The complimentary wine regions of Lugana and Valpolicella

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

They say opposites attract. There is a yin to every yang. There are two halves to make a whole. Perhaps that is what brings the two regions of Valpolicella and Lugano together. Two independent wine regions in their own rights, Lugana is the home of white wine, while Valpolicella is the home of red wine. Together, they offer a broader spectrum to wines.


Lugana is a small wine appellation in the southern part of Lago di Garda, Italy’s largest lake, in Northern Italy. The region extends from the bottom of the lake and runs 12 kilometers east to west, overlapping both the provinces of Veneto and Lombardy. There are 1,800 hectares of vineyards cultivated, with 75 percent of these vines in Lombardy. However, 60 percent of the wine produced comes from the Veneto.

The region of Lugana is a morainic amphitheater, created by the glacier that formed the lake. Being south of the lake, which provides a good microclimate, Lugana enjoys a Mediterranean climate but is also exposed to the cold winds from the Alps. The predominate soil type is clay that is rich in minerals.

Lugana was one of the first denominazione d’origine protetta(PDO) in Italy but was the first PDO in Lombardy. The grape of Lugana is turbiana, but we know it as trebbiano di Lugana, not to be mistaken with any other trebbiano grape. Turbiana (trebbiano di Lugana) is a diverse grape that is slow to ripen but has rich acidity and can be used for still wine or sparkling wine.

The wine styles of Lugana:

— “Basic” Lugana: Covering 90 percent of the PDO, the wine is a pale straw color with fresh citrus and floral notes.

— Lugana Superiore: A designation since 1998, this more complex wine must be aged for at least one year and there can be some oak exposure. The wine is a golden yellow with aromas of apple, tangerine, almond and spices.

— Lugana Riserva: Aged for a minimum of 24 months, six months of which are in bottle, this wine offers more complex notes.

— Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva: A late harvest wine, this style has 12 g/l of residual sugar. The richer, more concentrated grapes produce a wine that is dense on the palate but not too sweet.

—Lugana Spumante: Made both in the Charmat and Metodo Classico methods, this style is very limited in production. It is a pale-yellow color with fruity notes.


Located on the other side of Lago di Garda, closer to Venice, Valpolicella is close to Lago di Garda to the west and is protected by the Lessini Mountains to the east and north. It is a fan-shaped territory with a series of valleys and soft-sloped hills covered with vineyards and olive and cherry trees.

Being located north of the lake, in comparison to Lugana, Valpolicella has a cool continental climate that is influenced by Lago di Garda and the Adriatic Sea. The Monti Lessini foothills to the north is the coolest region due to the same winds from the Alps that affect Lugana. Sitting at a higher elevation than Lugana, the soils range from morainic gravel to alluvial deposits. Focused on sustainable and environmentally-friendly grape-growing, the vines in Valpolicella are pergola trained and the main grapes are corvina, corvinone and rondinella.

While Lugana is a lesser-known wine region specializing in white wine, Valpolicella is the top red PDO wine in the Veneto region and well-known for its Amarone. Including Amarone, there are four PDO wines.

The wines of Valpolicella:

— Valpolicella DOC – These youthful ruby-red wines with cherry and rose notes are bright, fresh wines with soft tannins.

— Valpolicella Ripasso DOC – This wine is made with the basic Valpolicella that spends 15-20 days with residual Amarone lees. The wine is heavier and the alcohol higher than the basic Valpolicella. Ruby red with garnet in color, the wine has notes of red fruits and vanilla and is velvety and rich on the palate.

— Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG – The grapes are picked and laid out in lofts to dry before pressing. The result is a wine of intense garnet color, higher sugar and an intense nose of dry red and black fruit, tobacco and spices.

— Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG – Made out of dried grapes, like amarone, the fermentation is stopped to maintain the sugar. The resulting wine is ruby-red in color and has dark, rich, jammy fruit notes, while velvety with good acidity on the palate.

Enjoy a glass of wine from Lugana and a glass of red from Valpolicella and see how two independent regions together create a full spectrum of wine styles.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.