This month for #ItalianFWT, we travel to Lombardia, where international and native grapes live in harmony. Nebbiolo (known here as Chiavennasca) is highly underrated, but appellations like Valtellina are becoming more and more known on the Italian wine stage, with the five sub-regions creating flavour nuances, just like the cru areas of Barolo. If you’ve had great Chiavennasca, you know it, as it’s highly perfumed with loads of cherry and rose aroma; lean yet elegant with balanced acidity and tannins. Perhaps you’ve seen labels of Sassella? That’s Valtellina’s most well-known and long standing sub-region. Sforzato or Sfursat is even more unique with the nebbiolo grapes being air-dried before fermentation, which leads to intense and complex wines with at least 14% abv. (Think Amarone, but less powerful and more elegant).
But there are other native grapes and styles of wine that are important and highly lauded in Lombardia. I have access to a lot of great wines in my market, but wish there was more Oltrepo Pavese, a region that is well known for its traditional method sparkling wines made with Pinot Nero. In fact, many don’t know that Oltrepo Pavese is the largest, and most productive sub-region of Lombardia! Furthermore, it is a stronghold for Pinot Nero and has made a name for itself with this grape. They also make a wealth of still wines in this region from grapes like Croatina (most planted red grape of Lombardia), Barbera, Pinot Noir, and white wine from Moscato Bianco.
Let’s not forget about world famous Franciacorta, another sub-region known for its traditional method sparkling wines. Like Champagne, made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, but unlike Champagne, instead of Meunier, the wines will have Pinot Bianco. Now with the introduction of the native grape Erbamat, the wines of Franciocorta will be even more unique and definitely more Italian.
If you ever get a chance to taste Moscato di Scanzo, you’ll have tasted a sweet passito wine from Italy’s smallest DOCG. A rare grape from the red muscat family, it will be a wine you soon won’t forget. Sweet, yes, but balanced with high acidity and the spicy floral berry notes will have you swooning. I’ve never seen these in the North American market, which is really a shame, because these are fantastic wines.
Chiaretto (KEY-ah-ret-tow) is what the locals here call rose, typical along the shores of Lake Garda. On the Lombardia side, we can see grapes such as Marzemino, Barbera, Sangiovese and the Gropello group, making these fabulous rosati!
Lugana is a DOC shared between Lombardia and Veneto, with the shores of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake separating the two. The appellation itself is on the southern shores of the lake, with the biggest chunk of the DOC landing in Lombardia. This is where it gets confusing: the grape here is Trebbiano di Lugana, which has been discovered as a biotype of Trebbiano di Soave (Veneto) which is also known as Verdicchio in Marche. (Stay tuned, we’ll be talking about the wines of Verdicchio in September’s #ItalianFWT). To make it even MORE confusing, growers and producers (at least on the Veneto side), decided that having the name Trebbiano in the grape name, and have it associated with others (some of those being of significantly lower quality) from the Trebbiano family, opted for the name Turbiana. With that said, in most cases we typically only see the region on the bottle. (Lugana, Soave)
For our purposes, I’m calling it Trebbiano di Lugana, since the wine I’m sharing with you is from the Lugana region. A typical Trebbiano di Lugana is marked by high acidity, medium to full body, minerality and complexity that only increases with age. The aroma and flavour profile is white flowers, yellow apples, stone fruits, flint, nuts and sweet spices. I’m a big fan of this grape and the wine. You can make still wines, vendemmia tardiva (late harvest) and spumante, the latter two being in small quantities and likely never exported. The levels of quality in the still wines are as follows:
- Lugana- the youngest and most fruit-forward, being released shortly after harvest.
- Lugana Superiore – more complex and structured, with an ageing requirement of 12 months before release.
- Lugana Riserva – aged for 24 months before release, with at least six months in bottle. It is the most age-worthy of the styles with fuller body and higher alcohol.
Ca’ dei Frati was founded in 1939 when patriarch Felice Dal Cero settled on the Lombardy region side of the Lugana appellation. It’s called Ca’ dei Frati or “friar house,” because it was once owned by monks who grew grapes there. If you were to look at the “tech sheet” for their Lugana wine, they call this grape Turbiana! Incidentally, this is the wine that put this winery on the map and what they are most well known for, considered the jewel in their crown! Personally, I love this wine, and it shows typicity of the grape with aromas of stone fruits (lots of peach and apricot in this wine), along with hints of tropical fruit, a touch of basil and almond, and of course that typical Trebbiano acidity.
This wine screamed fish, so that is what I did! Of course, being summer, lots of fresh vegetables are always on the menu, and the fettucine alfredo with zucchini and a side of asparagus completed the light miso cod. I was SUPER happy with how the pasta turned out and it ended up to be a really great match as the creaminess of the pasta offset the high acidity and gave the wine a creamy texture…almost like peach pie with ice cream. Each bite was savoured and paired magnificently with my food! In fact, I’m not the foodie in the crowd and I was so focused on actually getting a really great dish prepared, I almost forgot to take a picture of the wine! I grabbed a shot of the bottle and you can see my glass in the corner of the food plate photo! Phew! An actual well thought out, planned and executed meal on my end that reaped huge results!
Let’s see what the other member of #ItalianFWT are up to and where they are taking us in Lombardia!
See you next time! Salute!