Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)

Lugana bubbles on the riddling rack at Cà Maiol

Walter Contato knew potential when he saw it.

Like an inordinate number of Italians before and after him, this successful Milan-born businessman took holidays in the sometimes-too-charming-for-words (as in, how-the-hell-are-we-gonna-get-the-car-through-these-narrow-Medieval-streets?!?? levels of charming) Lake Garda town of Sirmione. As an inordinate number of successful white businessmen seem to want to still do, Contato eventually decided that he wanted to become a wine producer, and chose the site of his presumably favorite vacation spot – home to the Lugana wine region – as the place he would try his vinous hand.

It worked out; Contato eventually went on to help establish the Consorzio Tutela Lugana (still in existence today). In the 1990s, he handed over the reigns of his wine venture, Cà Maiol, to his mellifluously-named sons Fabio and Patrizia.

Contato picked a great spot, from a wine-growing perspective; the nearby Dolomites protect the vineyard area (now measuring about 100 hectares in Lugana) from the cold winds coming out of the north. They vineyards sit on enviable calcareous soils. They even have the requisite Older Building, erected in the early 1700s.

I visited Cà Maiol as part of a Lugana-area media jaunt, but I’d had ample access to one of the company’s flagship Lugana releases – Molin – long before that, during previous visits to the region, L’Anteprima Lazise, and even as part of library tastings during that most recent tour. And so I thought that I’d share a bit of perspective on how the Molin fares in bottle over a decade or more (SPOILER ALERT: it fares well)…

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)

Cà Maiol’s Fabio Contato shows off the wares

We’ll start with the most brand-spankin’-new Molin release, and work our way backwards a bit from there. Molin is part of Cà Maiol’s linea selezione lineup, and is named after the company’s old cellar. generally, Molin is a blend of the best Turbiana grapes from Cà Maiol’s oldest vines, and sees a bit more skin contact (48 hours or so) in an attempt to give this white more structure. That’s a delicate, tricky game; Turbiana skins have ample bitter polyphenols, so if you don’t know what you’re doing from a pressing and contact perspective, then you can end up with a wine that’s less “acerbic bite” and more “bit in the ass bitter.” But in this case the family’s last name, literally translated, means “contact,” so one would hope Lugana lovers would be in good hands, right?

 

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)2016 Provenza CàMaiol ‘Molin’ Lugana (Lombardy, $NA)

I was (pleasantly) surprised at how full-throttle this young white was; it’s heady in its white flower and white pepper aromas, and pithy in its lemon-rind texture and tropical fruit flavors. The finish is fairly long, and more-than-fairly mineral. While it’s not without elegance, it’s absolutely assertive in just about every way that a Lugana can be. In five years, it ought to be generously honeyed, and it will probably drink “sexy” form now through that time.

 

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)

Cà Maiol Molin 2011 (& for color comparison, a `97 Riserva)

 

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)2011 Provenza CàMaiol ‘Molin’ Lugana (Lombardy, $NA)

This is where patience with Lugana pays off. Honey, almonds, blossoms, lemon drop, ripe peaches, tropical fruits, and toast… you can sniff a wine like this for hours. It’s mouthfeel is powerful, with dried fruits and saline. It’s juuuuuust over the hump now, six years on, and starting its downward trajectory. But still enjoyable? Hellz yes.

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)

 

Contact Points (A Decade Of Cà Maiol’s Molin Lugana)2004 Provenza Ca’Maiol ‘Molin’ Lugana Superiore (Lombardy, $NA)

Thirteen years young at the time that I tasted it, this is like having a wine from a totally different grape versus tasting Lugana when it’s a newborn. Dried orange peel, dried flowers, saline, spices, and pith; this is toasty, nutty, intriguing, and elegant. At this age, it’s the kind of drinkable delicacy that has to be paired carefully with food (don’t look at me, this one might be above my food-matching pay grade), so do yourself a favor if you’re ever fortunate enough to be in its company: enjoy it on its own and just count yourself lucky.

