Lugana’s remarkable longevity is down to its soil, climatic conditions and human ingenuity. Made from Turbiana, a famously acidic variety, the grape’s characteristics have found their perfect match here, where the soil is mainly clayey with some sandier areas, and the climate is tempered by Lake Garda. Agronomy and winegrowing techniques have been perfected through studies and research in this region over the past 15 years.
Today, the area’s historic vineyards are almost all family run and average 25 years of age. Lugana exhibits an acidic-savoury vein and a structure that can withstand the attacks of time by metamorphosing, gaining an impressive nobility as it matures.
In 2002 the forefather of Italian wine criticism, Luigi Veronelli, acknowledged its potential for evolving: ‘Drink your Lugana young, very young, and you’ll enjoy its freshness. Drink it two or three years old and you’ll enjoy its fullness. Drink it after a decade and you’ll be astounded by its complex authoritativeness’.
Since the 1990s, several producers have taken a chance on this grape, which back then was notorious for its difficult acidity, and they began archiving old vintages. Ambra Tiraboschi at Ca’ Lojera winery says, ‘After building our underground cellar in 1997, we began laying down a lot of our bottles. Right from the beginning, our intention was to demonstrate that Lugana is cellarworthy. Several years later we can see we were right; our archive bottles are often used by the Lugana Consorzio to provide proof of its ageworthiness, especially abroad, where people request vertical tastings as a matter of routine to evaluate how a particular label has evolved’.
The Consorzio has promoted older Lugana – for example, a journalism contest in the early 2000s called ‘Stelle del Garda, le età del Lugana’ was held to help educate wine writers about Lugana’s talent for withstanding the test of time. In 2020 came a memorable retrospective, ‘Le età del Lugana’ (‘The ages of Lugana’), the high point of the festivities marking the 30th anniversary of the Lugana Consorzio.
The Gran Priorato di Lugana consists of around 60 producers, technicians and oenologists from the zone, and played a part in Lugana’s history. Founded in 1980, it has worked to make Lugana’s voice heard, such as through the annual oenology contest, Vinalia. As a conscious ambassador for the area, it has helped to promote Lugana, albeit with a lower profile than the far more complex, structured efforts of the Consorzio.
Davide Camoni, a laboratory technician, belongs to the Gran Priorato and is also on the Consorzio’s technical board; his study published recently in a scientific journal looked closely at how Lugana evolves. Camoni says, ‘We investigated the various indicators of Lugana’s longevity by studying 13 vintages of the same Lugana label, spanning 2005 to 2017. We found that Lugana effectively has a ‘third life’ – Lugana’s structure and polyphenolic complexity make it suited to ageing, as do several norisoprenoids, fatty acids and benzylic esters. Glycosylated aromas and perceptible terpenoids make up Lugana’s aromatic treasure chest, capable of evolving and enduring through time’.
Tasting the wines of Lugana:
Ca’ Lojera, Lugana Superiore, 2001 13%
Founded by Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi in 1992, Ca’ Lojera is one of the wineries that helped shape the denomination’s history. Large barrels for a 20 year-old wine that’s remarkable for its vital savoury-acidic combination, its style is saline, iodine-tinged and smoky, with ripe yellow fruit. Its enveloping, lively intensity is irresistible. 92
RRP £27 / $35
La Rifra, Il Bepi, Lugana, Riserva 2014 13%
A family business set up in the 1970s, run by brothers Claudio and Luigino Fraccaroli on 17 hectares. From their oldest, 40-year-old vineyard comes this Riserva, named after a forebear. Balsamic, citrus aromas lead to a palate lifted by fresh sapidity: still young, its future is bright. 90
RRP £11 / $18
Podere Selva Capuzza, Menasasso, Lugana Riserva 2016 13.5%
This historic winery has seen 103 harvests; now overseen by the family’s fourth generation under Luca Formentini, it’s named after its hilltop position. The 38 year-old vineyard, Selva produces this Riserva, with just 5% aged in barriques. Notes of saffron, herbs, white pepper are harmonious, and the wine is taut with freshness and savouriness. A long life ahead. 92
RRP £28.50 / $38
Tenute Roveglia, Vigne di Catullo, Lugana Riserva 2016 13%
Tenute Roveglia’s roots stretch back to 1404 when it was owned by the Roveglio family; the Zweifel-Azzone family took over centuries later. Sixty-year-old vineyards give us this Riserva, fermented completely in steel. It has a citrussy olfactory profile, with acacia and ripe tropical fruit. Charismatic, structured and taut, it has a sapid verve that’s sure to last. 92
RRP £19 / $24.50
More on the Lugana wine region:
Five things to know about Lugana
Lugana’s new generation: Four stories
Food pairing ideas for Lugana wines