Turbiana: The Treasured Grape of Lugana

Lugana, situated along the Southern shores of the freshwater Lake Garda, and extending across the provinces of Brescia and Verona, and the regions of Veneto and Lombardy in Italy, produces wine from a single late-ripening, autochthonous white varietal. One grape might not sound like much, but that’s plenty when it’s the crisp and elegant Turbiana (Trebbiano di Lugana).

Lugana’s winemaking history spans almost 1.5 millennia. The area came into existence after the glaciers that had helped form Lake Garda over 10,000 years ago receded, leaving soil and stone-rich moraine hills that eventually became infused with clay. Turbiana is grown on this limestone-dominant soil, where an abundance of clay and minerals (with increasing concentrations of sand at higher elevations), helps to produce thick-skinned, tightly clustered grapes. Northern and Southern breezes coming from Lake Garda help to moderate the temperature, and minimize the potential damaging effects of excessive heat and humidity.

Lugana is DOC winemaking territory. There are a total of 180 grape growers cultivating Turbiana on 2,500 hectares of vineyards that are concentrated in five communes, including Peschiera del Garda, Desenzano del Garda, Lonato del Garda, Sirmione, and Pozzolengo. They work with 90 producers to make 185,000 hectoliters (24,584,933 bottles) of Lugana wine annually. Five styles of wine are permitted within the DOC zone including Lugana DOC Spumante, Lugana DOC, Lugana DOC Superiore, Lugana DOC Riserva, and Lugana DOC Vendemmia Tardiva.

Turbiana has bright acidity, moderate alcohol levels (around 12%), a refreshing minerality and a balanced salinity. It also exhibits an enticing floral, and lively citrus and orchard fruit, as well as a softly herbaceous, and mildly nutty flavor profile. Turbiana is a truly versatile grape, with the potential for myriad interpretations. The inherent high acidity of Turbiana also makes it a white varietal that ages exceptionally well.

Lugana East Coast Wine Ambassador Susannah Gold

I experienced how the flavor profile of this wine evolves and grows in complexity first-hand when I tried a series of Lugana wines alongside a four-course lunch at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in New York City with Lugana East Coast Ambassador Susannah Gold. Below is a brief overview of each wine.  

Sguardi di Terra, Spumante Brut, Lugana DOC (Traditional method)

Family-owned, six year-old winery, with seven hectares of vineyards.

100% Turbiana.

Organically produced from hand-harvested grapes. Aged on the lees for 15 months in bottle.

Soft and round, with a fine and delicate mousse, aromas of white flowers, and citrus fruits, and notes of lemon, grapefruit, and acacia, as well as a subtler elements of fresh almonds and toast.

Citari, Lugana Sorgente, 2020

Four-generation, family-owned winery.

25 hectares of sustainably-farmed vineyards.

100% Turbiana.

Aged seven months in stainless steel tanks (six months on the lees).

Crisp, with balanced minerality and salinity, aromas of white flowers, and citrus and orchard fruits, and notes of green apples, peaches, basil, and nuts.

La Meridiana Lugana, 2020, Organic

100% Turbiana.

Aged four months in stainless steel tanks.

Family-owned winery with four hectares of vineyards.

Elegant and round, with a refreshing minerality, aromas of orchard fruits, fresh herbs, and nuts, and notes of ripe pears, peaches and apricots, as well as almonds and baked bread.

Tenuta Roveglia, Limne, 2020

100% Turbiana cultivated on 25-35 year-old vines.

Four-generation, family-owned winery on an estate dating back to the 15th century.

Aged four to five months in stainless steel tanks.

Well-structured and delicate, with a fresh acidity and minerality, aromas of white and yellow flowers, orchard fruits, and vegetation, and notes of broom, apples, peaches, and papayas, along with hints of almonds and herbs.    

Colli Vaibo’, Lugana, 2019

100% Turbiana.

Family-owned winery with 25 hectares of vineyards converted from farmland, dating back to 2005.

Aged four months on the lees, and one month in bottle.

Crisp and refreshing, with a balanced minerality, aromas of grass, and citrus and orchard fruits, and notes of lemons, green apples, pears, and honeydews.  

Zeni, Lugana DOC, Vigne Alte, 2019

Family-owned winery dating back to 1870.

100% Turbiana.

Hand-harvested grapes.

Aged in stainless steel tanks.

Crisp and well-rounded, with aromas of white flowers, and orchard and tropical fruits, and notes of apples, pears, peaches, and pineapple, along with honeysuckle and vanilla.

Seiterre, Gigi Rizzi Collection N°01, Lugana Superiore, 2018, Tenuta Fantona

Five-generation, family-owned winery dating back to the 19th century, with 60 hectares of vineyards.

100% Turbiana.

Hand-harvested grapes.

Aged in stainless steel tanks and in oak barriques and barrels.

This vintage is the first in a six limited-edition wine series created by owner Luigino “Gigi” Rizzi.

Full-bodied with good depth, minerality and salinity, as well as aromas of citrus and orchard fruits, and notes of ripe grapefruits, oranges, and apples, along with vanilla and sweet spices.

Sergio Zenata, Lugana Riserva, 2016

Two-generation, family-owned winery founded in 1960.

100% Turbiana harvested from the winery’s oldest vineyards.

Aged one year in French oak barrels and in bottle.

Rich and complex, with aromas of ripe citrus, orchard, and tropical fruits, scented wood, and sweet spices, and notes of lemon peels, peaches, cantaloupes, and bananas, along with vanilla, oak, nutmeg, and honey.

Chef Vito Gnazzo at Il Gattopardo Restaurant

These wines seamlessly paired with the regional dishes that were specially prepared for the lunch. Each course is listed below.

Casoncelli tradizionali al burro e salvia (Lombardy-style stuffed pasta tossed in butter and sage)  

Capu’ ripieni di carne en salsa al pomodoro (capu’ stuffed with meat in a tomato sauce)

Trota del Garda en carpione  (Trout from Lake Garda marinated in white vinegar and spices)

La torta del Paradiso (A classic Lombardy-style cake topped with powdered sugar)

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