Cheers!

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Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)

Like most musicians (ask me how I know), Luca Formentini has a day job.

That job would be helping to helm his family’s wine business in Brescia: Selva Capuzza.

As far as day jobs go, the one with an office that’s actually a picturesque vineyard spot about four kilometers from the shores of Lake Garda, in the heart of Lombardy’s Lugana winemaking territory doesn’t seem so bad. To wit: he soft-spoken (by Italian standards) Formentini usually has a wide smile plastered on his face. After tasting his family’s Lugana offerings, you might have one, too.

2017 marks the 100th harvest for the Formentini family, who now focus on the Lake Garda region’s indigenous varieties, and with whom I tasted during a media trip to the region earlier this year. In the 1980s, they changed the name of the business to reflect the locality, and their main focus is the annual production of about 250,000 bottles of the decidedly tricky white Lugana.

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)

Selva Capuzza’s Luca Formentini

Lugana’s has few better vectors for displaying its mischievous side than in the Formentini family’s wines. Tropical, vibrant, and mineral-driven in its youth, there’s little (other than the acidic scaffolding) in the young Selva Capuzza Lugana releases to betray the honeyed, toasty, and dazzling treat that awaits the more patient among us when a Lugana from a great vintage is allowed to rest on its haunches for several years…

In keeping with our musical undertone (see what I did there?), you can think of great Lugana as Nigel Tufnel’s 1959 guitar: the sustain is “quite unbelievable.” The best way to experience this is in tasting older ad younger vintages of Lugana side-by-side. The next best way is (arguably) to read about what that was like from someone who has recently done just that…

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)2016 Selva Capuzza “Selva” Lugana (Lombardy, $NA)

Thirty-five year-old vines produce the Turbiana that is used for this delightful white. At first, it’s all apples, wet rocks, and pepper, followed up by a mouthfeel that goes from fresh to lively to astringently pithy. This is a nice example of why good Lugana is often regarded as more texturally compelling than your average Italian white.

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)2013 Selva Capuzza “Menasasso” Lugana Riserva (Lombardy, $NA)

Moving back the clock just a hair with this Superiore, so designated because it’s seen at least 24 months of aging, we start to get some hints of the transmogrification that makes geeks like me get, well, geeky about Lugana. It’s heady and perfumed, with abundant mineral and floral notes, with somewhat more exotic fruit aromas. The honey blossom action alone is worth seeking it out, but you also get the added (and delicious) bonuses of toast, lemon rind, and dried tropical fruit flavors.

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)2005 Selva Capuzza Lugana Superiore (Lombardy $NA)

And with that, shit just got real – as in, real interesting. Golden in hue, honeyed of nose, this is a compelling, mature sensory experience. Dried fig, bruised apples, nuts, pineapple, peach, pepper, saline, toast… this is long, spicy, and drinking beautifully (if you have one, go ahead and pop that muthah open soon).

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)

Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases)2001 Selva Capuzza Lugana Superiore (Lombardy $NA)

At sixteen years old, this white is in excellent form; interesting form, too. Lemon peel, nuts, wet stones, pepper, honey, and that signature toast are all vying for attention on the nose. Dried tropical fruits dominate the palate, with a nice, refreshing hint of saline to wash them down. Not quite as heady as the `05, being this good at this point in its development, focusing too much on minor cavils like that would just leaving on a sour note (sorry… couldn’t help myself…).

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Long Notes (Selva Capuzza Recent – And Not-So-Recent – Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

Marangona’s Alessandro Cutolo

Alessandro Cutolo kind of looks like a viking.

Aside from close proximity to a body of water (in this case, the Italian Lake Garda), however, the heavy-handed Old Norse warrior comparison fizzles out completely. Because at the crossing of the Veneto and Lombardia regions, Cutolo, as owner and winemaker of Lugana’s Marangona, crafts elegant, svelte whites without even a hint of the roughshod among them; thanks in part to what could only be described as a minimalist approach.

