Wine from this Italian region is endangered. The best way to save it? Drink it.
Since earning the coveted title of Master Sommelier last spring, Michael Meagher can be entirely choosy about the pours he promotes. So when the Boston-area wine pro throws his weight behind Lugana, a Northern Italian appellation on the southern shores of Lake Garda, wine enthusiasts take notice.
“These are high-quality white wines with great acid structure and aromatics,” Meagher says. He describes these dry pours, crafted from the turbiana varietal (genetically related to verdicchio), as “graceful and elegant” with the capacity to age. The master somm is among many who feel a sense of urgency communicating about these bottles. The land on which these grapes grow is threatened by construction of high-speed train tracks proposed to connect Venice and Milan. A third of the 3,700-vineyard acreage could be lost.
Recently, Meagher learned that Lugana’s trade organization planned to kick off its US national tour in Boston. It was an easy decision to support a campaign that’s mobilizing international support to preserve these vineyards straddling Lombardy and the Veneto. Using the hashtag #savelugana, the push highlights winegrowers whose livelihoods are rooted in this special region.
Two of these grower-producers make bottles that are available here. In the easternmost portion, on the Veneto side, is the municipality of Peschiera del Garda. In the subdistrict of San Benedetto di Lugana, brothers Francesco and Michele Montresor grow turbiana on their 60-acre family estate. At their winery, Ottella, they craft a pour called “Le Creete,” named for a vineyard with a high content of glacial white clay in the soil. To the west in Pozzolengo, on the Lombardy side, Alessandro Cutolo works the family farm, Azienda Vinicola Marangona, founded in the 1960s by his grandfather. The winemaker began converting the vineyards to organic almost a decade ago.
Both of these bottles are considered “basic” Lugana, the largest category that serves as a gateway to a range of styles: superiore, spumante, riserva, and vendemmia tardiva (late harvest). A sip exceeds what you might expect from an entry-level wine. They taste like more-expensive pours, and are a boon to New England tables.
“I can’t imagine a wine better suited to the way we dine here,” says Meagher of the Boston restaurant scene, observing how lobster, scrod, and oysters feature in local fare. Plus, the campaign’s message of “drink it to save it” makes for great tableside conversation.
“People feel they are doing good while drinking well,” he says.
Ottella “Le Creete” Lugana 2015 Aromas of orange blossom, peach, and white tea lead to a rich palate of invigorating citrus, stone fruit, and saline with a little youthful prickle. Around $20. At Winestone, Chestnut Hill, 617-264-0393; Savour Wine & Cheese, Gloucester, 978-282-1455.
Marangona Lugana 2015 Lime flower petals, crunchy stone fruit, and mineral notes characterize this lively, mouth-filling pour, with appetizing saltiness complementing ripe fruit. Around $20. At Wine Sense, Andover, 978-749-9464; West Concord Liquors, West Concord, 978-369-3872.