their Lugana stands out among others for its great balance and harmony. Their aim is to produce wines that give pleasure and that do not resemble flat or “international” styled wines.

 

Rita Toth

About the author

Rita Tóth, WSET Diploma aspirant and dedicated #winelover and #travellover, was born in Eger, Hungary where her family has a tradition in vinegrowing and winemaking. After gaining a BA in Business Administration she moved to Australia, where she started her career in the field of recruitment, but also drew inspiration from the vineyards of Barossa and Hunter Valleys to move towards the wine business. This career change occurred in 2011, when she was an intern at a winery in Basilicata, in southern Italy. Rita has experience in importing wines and had been traveling extensively within Europe over the past years to visit wine regions and attend wine fairs. Being an #winelover Ambassador she considers sharing her wine experience with the greater public as a mission. 

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