A Holiday Host’s Secret: The Wines of Lake Garda

Every host has a secret wine weapon. It’s that bottle you stock by the case for impromptu get-togethers and the go-tos for a dinner party. It’s the collection of no-fail red and white wines that will always be the crowd-pleasers of the night— so much so, that you’d bet money on it.

For an in-the-know hostess, that secret stash includes the wines of the Lake Garda region in northern Italy. Home to the country’s largest lake — yes, bigger than Lake Como — this wine region is beloved by Italians but still under the radar for many in the U.S. However, it just so happens that the area’s pairing-friendly wines complement classic holiday dishes (and at great value!), so we’re apt to let you in on the details. Some of the best to look out for? The wines of Ca’Maiol.

Ca’Maiol’s wines come from two main subregions on the southern and western shores of the lake: Lugana and Valtènesi. Lugana is famed for its white wines. The region stretches from the south shore of the lake to the dramatic morainic hills, which were formed by glacial movements in the late Ice Age. The Valtènesi region specializes in red grape varieties. Its picturesque hillsides are lined with terraces that descend gently toward the water on the west side of Lake Garda.

White Wines of Lugana

In Lugana, you’ll find the popular Turbiana, an indigenous grape that expresses itself with a unique blend of tart, mineral-driven flavors, stone fruits, and aromatic flowers and citrus. (It’s also known by the name Trebbiano di Lugana, but it’s not the same grape as Trebbiano from other parts of Italy.)

It’s enticing in its peculiarity, and makes for fascinating conversation and tasting notes at a gathering. Try it by serving the Ca’Maiol Lugana Lugana DOP, made from 100 percent Turbiana. It’s a goes-with-everything white wine, and a host’s gem when guests start arriving at the door. Pour a glass to welcome friends and family to the party, as it can be easily sipped alone or paired with appetizers like oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, and a cheese board. It will carry well through dinner, too, complementing any type of seafood and plenty of dishes in the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It’s also a great accompaniment to a hearty bowl of risotto on a chilly winter day, should you find yourself with extra bottles on hand after the celebration.

Similarly, the Ca’Maiol Molin Lugana DOP is an expression of 100 percent Turbiana, but taken from a single vineyard on the property. It offers more structure, thanks to the choice selection of grapes, and delivers more fruit-forward characteristics like apricots and kiwi with a finish of fresh almonds. It can stand up to more robust foods, such as a plate of mature cheeses or vegetarian entrees like stuffed squash, roasted root vegetables with couscous, and cacio e pepe.

Red Varieties of Bresciano IGT

The Ca’Maiol Giomè Benaco Bresciano is a medium-bodied red wine that satisfies both Pinot Noir drinkers and Cabernet Sauvignon lovers with its red berry fruit notes, hints of oak, and finish of tobacco and spices. The wine is a blend of two notable grapes of the region, Groppello and Mazemino, along with popular Italian varieties Barbera and Sangiovese. Each is vinified separately then rested in stainless steel to allow the cuvée to harmoniously integrate before being bottled. It’s made to drink young, and typically only aged up to four or five years.

The wine proves crowd-pleasing with food, too. Your guests will walk away discussing how well the Giomè accented the entrees like braised lamb shank or honey baked ham. For the vegetarians at the table, the Giomè brings out the tomato notes in an eggplant parmesan, and, like the Molin Lugana DOP, will brighten roasted root vegetable main dishes.

Year-Round Rosé

Possibly the unsung hero of the bunch, is a bottle of Chiaretto rosé from Valtènesi. Since the region is heralded for its red grape varieties, winemakers there produce bottles of rosé dubbed Chiaretto, which means “pale” in Italian. This lightly hued pink wine is quite the shining star of Lake Garda, prized for its perfumed aroma and elegant mouthfeel.

The Ca’Maiol Chiaretto Valtènesi Riviera del Garda Classico DOP Chiaretto is all that and more. A blend of Barbera, Sangiovese, Marzemino, and Groppello, like the Giomè, the Chiaretto shows aromas of strawberries and freshly bloomed flowers along with flavors of red berries and almonds. It’s the type of wine that Aunt Kathy can sip from her mushroom hors d’oeuvres to the Christmas turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce. It will equally stand up to the late night pizza snack, too.

The real hostess trick involves this rosé. Serve the Chiaretto alongside a classic Italian dessert: panettone. The sweet bread with dried fruit demands the strawberry and almond notes of the Chiaretto to feel like a complete bite for the taste buds. For those looking for a savory end to the meal, the rosé also complements a cheese plate — a total win for whatever a guest’s dessert style.

In Italy, it’s no surprise that these wines pop out at gatherings, thanks to their flexibility with all things food and festivities. If you’re really looking to impress your friends and family this holiday season, look for the wines of La Garda and Ca’Maiol.

This article is sponsored by Ca’Maiol.