Nestled in between Milan and Venice, on the southern end of Lake Garda lies Lugana DOC. It is here that the Zenato family crafts beautiful wines from the native Trebbiano di Lugana(also known as Turbiana) grape varietal.
Sergio Zenato was a trailblazing pioneer. He first saw the potential of Lugana in 1960, a time when there was very little attention or appreciation for the region. Sergio deeply believed in Lugana and was passionate about the local grape varietals. Today, thanks to the efforts of the Zenato family, Lugana is considered amongst the top great white wines of Italy.
Zenato Winery is located in the heart of Lugana, with one of oldest vineyards of the area, Santa Cristina in San Benedetto di Lugana. The proximity to Lake Garda and the Alps allow for a mild microclimate which is combined with the regions rich clay soils that are ideal for growing Trebbiano di Lugana.
Typically Lugana wines are crisp, fruity, floral and fresh, and are often drunk young. Sergio Zenato saw great potential in the ageability of the Trebbiano di Lugana. Wanting to create something very special, he was the first to make a Lugana Riserva with oak influence.
Sergio Zenato created Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC, and put his signature on every bottle to show his passion and dedication to the varietal. The fermentation is approximately 70% in oak and 30% in stainless steel. Ageing follows for around 6 months in barrels and 12 months in the bottle. The oak influence allows the wines to be aged, adding another dimension to the Trebbiano di Lugana varietal. Elements of brioche, toast, almonds and honey are expressed in the wines.
Today Sergio’s children, Nadia and Alberto are running the winery. They also own 35 hectares of land in Valpolicella where they are renowned for their exceptional red wines(Ripassa, Valpolicella, Amarone and Recioto).
I recently had the pleasure to meet Nadia Zenato. Together we sipped a bit of the Lugana lifestyle in New York City. Nadia hosted a boat cruise on the Hudson River, so as to get a feel for the lake life. Lake Garda is one of the largest lakes in Europe, an area full of rich history, culture, and natural beauty. In the spirit of Italy’s stunning Lake Garda, Nadia wanted us to experience the evolution of five vintages of her Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato wines.
Nadia was an elegant host with an artistic flair. She captured the attention of all while tasting five incredible vintages of the Zenato Riserva. The tasting spoke volumes of the depth and richness of the region. It was a complex and eye-opening exercise in understanding the longevity of the Trebbiano di Lugana varietal. A varietal that many consume young, but the true beauty and terroir is discovered with a bit of age.
I have typically associated Northeastern Italy with fresh, vibrant, clean, white wines, wines that are meant to be drunk young and enjoyed fresh. The vertical tasting of past Zenato vintages was an accurate display that Lugana not only benefits but also lasts with time in the bottle.
Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC
The Zenato Riserva is a very special wine of the region and for the family. The Riserva is only produced in excellent vintages with extra care and attention. All of Zenato vineyards are in San Benedetto. This is important because San Benedetto is considered to be a Cru due to its unique exposition(southern exposure) and soil content. Even within San Benedetto, only special and exceptional parcels of vines go into making the Riserva.
The vines for the Riserva are the oldest vines of Lugana, with over 40 years of age. They use only the oldest vines and do a particular hand selection of the best grapes. The beauty of Lugana and the Zenato vineyards are expressed in the Riserva wines.
“The Riserva embodies Sergio’s innovative and foresight spirit, as well as the courage to propose Lugana in a renewed style.”
Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC 2005 – A beautifully aged wine with notes of vanilla and honey. The wine is fresh and has the potential to possibly age another 5 or 6 years. There is a good balance of fruit and acidity. This is a fairly mature Trebbiano di Lugana and so I was thoroughly impressed with the freshness.
Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC 2007 – Nadia expressed that the 2007 vintage was warm in the summer, but not during harvest. The conditions were just perfect during picking. There was more fruit on the wine than 2005, which is to be expected. Again the wine was fresh and complex with the potential to age another 10 years. This is a wine you can drink now or wait.
Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC 2011 – This was another beautiful vintage. The wine was intense and expressive with white fruits and honey. There was nice acidity and minerality on the finish.
Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC 2012 – This was another very good vintage for Lugana with ideal weather conditions. The 2012 is another vintage you can enjoy now or can age for many years to come. It had a nice roundness with volume and complexity.
Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC 2015 – Compared to the others, the 2015 was young and fresh. It is perfect as an aperitif but also a wonderful food wine, especially as it ages and evolves. There was nice bright acidity and minerality. A very elegant and balanced wine with the potential to evolve into a wine of great texture and volume.
The vertical tasting of Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC expressed the quality of the appellation. These are wines that are more than just a quick sip, they are wines that command attention. The vertical tasting of the Riserva gave a wonderful sense of these limited production wines that display the uniqueness of this special appellation. Zenato wines are the purest and most authentic interpretation of Lugana, wines that deserve a place on your table as well as your cellar.