An Italian for Chablis fanatics
I’m always on the look out for good Chablis. It was at Ramore restaurant in Portrush that I first tried a Chablis. Those university days were tight enough for cash, but my girlfriend and I were out to treat ourselves. At the time, it was one of those big discoveries of my food and wine adventures, and it was the elegance and finesse of an old world white that had won me over to this mad fuss about wine with food.
France and Italy have a special knack for producing good food wines. One of the most recent to make me sit up and take notice was an incredibly elegant and fresh Trebbiano from the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy. You may be familiar with Trebbiano already – it’s known as Ugni Blanc in France.
The Italian Lugana Tenuta Maiolo, one of our stellar finds, is one for all those wine critics who say Trebbiano doesn’t reach the quality heights of the more traditional varietals, like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Its similar to Chablis in style, with a definite mineral edge, which may well be derived from the ancient post-glacial soils around the shores of the lake.
As well as being rich in oxides and mineral salts, the vineyard, founded in 1710, consists of layers of calcareous clay. This gives the wine its characteristic straw colour with green highlights, its delicate bouquet of almonds and its very slightly salty, sappy flavour. It’s this fresh saltiness that makes the Lugana the perfect partner for shellfish.
As with most good old world wines, there’s really no secret to the winemaking process behind Lugana. In this family-run winery, owned by Fabio and Patrizia Contato, the grapes are handpicked, gently pressed and then undergo controlled fermentation. It was put to the test in February’s wine tasting in Cork, and managed to stand up very well against a more pronounced Spanish Albarino. Certainly one for the ‘must try’ list.