Sometimes on a press trip I visit so many interesting wineries that I do not have enough time to write about all of them. In September I visited Lake Garda on a trip sponsored by Vignaioli Veneti, a newly-formed organization of over fifty of the Veneto’s top small producers. One of the wineries I was very impressed with was the Le Morette-Azienda Agricola Valerio Zenato Winery.
The winery is based in San Benedetto di Lugana , in the thin belt that divides the southern bank of Lake Garda and Lake Frassino, which is an important naturalistic site and natural reserve. Gino Zenato founded the winery over 60 years ago and in 1981 the management of the farm was taken over by his son Valerio. His sons Fabio and Paolo today manage the winery. Fabio greeted us at the winery and he took us on a tour of the vineyards.
Fabio said that the area of production of the Lugana DOC wine reaches out towards the southern bank of Lake Garda, in the towns of Peschiera del Garda, Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, Pozzolengo and Lonato. There are 30 hectares of vineyards on three different estates, two in San Benedetto di Lugana, and one near Sirmione. All the vineyards are on clayish soil. Everyone agrees that the best grapes come from the area close to the lake which has the most clay.
Fabio added that the company was first a farm for wine shoot production, intended for viniculture, and the nursery branch of the farm continues with the production of wine shoots. It was Valerio who began the production of high quality wines.
Fabio did a tasting of the wines.
Lugana DOC “Mandolara” 2016 made from 100% Turbiana grapes from the La Mandolara vineyard on a narrow strip of land on the shore of Lake Garda. The training system is guyot, double and short modified and there are 3,500 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand in the second half of September. After a very soft crushing, vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and the wine remains in the bottle for at least one month before release. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of apple and peach and a touch of bitter almonds in the finish. The name of the wine comes from a particular protected species of wild ducks which nest in Lake Frassino. The ducks are the symbol of the farm. We also tasted the 2012 and 2009.
Lugana DOC “Bendictus” 2015 100% Turbiana from the area of Lake Garda. Grapes are hand harvested and only the best grapes, the ones that get the most sunlight, are selected. Harvest takes place in the middle of October, later than the grapes used for Lugana Mandolara. After the harvest the grapes remain in contact with the must for 24 hours at a controlled temperature. Part of the must is fermented in tonneaux oak barrels and a portion of the wine is aged for 6 months in tonneaux oak barrels. This is a more intense wine with hints of exotic fruits and a touch of spice. We also tasted the 2007. Fabio said they are using less new oak in the 2015 than they did in the 2007.
Lugana DOC Riserva 2013 made from 100% Turbiana cultivated and selected from the estates vineyards with the highest clay content–over 40%. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks after a brief maceration. There is a slow fermentation using natural yeasts and then aging on the lees for 12 months. A small portion of the wine is aged in tonneaux. This is a complex and elegant wine with a natural mineral quality.
There is much confusion over the Turbiana grape which was aka Trebbiano di Lugana. Fabio always referred to his wines as being made from the Turbiana grape.
All of the white wines can age.
We also tasted the Bardolino Classico Chiaretto 2016 made from 55% Corvina, 35% Molinara and 10% Molinara. The vines are cordon trained and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. Manual harvest takes place the last week of September. It is aged for a minimum of one month before release. Maceration on the skins lasts for 12 hours. The wine has hints of peaches and strawberries with a touch of violet.