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)“I want to do as little as possible,” Cutolo told me during a recent media-trip visit, “to [express] my idea of the wine.”

This don’t-touch-it-in-fact-don’t-eben-look-at-it-you’ve-already-seen-enough approach starts in his calcareous-clay soil vineyard, where the grass is high (“it helps with disease”) and the treatments are few. “If it’s possible to have less [impact],” he remarked, “than why not?”

Cutolo owns 27 hectares of ten to fifty year-old vines in Lugana, most of them planted to the deceptively age-worthy Turbiana variety. The estate’s buildings date from the late 1600s, and his family farmed grapes, corn, and cattle here since the 1950s. He now produces about one hundred thousand bottles of (downright delectable) Lugana wine per year…

As you might now expect, minimalism extends into the winemaking at Marangona, too. According to Cutolo, “I don’t need a lot of technology; I prefer a ‘vertical’ idea of Lugana. I have a clear idea of what I want in my wine.”

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

In some ways, Cutolo could be considered the kind of winemaker that Lugana needs right now to make it noteworthy among the U.S. wine industry’s ‘cool kids’ – the younger sommeliers and influencers who can’t seem to get enough of smaller production wines crafted from lesser-known grape varieties in even lesser-known wine regions. Hipsters, rejoice, for Cutono is experimenting with concrete vats, amphorae, and natural/orange wines!

Within reason, that is.

“Natural wines are wonderful… but sometimes, I have to make a living!”

If anything, that experimentation – along with the clean, focused results in the wines – suggests a sort of marriage of two worlds, the traditional and the modern, that are part of the whole Marangona vibrazione. The winery takes its name from a bell tower in the old town; the tasting area is literally carved out of the remains of the oldest part of the estate; and the wines are as fresh as daises.

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)2016 Marangona “Marangona” Lugana, Lombardy $16

Cutolo calls this “the soul of my estate,” and as far as disembodied representations go, one could do far, far worse. This white over-delivers at nearly every turn, from an abundant nose (tropical and stone fruits, wet stone, white flowers, pepper), to a mineral-water-clean palate featuring salinity, purity, and apple, citrus, and exotic fruit flavors (some still clinging to their skins and pith). It’s linear, energetic, and expressive.

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)2015 Marangona “Tre Campane” Lugana, Lombardy $20

The vines used here average about 35 years old, and are a mix of different harvest times, in order to marry the different Turbiana ripeness profiles. It’s a deeper wine than the ‘Marangona,’ spicier, too, with more stone fruit and mineral aromas. The citrus flavors are riper, too, the body is more pronounced and fleshier, but that ample acidity is in full force, suggesting a very respectable aging curve.

 

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)2012 Marangona ‘Il Rintocco’ Lugana Superiore, Lombardy $NA

For whom doth the bell toll? In this case, for you, if you’re a Lugana lover. A small percentage of old oak is used in the blend, along with a later harvest, and the combination makes this white both heady and yeasty on the nose, with a good deal of floral character and a lot of lift. Lemon drop, sultry exotic fruits, citrus pith, and stone fruits are all in the mix, and the balance is excellent, the expression fresh, and the whole thing downright sexy (in Lugana terms, anyway).

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)2013 Marangona “Rabbiosa” Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva, Lombardy $NA

Botrytis, baby! Hey, why not. 12% abv and 18 grams RS, but not a cloying bone in its little body. This is fresh stuff, with candied lemons, brioche, limes, honey, sweet floral notes, and yet a delicate, stylized touch. For those who like their dessert to have zing.

Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

No vikings, but Lake Garda does have the kind of edifices that vikings might have enjoyed attacking

Cheers!

