Sometimes I get ahead of myself. Such was the case with my Italian Wines this year. I had picked up a Nosiola to taste for this month’s #ItalianFWT group as Marcia of Joy of Wine leads us on an exploration of Indigenous white wines of Italy. (You can read her invitation post here.)
Well I pulled out that bottle a few months ago when #Wine Pairing weekend explored varieties that are new to us (Nosiola fit both topics!) When I realized I had already used the wine I planned for this month, I went in search of something else!
(If you are interested, you can read that article here. Nosiola a disappearing northern Italian variety)
The writer’s at Italian Food Wine and Travel are all exploring Italy’s Native White grapes. With over 2000 indigenous wine grapes in Italy, there are plenty of varieties to explore. Scroll to the bottom of this post for all of my colleagues’ articles!
You can also join us on Twitter on Saturday June 4th for a conversation about the grapes we discovered. Just use and follow the hashtag #ItalianFWT. You will find us live on Twitter that morning at 8 am PST or 11 am EST.
In late September we will be heading to Italy for the Wine Media Conference on the shores of Lake Garda in Northern Italy. So when I say “Dreaming of Lake Garda” I mean it. I am longing for this trip to this beautiful part of Italy and I can’t wait to taste their wines in the place where they are grown and made. So, I decided to look for a wine from the Lugana DOC, which is a stone’s throw from where we will be staying.
I had sampled wines from the region a few years ago at the Wine Media Conference and remembered loving the variety of styles in which they were made, and the way that the region was both staying true to tradition while exploring new ways to create wines from their indigenous grape Turbiana.
I looked online, but now I was into the time of year when shipping wine to me in Vegas, is just not possible. What to do? Would my local wine shops have a wine from this region?
I found one online at our local Total Wine. I was skeptical and then I saw “From the highly acclaimed Tommasi family”. Ah…my worries over quality were dispelled. We tasted a delicious Tommasi Family Pinot Grigio a while back, so I knew that the quality here would be good. (You can read that piece here Delle Venezie DOC – Italian Pinot Grigio raising the bar)
A little background on Lugana
Lugana is located at the southern end of Lake Garda and crosses the regions of Lombardia and Veneto. The portion in Lombardia covers more hectares of vines and communes, and the portion in Veneto is known for commercial volumes.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the beautiful Sirmione Penisula, that stretches 4 Kilometers out into Lake Garda. The large “Scaligera” fortress was built in the 13th century and guards the Sirmione. It is separated from the mainland by a drawbridge.
We will be staying very close by in Desenzano del Garda when we visit this fall and I look forward to exploring Sirmione.
When you cross back over the bridge to the mainland you come upon the plain that is now the Lugana DOC.
This plain south of Lake Garda was once covered in a dense marshy forest. Beginning in the 15th century the Republic of Venice reclaimed the land and began cultivating grains here.
But grapes? Grapes have been cultivated here since the Bronze Age, according to literary references.
From a soil standpoint, the Lugana DOC is divided into a large flat zone with firm clay soils which is the heart of the DOC between Rovizza and Lugana. Here wines have a mineral quality.
Then there is an area around the Tower of San Martino della Battaglia where the clays are sandier, the hills are gentle and lower and the soils have more gravel. These wines have more body and acid.
Turbiana – the grape of Lugana
This grape has been confused with Trebbiano di Soave, and Verdicchio, but it has been discovered that it is different from those grapes in aromas and yields. The grape has medium-size compact bunches and a long pyramid like shape. The skins of the grapes are thick with a juice that can be neutral. As a result it is versatile for making a variety of styles of wines.
Styles of wines in Lugana
When I did the tasting a few years ago, I really enjoyed the range of styles that this grape was capable of making.
The Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC recognizes 5 styles of wine
Lugana – this is 90% of the DOC wines. It is pale with green highlights, with delicate floral and almond on the nose and citrus on the palate.
Lugana Superiore – This wine must be aged for at least one year. This gives the wine more complexity, with notes of wild herbs, ripe apples, and citrus. If it has been aged in wood you might notice nuttiness or spice. These wines are richer with more structure but still crisp. You will note a deeper color also in these wines.
Lugana Riserva – This wine must be aged for 24 months, of which at least 6 are in bottle. The complexity increases with notes of flint and balsamic. These are richer rounder wines.
Lugana Vendemia Tardiva – This is a late harvest wine and is a newer style. The grapes overripen on the vine and are picked in late October or early November. This is a richer, weightier wine but is not excessively sweet due to the higher acid in the grape.
Lugana Spumante – Produced in both the Martinotti and Traditional Method these Sparkling wines are simple and fresh with notes of citrus fruits.
On to the wine we picked up
Palanca 2019 Lugana DOC
from Tommasi Family Estates
This is a wine imported by Saranty Imports which is Total Wines direct import wines. This was made by the Tommasi Family Estate.
Tommasi is a 4th generation family winery that is based in Valpolicella. Yes, of course, they make Amarone. They also own vineyards in Tuscany, Puglia, Basilicata, Oltrepo Pavese, and Lugana.
This was basic Lugana wine. It was lovely, but did not compare to the more expressive wines I tasted at the conference.
On the nose I found dusty notes then stone fruit like peach and apricot and a bit of apple. On my palate there was green apple, slate, crisp white peach, lime and other citrus notes. We noticed a slight effervescent character to the wine that was refreshing.
