VARIATIONS OF LUGANA: TYPES AND STYLES
Even if the production regulations allow for the presence of up to 10% of complementary white varieties (as long as they are non-aromatic), nowadays the zone’s producers tend to make their Luganas exclusively from Turbiana. Five different styles are permitted: standard Lugana, Superiore, Riserva, Vendemmia Tardiva (Late Harvest) and Spumante (Sparkling).
Fresh, young, “standard” or “basic” Lugana is the driving force and foundation stone for the denomination as a whole: it accounts for almost 90% of the DOC’s wines.
It is a wine with a pale straw yellow colour and greenish highlights; its nose is delicately floral, with a hint of almonds, while on the palate it is fresh, pleasantly citrus-like and long.
Introduced into the production regulations in 1998, Lugana Superiore is a Lugana that has been aged for at least one year after harvesting. For this reason its taste profile is more complex than that of the standard version. The colour has a more golden hue; the more varied aromas offer hints of wild herbs, of chlorophyll, of ripe apples and citrus fruits (especially mandarin oranges), together with notes of hazelnuts or spices when the wine has matured in wood (today, increasingly, less new and less toasted, and of a larger size than barriques). The palate is more richly structured and is underpinned by crisp, lively acidity and a mineral tanginess that gives the wines intriguing “saline” nuances.
Lugana Riserva is a natural evolution of the Superiore type: it must mature for at least 24 months, 6 of which in bottle. It has a brighter hue and more evolved, complex aromas, with notes of flint and balsamic hints. The minerality on the palate is more warming than in the Superiore, but it is similarly mouth-filling, tangy and persistent.
The longevity of these dry, still versions varies from type to type, but also depends on the wine’s style. Today, particularly for the more complex wines like Lugana Superiore and Lugana Riserva, production is increasingly oriented towards vinification in stainless steel and “sur lie” (i.e., with prolonged contact between the wine and its lees/yeasts), as well as towards mixed maturation (partly in stainless steel and partly in wood.
Producers are therefore realizing that their wines can be even more long-lived than in the past. The “basic” version can be kept in one’s cellar even for two or three years, while the Superiore and Riserva have the potential to mature gracefully for a decade or so.
The last two versions covered by the production regulations display very particular characteristics.
Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva
The Late Harvest version of Lugana is undoubtedly something new: a different, more “experimental” kind of Lugana, but without any of the sticky-sweet style of a traditional “passito” wine. This type of wine is in fact made by over-ripening the grapes on the vine and then picking them later than usual – between the end of October and early November – rather than drying the fruit in special lofts.
These richer, more concentrated grapes give the Lugana wine a typically “late-harvested” profile: softer and weightier, but not excessively sweet, because the residual sugar is successfully balanced by the acidity in a similar way to an Alsace Vendange Tardive or a German Spätlese.
The sparkling version has been included in the production regulations since 1975, and represents – in spite of the limited number of bottles produced – a well-established traditional category of Lugana. As Camillo Pelizzari describes in his fundamental book “La Lugana e il suo vino” of 1942, towards the end of the 19th century a group of businessmen from Champagne who were visiting San Martino della Battaglia tried without any great success (because of scarce production) to invest in making a sparkling version of Lugana. Indeed, they actually wanted to create a winery at Rivoltella for the production of a Classic Method sparkling wine along the lines of Champagne.
Today Lugana Spumante is produced both by the Charmat (or Martinotti) method (prise de mousse in pressurized tanks) and the Classic Method (refermentation in bottle). In the former case, the taste profile displays greater simplicity and freshness, with primary aromas of citrus fruits (especially citrons) and a creamier, more generous perlage, while in the latter it becomes more refined and complex, with a more elegant, lively bouquet and a more graceful, “crisp” perlage.