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And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)

Nonplussed on Lake Garda (I think this is swan for “F*ck off”)

Back in March (yeah, yeah, I know…) I attended, as a media guest, the 2016 edition of the well-executed but unfortunately-named L’Anteprima Lazise (seriously… how many of you knew that was a town near Lake Garda in N. Italy?).  The event marked the first time that the nearby winemaking regions of Chiaretto, Lugana, and Bardolino all shared a single en premier style event, with an early showcase of what the 2015 vintage for each had to offer.

You might expect, then, that I’d discuss the vagaries of the vintage, with an extensive run-down of what wines fared best in 2015 for those regions. Along with an exposé on the amazing food and beauty of the area (the two exist, for sure, and in abundance). To wit:

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016) And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016) And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016) And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)

And you’d be very wrong, because this is me, and this is 1WD; if you came here expecting what everyone else is doing, then you’re almost as crazy as I am.

And while I can certainly recommend some 2015s for you (during blind tastings, I particularly enjoyed the Luganas from Avanzi, Bolla, Citari, Le Morette, and Olivini), and tell you that I like where the drier style of Chiaretto rosés are headed in general, I am instead going to focus exclusively on Lugana, and only on three wines.

Cue the quote from Airplane

My rationale, not that I need one (this is my friggin’ website, after all), is that I had a vinous-conciseness-expanding experience during my sojourn to Lake Garda, centered on that wily Lugana white wine grape. It seems to be the region where Trebbiano di Lugana (more commonly known as Verdicchio) feels most completely at home, comfy in its own skin, doing its Netflix-and-chill-under-the-snuggie thing.

It’s a tricky little grape, too; it’s tropical, fresh, and effusive in its youth, belying (in the better vintages, and from the right hands) the ability to age into something much more compelling, serious, and lovely. And trust me, it’s not easy tasting tank samples (or recently bottled from tank samples), since almost all wines smell like bananas at that time, and it doesn’t help that young Lugana smells like bananas anyway, tank sample or not. See what I tough job I have? Whatever…

And so, I present three wines from the various tastings presented during L’Anteprima 2016 that, for me, showcase Lugana done right, and highlight the arc of its development through time with grace and poise:

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)2012 Provenza Cà Maiol “Fabio Contato” Lugana Riserva (Lombardy, $NA)

Salty, floral, and heady, with abundant citrus and almond aromas, this Lugana has a fantastic nose, and one that is already showing off the complexity that comes with these wines when they start to get a few years under their belts. The palate is elegantly broad, toasty, and downright lovely, with more citrus fruit flavors, and hints of those minerals that everyone likes to talk about but can’t really ever explain properly. Bottom line: delicious enough for almost anyone, complicated enough for the geeks.

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)2011 Marangona “Il Rintocco” Lugana Riserva (Lumbardy, $NA)

Things get a little more hot-under-the-collar with this Lugana. It’s showing more age than the Fabio Contato, with almonds, toast, dried lemons, and white flowers showing up on the nose. The palate, though, is all sexiness; broad, balanced, citric and salty, lovely and inviting. This wine manages the richer feel of the fruit with leanness of its acidity. The result is a sort of bedroom eyes look for your mouth.

 

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)

And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Lugana Highlights From L’Anteprima Lazise 2016)2002 Cà Lojera Lugana Superiore (Lombardy, $50)

This might be the single most celebrated Lugana producer, and with good reason; their wines are consistently excellent (which I can tell you with a modicum of authority now, from having tasted back through several vintages in short order during my stay in the area back in March). You can pick up recent bottlings of their Riserva del Lupo label for $20 or less, which, if you do, you may thank me for later. Their 2002 Lugana Superiore is simply stunning. On the nose: toasted nuts, candied lemon peel, dried white flowers, and biscuits. On the palate: citrus, mineral, saline, pith, dried tropical fruits. The wine is linear, lovely, focused, and downright gorgeous. This is what aged Lugana is all about.

Cheers!

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