dal Pescatore with the wines of Lugana DOC, Italy
Driving through the Italian countryside I was beginning to feel a bit peckish. I mean I hadn’t eaten in, like, the last 15 minutes so I was due for some lunch. Such was our timetable on my recent press jaunt to region of Lombardia in Italy with Gambero Rosso. I’m not complaining at all, it was a fantastic trip, we sampled some excellent cuisine and discovered (well, I did anyway) a new and exciting wine producing region, but it was a lot to take in in 5 days.
One of the highlights was lunch at dal Pescatore paired with the wines of Lugana DOC, one of the lesser known appellations but one that should not be overlooked. It’s amazing the variety and quality of wines that are made in Italy. It’s a country with over a thousand different wine varieties so it’s no wonder I had never really come across the wines of Lugana. Situated quite close to the southern shores of Lake Garda, the area specializes in producing white wine made from the Turbiana or Trebbiano di Lugana grape, as it is known there. The soils are mostly clay and produces wines that are dry and delicate but also quite lively, aromatic and well balanced. There are two types of wine that come for the region. Lugana DOC anad Lugana Superiore DOC. The Superiore is made from selected grapes and is aged for a year in oak. This makes it a much fuller wine then the Lugana DOC with more structure and spicer, riper fruit flavours and aromas. By law, producers can use up to 10% of grapes from other regions but they cannot be aromatic varietals.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere, heading to dal Pescatore, a legendary restaurant of Mantua to sample their wares matched with the wines of Lugana. You definitely have to know how to get to dal Pescatore as it’s situated in a nature reserve, the Oglio Sud park, on a country road in a village of approximately 36 souls with a cornfield in front of it and a nature reserve in the back. I felt as if I was visiting somebody’s elegant country home as opposed to a gourmand’s retreat.
We had a quick peek in the kitchen to see Nonna (Bruna Santini, pictured) busily working away on preparing our lunch. In the meantime, let the pouring begin. We were in the Lugana DOC to try their wines and we had 9 to try. In general, I found the unoaked wines to be quite fresh and clean, excellent quality and fine minerally notes running throughout all the wines. The oaked wines were my favourites though, spicy,toasty, sandalwood aromas all sublty perfuming the wine, the oak didn’t run roughshod over the wine as can happen with winemakers who have a heavier hand. Round mouthfeel, ripe white peaches and other stone fruits along with the lingering minerality and a citric finish. A particular standout for me was the 2007 Perla del Garda, Madonna dellal Scoperta, Lugana Superiore, made from 100% turbiana and spending 12 months in oak, 50% in new oak and 50% in second year used oak, a delicious wine and great with the house specialty of Tortelli di zucca – pasta filled with sweet pumpkin and topped with grated grana padana.
Of course we had a savoury selection of local cheeses, the gorgonzola topped with a local condiment, watermelon mostarda, which was spicy and sweet at the same time. It’s only available in the region which means I’ll just have to go back to Lombardia to get more. As we finished off our meal, I couldn’t help but think that this was probably one of the better meals I’ve all this year.
A sunny day, excellent wines and fantastic food, it would have been the end of a perfect afternoon but that wasn’t our last stop of the day and as we piled into the van, all I could think was, how am I going to eat dinner later that evening on the shores of Lake Garda? In between, another winery to visit, it’s hard work, I tell you, hard work.