In northern Italy, just south of the pristine waters of Lake Garda, lies a small region whose gently rolling hills are alive not with the sound of music, but with something far more valuable: the Trebbiano di Lugana vines from which some of Italy’s finest white wines are made.
We’re referring, of course, to Lugana, the lush sliver of land that stretches across the border of Lombardy and Veneto. It’s known as one of the first regions in Italy — and the first in Lombardy — to earn the coveted DOC recognition.
Fast-forward 50 years, and Lugana wines, with their harmonious bouquets and mineral notes, are some of the most beloved Italian whites in the world. Though the region may export 70 percent of its wine — making it easy for oenophiles outside the region to enjoy a bottle in their favorite restaurant or from the comfort of their couch — we believe they’re best consumed in Lugana itself, where the experience is enhanced by picturesque views, a rich history, and the soft breeze gliding across the surface of Lake Garda.
If you need an excuse to embark on an Italian excursion, look no further — we’ve got several. Pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready to fall in love with Lugana.
ONE FINE VINE
The Lugana wine region is comprised of ground moraine, or glacial sediment, which dates back to the Tertiary period, approximately 15,000 years ago. Up until the Second World War, Lugana was considered a table wine for daily consumption. In the 1960s, however, Sergio Zenato saw the incredible potential of Trebbiano di Lugana vines and took action.
Though the land — compact and tough in times of drought, or soft and muddy after a rain — presented significant challenges, he persevered, focusing on high quality and low yields. Word spread by way of Zenato’s travels and thirsty tourists who developed a taste for the grape. When Lugana received DOC status, in 1967, other ambitious and passionate winemakers followed his lead. From that point on, there was no doubt about it: Lugana is back, and it’s better than ever.
“We have recovered an ancient grape variety almost completely abandoned and we have brought it back to life, respecting the territory and the cycle of nature,” says Nadia Zenato, Sergio’s daughter, who runs the Zenato estate with her mother and brother.
This passion for the land and the grape, obsession with quality, and respect for tradition form the basis for the “Soul of Lugana,” which beckons wine enthusiasts from across the globe, promising good wines, good times, and a true taste of Italian history.
One of the defining features of the Lugana region is Lake Garda, where visitors flock to enjoy swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and water sports (or our preferred activity: lounging at a waterfront restaurant with a glass of wine). The largest lake in Italy, Garda’s striking color and clear waters make it an unbelievably picturesque vacation destination.
The Garda Mountains or Hills, a range of the Southern Limestone Alps, hug the northern shores of the lake. The southern shores near Lugana are less mountainous, offering easy access to beautiful beaches where visitors and locals alike relax in the Italian sunshine and crystal waters. The promontory alone is home to several slices of perfect shore, including Sirmione’s Jamaica Beach, where you can splash around in the shadow of Scaligero Castle, a lakeside fortress dating back to the Scaliger era.
Of course, the lake’s benefits aren’t just scenic, they’re scientific. The water plays a major role in creating the favorable conditions — mild climate, mineral-rich clay soils — that are responsible for the distinct attributes of Lugana wines. The heart of the appellation near Lake Garda, for example, is characterized by its clay soil, and there, on the Veneto border, you’ll find the unique sub-area known as San Benedetto di Lugana. Zenato’s San Benedetto DOC, a bold and full-bodied sparkling, is made from vines cultivated in this very area, and you’ll find that it pairs exceptionally well with traditional Lake Garda plates — particularly fish and cold dishes— and even better with Lake Garda views.
Italy has more wine varieties than any country in the world — each, as Nadia Zenato perfectly puts it, an “expression of a precise territory and hard work of man who has given its personal interpretation to it” — and Lugana itself has 1,800 hectares of Trebbiano di Lugana. A feisty grape with a strong personality, its powers are harnessed to produce long-lived white wines known for interesting bouquet evolutions and complex and elegant tertiary aromas (exemplified perfectly in the Sergio Zenato Riserva).
One of the most particularly noteworthy elements of the medium-late-ripening grape is its versatility. Thanks to a combination of variety, territory and climate, it can be manifested in a variety of styles. Given Lake Garda’s status as a popular holiday destination, and the true lust for life that one finds in the region, a sparkling wine feels like an appropriately fun and festive option.
Each bottle has its own story — and they’re all worth listening to — but one we really love is Zenato’s Lugana Metodo Classico Brut DOC. Made from 100 percent Trebbiano di Lugana with patience and passion, this wine works well as an aperitif, as well as with food, and — with its cheerful stream of bubbles — serves as the perfect celebratory beverage.
In Lugana, there’s always something to celebrate. Saluti!
This article is sponsored by Zenato.