At the Wine Bloggers Conference last week, I attended a session devoted to Lugana DOC, a little-known appellation in Italy located near Verona on the southern end of Lake Garda. This is a white wine appellation, the main grape being Turbiana, which is apparently genetically identical to Verdicchio, although there is controversy about this.
I usually do not get too excited by dry Italian white wines, but these wines were extraordinary. They were noteworthy in part because of the saline minerality on the nose and palate—they smelled and tasted like the sea which nicely complemented the citrus notes. But more important was the textural depth created by usually high levels of dry extract. In fact all of the technical sheets supplied by the Consorzio representing Lugana wineries listed the amount of dry extract along with acidity, residual sugar, alcohol, etc.
What is dry extract?
Dry extract refers to the solid particles in the wine small enough to form a powder that would be left over if all the water and alcohol were to evaporate. Dry extract accounts for some of the flavor and texture of a wine. Red wines usually have more of it, 20-30 grams per liter, than white wines which usually have 15-20 grams per liter. This is in part why red wines tend to have more body that white wines. However, the white wines from Lugana were well over 20 grams per liter sometimes approaching 30 g/l. Although crisp and lively with lots of minerality they exhibited layers of texture, ranging from fine talc to a pebbly almost chewy weave, and had a lush mouthfeel when some residual sugar was left in the wine. The wines felt structured without being heavy. They were not big wines, certainly not fat or viscous, so the identification of dry extract with weight or body is not quite accurate especially when combined with high acidity.
In Italy, dry extract is often a factor in determining the classification of a wine and its measurement is used to determine if the wine has been diluted with water. But it is not usually included in marketing materials. The Consorzia representing Lugana is actively pushing dry extract as a distinctive feature of their wines as well they should since it sets their wines apart from most of the white wines we commonly drink.
I took some very brief notes on the following wines:
La Morette Mandolara 2016
Tangerine and melon with lovely medium bodied palate and pronounced saline minerality. This was my favorite of the tasting. $20
Floral and peach notes, some herbal highlights. Very crisp but with some creaminess on the palate. $17
Famiglia Olivini “Demesse Vecchie” 2016
Lots of dry extract on the palate, quite textured with stone fruit and floral notes.
Avanzi Borghetta Lugana Riserva 2014
This sees 40% new oak for 10 months. Very spicy, a cumin note. $15
Tenuta Roveglia Filo Di Arianna Lugana Venemmia Tardiva 2014
A lovely late harvest wine but unfortunately not available in the U.S.
If you’re searching interesting white wines, put these on your list.