Posts Tagged ‘Summa 2014’

Testing the waters in northern Italy


Falzarego Pass in the province of Belluno in north Italy connects Andráz and Cortina d’Ampezzo and is characteristic of the high mountain birthplace of Italy’s crystalline spring water.

It’s the water.
Readers of a certain age will recall a famous beer commercial with those words extolling a then-popular malted beverage.
The theory being, of course, that having a superior water source somehow made for a superior beer.
I’m not sure how that works, since I never tasted the water at its source (although I had some limited experience with the final product).
However, I can attest that drinking water without chemical additives for purification, without high levels of distorting minerals or the teeth-numbing metallicity that comes from running through rusty pipes, can be a mind-opening experience.
Most Americans (by which I mean in the U.S.) drink plain tap water, of which in most cases there is nothing wrong. You can even get charged for tap water in some “gougé” restaurants, but that’s your fault.
 Other countries, however, more often drink bottled water, either by choice or necessity. I asked a friend, a lovely chef from Parma, why Italians predominately drink bottled water even when the tap water is safe (except on trains).

The ever-flowing spring at Alois Lageder's Cassón Hirschprunn in Margé, Italy.

The ever-flowing spring at Alois Lageder’s Cassón Hirschprunn in Margé, Italy.

She looked at me as if not understanding the question.
“It’s because we have so many great springs,” she said at last. “Why drink treated   water?” 
Why, indeed?
Every place you go people are opening bottled water; particularly in northern Italy, close by the Alps and the Dolomites, where natural springs bubble nearly everywhere and are tapped wherever there is room to install a bottling plant.
It’s said even Roma has good water, since it’s taps are filled by water piped from the north.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the recent Summa 2014, a gathering of winemakers held last month at the 17th-century palazzo of Alois Lageder in Magré, Italy.
As in way north Italy, where the Alto Adige (or All’ Adige, if you are local enough) snuggles against the Dolomites and pure spring water is abundant as fresh air and eye-popping scenery.
One of the first things you see upon entering Lageder’s stone-walled courtyard is the eye-catching spring filling a trough the size of a small Fiat.
The Lageder family history is intertwined with the natural water; the family summer home, Villa Lageder in the South Tyrolean mountain village of Sarentino/Sarnthein, also has a historical spring.
The wines shared at Summa reflect that freshness and purity found in the water and Lageder’s own philosophy of  “respect for nature, appreciation of the surrounding environment, and responsibility to future generations.,” as his website notes.
As I wandered the two-day event, talking to wine-makers and tasting their wines,  I asked them how much their wine philosophy was inspired by their personal terroir.
Many of them echoed the words of renowned Prosecco maker Primo Franco, who effused about how your mouth and palate are pampered and developed by drinking clean water.
“No question a person’s palate is better when it isn’t maltreated,” he said.
That coddling of the palate is evident throughout Summa, where Lageder’s constant spring proved an ideal way to start anew each session in the tasting rooms.


Wine of the Week: Ca’ Lojera Lugana DOC

April 18, 2014 2 comments

Fresh from VinItaly and before that Summa 2014 in Magré and sure that no one is going to believe me having only one Wine of the Week.

It’s one week at a time, since it will take a year to talk about all the wines I tasted and the winemakers I met, but among the memorable were the Lugana white wines from Ca’ Lojera and other members of the Lugana DOC.

A well-kept 2002 Lugana Superiore from Ca' Lojera

A well-kept 2002 Lugana Superiore from Ca’ Lojera

It came on my first night of a too-quick tour of the Lugana DOC , which lies at the southern end of Lake Garda and roughly midway between Brescia and Verona. The DOC was one of the first such designations (1967) in Italy and today remains one of the smallest DOCs, according to the Lugana Consorzio, which actively promotes and protects the uniqueness of this wine.

Our group, led by Francesca Goffi of the Lugana Consorzio, was welcomed at Ca’ Lojera by Ambra Tiraboschi, historian, delightful hostess and wife of winemaker Franco Tiraboschi. She poured us several iterations of Lugana, including their top-tier Riserva Lugana del Lupo, all made from the Turbiana grape. Once known at Trebbiano di Lugana, the local consorzio changed the name of the grape to the local name “Turbiana” to differentiate the Lugana wine from Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and the other numerous Trebbiano wines grown in 80 of the country’s wine regions.

According to Ambra, the winery’s name (Ca’ Lojera translates to House of the Wolves) is drawn from the days centuries ago when bandits (pirates) from up north would slip down to the south end of Lago del Garda and hide their contraband in local warehouses, including one that sits a few yards from the modern Ca’ Lojera winery.

According to local lore, the hideouts were guarded by wolves (lupo in Italian). The only wolf we saw was on the label, while the wine inside was all bright fruit and good acidity, with hints of green apple, spice and the characteristic minerality for which Lugana DOC wines are famed.

This 2002 Lugana Superiore was particularly enticing, not only because it’s commonly held that Trebbiano/Turbiana wines won’t age but also because this wine had held its years beautifully, the past 12 years adding a gold color and a hint of almonds or hazelnuts to the finish.

Ca’ Lojera wines are imported by Worldwine Cellars (Fridaly, Minn.),  Wine House Ltd. (San Francisco) and others.