A passion for local wines has lead Zenato to being one of the premier wineries in Eastern Veneto. Tucked up against the shores of Lake Garda, the winery has become an international player in native wine varieties. Masters of both white and red, Zenato is the heart of Lugana and the Soul of Vapolicella.
Tucked away on a quiet street a few blocks away from the shimmering shores of Lake Garda, resides Zenato Winery. Founded in the 1960’s by Sergio Zenato and his wife Carla, the winery has long been at the helm of championing native Venetian wines, steering Eastern Veneto towards reclaiming their historic viticultural past.
The first variety of wine to pique Sergio’s interest was Trebbiano di Lugana, a white grape with a bit of mysterious history. Zenato built his reputation on it and succeeded. Next up was the wines of Valpolicella, an interesting microregion that famously produces four styles of wine from one blend of grapes. The most famous of which is the intriguing Amarone della Valpolicella. Sergio’s rediscovery of an ancient technique for making Valpolicella Ripasso has helped to carve out a long-lasting place for this unique wine in Italy and beyond. Today, Sergio’s two grown children, Nadia and Alberto, run the family business, being careful to remain true to their father’s passion for local wine varieties while expanding its borders by sharing it with consumers in over 60 countries around the world. Let’s take a moment and dive into what makes Lugana and Valpolicella such distinctive wines.
Trebbiano di Lugana
Trebbiano di Lugana is a native grape variety from the Eastern shores of Lake Garda. Many locals are more accustomed to calling it Turbiana and for many years it was sold as such. Although legally called Trebbiano di Lugana and is very similar to Trebbiano di Soave, recent oenological studies have linked the genetic makeup of this grape more closely to Verdicchio and less to other varieties of Trebbiano found throughout Central Italy. Verdicchio is the famed variety from the neighbouring Marche region.
However similar it is though, Turbiana is its own cultivar distinct both from Verdicchio and Trebbiano in aromatic and oenological characteristics. All of this is thanks to the gentle hills, morainic soils and proximity to the lake. Zenato’s vineyards of Lugana benefit from the mild microclimate and it is this distinct terroir that makes Lugana wines such standouts in a region renowned for white wine.
When vinified as Lugana DOC, Trebbiano di Lugana is a gorgeous pale straw yellow with delicate floral notes and a pleasant bittersweetness of green almonds characteristic of Italian white wines. It is versatile with food, pairing well with almost anything. In fact, Trebbiano di Lugana is such a versatile grape that it holds up equally as well when made into a sparkling wine. In Veneto, where Prosecco is King, this is no laughing matter. Zenato makes sparkling Trebbiano di Lugana using the Metodo classico (refermentation in bottle) which allows it to develop a more complex profile that shows off the true characteristics of the grape.
This small microregion is famed for four uniquely distinct styles of wine that are all made from the same blend of grapes. Ever heard of Amarone? It is undoubtedly the most famous style of the four, probably because of how it is made. The grapes are left to wither for a couple of months before being pressed to make the wine. This method of drying and then pressing, often times called straw wines, is a common practice for sweet wines and not so common for powerful reds. However, Sergio’s original passion for Rondinella and Corvina, the two dominant native grape varieties in the blend, came from his rediscovery in the ‘90s of the traditional method to make Valpolicella Ripassa. By passing Valpolicella wine over the still warm pomace from the recently pressed Amarone for about a week, Zenato’s Ripassa is deeper and more intense than many other Ripasso wines in the area. This method adds texture, structure and a higher alcohol content by inducing a second fermentation of the wine with the introduction of the Amarone pomace. It is worth a try!