12.5% abv – $16.99 (Total Wine)
Lugana with a riff on Luccio alla Gardesana
Wanting to stay true to the region, I looked for dishes of the Lake Garda Region. One I came across was Luccio alla Gardesana. While the dish originally hails from Verona, it is popular around Lake Garda, as can be seen by the name. The recipe I found is made with Pike, a freshwater fish found in Lake Garda.
The dish calls for making a broth with the fish head and tail with carrot, onion and celery, a bay leaf, vinegar and salt, then cooking the fish in this broth. You make the Gardesana sauce with oil, cooked garlic, anchovies, capers and vinegar that cooks for a few minutes.
The idea then is to jar the fish with the sauce and let it meld in the refrigerator for a few days, then serve it on slices of fried polenta.
Sadly, I had not left myself time to do this! I needed dinner for that night! So, as usual, I riffed on the theme.
Pike was not to be found, but rainbow trout I found at the store. I roasted the whole fish simply with olive oil, salt and pepper and stuffed them with garlic, shallot and lemon slices. Once it came out of the oven, we flaked the fish off the bones for the dish.
I pan-seared some polenta rounds, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and mixed up the Gardensana sauce (minus the vinegar).
Wanting to tie in the carrots and give the dish some color, I did some ribbons of carrots and crisped them up in olive oil.
To plate, I fanned three rounds of fried polenta on the bottom added some of the Gadensana sauce and topped with the flaked fish, topped with a bit more sauce, and garnished with the carrot as well as parsley and arugula.
The wine was wonderful and tempered the salt of the dish. I had not thought about the salt in the anchovies when I salted the polenta. I think next time I would leave the polenta unsalted which would have brought a sweeter note that would have helped to balance the dish on its own.
My colleagues in the Italian Food Wine and Travel Group have been exploring indigenous grapes throughout Italy! Take a look below for the varieties they have discovered!
- Susannah from Avvinare shares “Gold/White Wines From Lazio”
- Cindy From Grape-Experiences shares “A Southern Italian Afternoon: Greco di Tufo Feudi di San Gregorio 2020 with Spaghetti Pomodoro”
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares “Albana, Boschera, Erbaluce, Incrocio Bruni, Maceratino: Rare Italian White Grapes Plus Pairings #ItalianFWT”
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Another Trip to Orvieto to Enjoy Dessert”
- Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “How Aging Maximises the Unique Characters of Trebbiano Spoletino”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pasta al Tartufo + Terredora di Paolo Fiano di Avellino 2019”
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass shares “Greco Di Tufo from the rich volcanic and clay soils of Campania”
- Jennifer from Vino Travels shares “The Indigenous Whites of Campania with La Capranera Falanghina”
- Deanna from Wineivore shares “Orvieto White Wines with Umbrian Antipasti Misti”
- Marcia from Joy of Wine shares “Exploring Italy’s Native White Grapes: Erbaluce, Bellone, Verdeca “
Luccio all Gardensana is freshwater fish cooked in a fish and vegetable stock and marinated in Gardesana sauce, (capers, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, and oil). This is typically served with fried polenta
Without time to marinate, I created a version of this dish, with oven-roasted trout, fried polenta, crisped carrot ribbons, and a variation on the Gardesana sauce.
We paired this with a Lugana DOC wine from Lake Garda Italy.
- 1 small rainbow trout, cleaned
- 4 cloves of garlic (1/2 thinly sliced, ½ minced)
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- ½ lemon sliced into rounds and then cut in half
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 7 tbs Olive oil (divided)
- 18 oz Traditional pre-made Polenta cut into rounds about 5/8th of an inch thick
- ½ can of anchovies
- 1/8 cup of capers drained
- ½ carrot
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- Arugula for garnishing
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Fill the fish cavity with the sliced garlic, shallot, lemon, and a sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Oil the outside of the fish and place it in a baking pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the meat, is flaky.
- While this is cooking prepare your Gardensana sauce.
- Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, add your minced garlic and cook slightly. Add the anchovies, cut up
with a knife, and then the capers. (You can also add a bay leaf and vinegar. As my capers were in vinegar, and I didn’t have a bay leaf handy, I omitted these ingredients). Put this in a bowl, add more olive oil if needed, and mix in the chopped parsley. Set this aside.
- When the trout comes out of the oven let it cool.
- While it cools, cook your polenta.
- Wipe the pan clean from the sauce, add a bit of olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the polenta and cook until it begins to get a bit crispy on each side (about 5 minutes). At this point, DO NOT season with salt! I made that mistake. The anchovies bring plenty of salt to the dish!
- Take the polenta out and cover to keep warm
- Make a couple of thin ribbons of carrot, add a bit more oil to the pan and crisp these up to garnish your dish.
- By now the fish is cool enough to handle. Break this into pieces, pulling away from the skin and being careful to pull out any bones.
- Plate this by putting down 3 rounds of polenta, topping with a bit of the Gardesana sauce, placing your fish on top, and topping with a bit more sauce. Garnish with the crispy carrot and fresh arugula.
This dish is popular in Veneto and along the shores of Lake Garda, where freshwater fish are abundant. The original recipe calls for Pike, which are found in the Lake.
Amount Per Serving Calories 758Total Fat 63gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 46gCholesterol 62mgSodium 1730mgCarbohydrates 34gFiber 6gSugar 3gProtein 19g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.