Wine expert LM Archer discovers Lugana Riserva white wines and Bardolino reds from Northern Italy from producers Le Morette, Le Fraghe, Rizzardi, Zenato, and Ca’ Lojera and argues that they are a match for red and white Burgundy at a fraction of the price. The Consorzio di Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino has been busy of late, putting its weight behind a charm offensive to promote this ancient wine region at the southern tip of Lake Garda, showcasing its two-year aged white Riservas and reintroducing three historic sub-zones developed during the 19th century. These include the northern foothills of Montebaldo, the morainic, more Mediterranean, lakeside hills of La Rocca, and – warmer still – the, southern, gravelly hills of Sommacampagna.
Northern Italy’s Lake Garda wine region produces high-quality, age-worthy red and white wines comparable to Bourgogne, writes Archer
Lugana Riserva vs. Bourgogne Blanc
Nothing beats a complex Bourgogne blanc… like a Lugana Riserva white wine from Italy’s Lake Garda.
Famous for its young, easy-drinking light wines made from the local Trebbiano di Lugana (also known as Turbiana) grape, Lugana also offers a newer style – Lugana Riserva. Aged for at least 24 months on the lees, its creamy, layered texture resembles a Bourgogne blanc.
“Lugana is a sort of red wine dressed in white, because it continues to improve and evolve during its lifetime,” says Angelo Peretti, author and director of Consorzio di Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino. Peretti credits acid-driven Turbiana grapes and distinctive regional clay soils for Lugana Riserva’s distinctive ageing capacity and minerality.
This ancient wine region on the southern end of Lake Garda introduced its Lugana Riserva programme in 2011. “The first bottle of Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato was released in 1993, but only a few years ago, the term “Riserva” was included in the DOC’s discipline, starting with the 2011 vintage,” explains Nadia Zenato, daughter of Sergio Zenato, founder of Zenato Azienda Vitivinicola. “My father saw the potential of the local indigenous white grape variety Trebbiano di Lugana,when no one else believed in it.”
Few wineries currently make the time-intensive reserve wine. “We are pretty convinced of the potential of longevity of the Turbiana grapes” says Fabio Zenato of Le Morette, whose family does. “Thanks to our family expertise in vine nursery and clonal selections on Turbiana.”
Ultimately, Lugana Riserva white wines offer Bourgogne-like complexity and ageability, plus freshness and versatility.
“Lugana is one of those wines showing that Italian whites can age well, offering a multi-faceted personality – and great sips – as time unfolds: crunchy and mineral when the wine is young, complex – with tertiary aromas such as petrol and kerosene, as it ages,” says Irene Graziotto, certified sommelier, wine writer and international press office manager at Studio Cru.“I like it for its versatility, and for the fact that if I forget a bottle in the cellar, well, it only gets better!”
Le Morette, Lugana DOC Riserva, 2017
Exotic notes of lemon zest, bergamot, and grapefruit, and an elegant finish. (RRP £23.68 Independent Wine)
Ca’ Lojera, Lugana DOC Riserva del Lupo, 2017
Complex, layered, with intriguing notes of sage, thyme, capers, and rosemary. (RRP $19, Astor Wines)
Zenato, Lugana DOC Sergio Zenato Riserva, 2017
Rich, full-bodied, with bursts of salinity, minerality and luscious stone fruit. (RRP $35.99 | wine.com)
Bardolino Cru vs. Bourgogne Rouges
Nothing beats an elegant Bourgogne rouge… like a Bardolino cru. Fashioned from Lake Garda’s regional red grapes Corvina, Corvinone, Molinara, and Rondinella, these nuanced, age-worthy, red fruit-flavoured wines resemble Bourgogne rouge, but for a fraction of the cost.
“Bardolino and Bourgogne are more elegant wines than ‘powerful’ wines,” says organic winemaker Matilde Poggi of Le Fraghe. She chills her Bardolino reds to enhance their spicy, floral bouquet.
“Its long-established reputation, as shown by the classification written by merchants in 1825, proves that this wine can come as a pleasant surprise, if you do not know it,” adds Graziotto.
Recently, the Bardolino Consorzio reintroduced three historic sub-zones developed during the 19th century. These include the northern foothills of Montebaldo, the morainic, more Mediterranean, lakeside hills of La Rocca, and – warmer still – the, southern, gravelly hills of Sommacampagna.
Gravel soils impart salinity, while regional micro-climates further inform flavours, such as Montebaldo’s strawberry/clove notes, La Rocca’s raspberry and cinnamon, and Sommacampagna’s cherry and black pepper.
“Bardolino has, in fact, come back to its golden age,” concludes Graziotto, “Offering a wine that is juicy and jubilant, dotted with fruit, spice, and herb aromas, and light tannins that make it great for multiple pairings, without taking the scene – but leaving on the other side, a sapid, fruity flavour on the palate.”
Le Fraghe Bardolino
Ethereal body, vivid acids, refined tannins, enticing red fruit and herbal notes. (RRP $19, Vintage Berkeley)
Guerrieri Rizzardi Tacchetto 2019 Bardolino DOC Classico
Silky, fine-grained tannins, bright acids, and supple, red berry notes. (RRP $18, Vinum)