Italy’s Large, Lovely Lombardia, Home to Lugana and Lambrusco #ItalianFWT

Lugana DOC from Bulgarini poolside

Where in Italy can you find 90 UNESCO sites?


Located in northern Italy, in addition to being one of the richest heritage sites in Italy, Lombardy is also one of the most populous and richest regions today with Milan the second largest city after Rome. Prosperous Milan prospered has rich food too– a cuisine of plenty made for those with wealth using expensive ingredients like saffron, foods with complex layers like ossobucco.

These layers of richness and long cooking are offset by the lighter tarter grapes of the region. 

One factor for Lombardy’s continued success is that the Po river valley allows easy movement of people to migrate as well as commercial exchange rather than other more isolated regions in Italy. Wine traveled by amphora, large clay vessels, which nestled well together layered one on top of the other for a safe journey.

Read more about wine made in amphora here, and next week you’re invited to join the Wine Pairing Weekend crew in learning more about the subject of wine made in amphora from around the world! 

An extensive history based on archaeological research show ancient tribes cultivated grapes with fossilized records from the third millennium; Bronze Age fossils shows Vinifera, the Latin name for the family of grapes we make wine with today.

The name for the region comes from the people who lived there at one point, the Lombards,  men who wore long beards; this (long beards) translates into Lombards.

The Lombards with their long beards were associated with being uncivilized as Roman citizens were clean shaven.  

The terrain of Lombardy is marked by alpine reliefs including rivers and glacial lakes like Como, Garda, Iseo, and Maggiore, much like the Finger Lakes in New York State, home to some of the best wines grown on the east coast. 

Glaciers carved out these lakes, and as the glaciers melted, they left behind moraines, or piles of rocks, which in this case come from the Dolomites which are limestone. Glaciers also bring soils of different types to the surface which provide different qualities to the wines as you can see from the maps featuring Lugana (links to more about Lugana below) 

The importance of the region’s glacial lakes can’t be overemphasized.

Lakes are thermal sinks, meaning they help mitigate extreme highs and lows so well that both olive trees and palm trees survive and thrive there.

As with most regions in Europe, phylloxera decimated the vines in Lombardy. Since the region is wealthy, funds were available to replant with phylloxera resistant rootstocks grafted with international varieties which were more marketable as they are more internationally recognized than the lesser known Italian ones like gropello and trebbiano.

For example, Franciacorta is a sparkling wine made in the traditional method in Lombardy using grapes like chardonnay and pinot noir generally associated with France rather than Italy. Read more about Franciacorta here.

However, today, native grapes of Italy associated with Lombardy  like Lambrusco and Trebbiano di Lugana (also known as Turbiana) are gaining more respect and interest in the international marketplace.

The challenge for Lambrusco is to overcome an association with a sickly sweet, low alcoholic beverage. While most Lambrusco comes from Emila-Romagna to the south, Lambrusco Mantovan comes from Lombardy’s Mantovan region which you can read about here.

Today’s artisanal Lambrusco made by youthful winemakers passionate for the grape bears little resemblance to the mass produced soda pop Lambruscos imported to the USA in the 1970s and 1980s that became the most imported wine in the 70s and 80s! No longer is Lambrusco an industrially produced, simple, sparkling wine tasting more like a sweet soda with alcohol. Often wines were pasteurized, and producers swapped the labor intensive classical method for charmat or tank method commonly used to make Prosecco. When this style of wine fell out of favor, over 40% of Lambrusco vines were removed and replaced with other grapes or agricultural products between 2000 and 2010. Check out wines made in Lombardy of Lambrusco by a younger generation of producers like Vero’s Bugno Martino.

I hope Gropello finds a spot as well! Gropello refers to fist or bunch because of the compactness of the bunches. I’m looking forward to tasting more of this wine as I enjoy its bright acidity, lively tannins, intense aromas with cherry tobacco spices. To enjoy this aromatic quality means early consumption!

The large area of Lombardy has several key appellations, and this month the Italian FWT group will introduce you to a few of them! Scroll down for links to their posts.

I learned about Lombardy’s wines and so much more recently from the new VinItaly hybrid course which included two days of in-depth guided tasting sessions in person and an exam on day 3; read more about my recent SF experience here. In person classes are set September 13- 15, 2021 in Houston, Boston, and Seattle. 

VIA courses in Sept. 21

And I fell in love with Lombardy and Lugana all over again! Lugana offers a wide range of wines from dry and still to sparkling and they even age well. One reason I love Lugana is the voluminous mouthfeel which becomes even more exaggerated over time. 

Learn more about the many wines in the lovely large region of Lombardy from my fellow Italian Wine Food Travel writers by checking out their articles linked to below. Read the invitation/preview post from host Jeff Burrows at Food Wine Click!

And you’re invited to join out twitter chat on the topic at 8am Saturday August 7 by following the hashtag #ItalianFWT.

5 thoughts on “Italy’s Large, Lovely Lombardia, Home to Lugana and Lambrusco #ItalianFWT

  1. I have so enjoyed some of the more modern Lambrusco and seek out those making the more modern versions. Insightful post about Lombardia… history, soils… It’s always nice to fall in love with a wine again, cheers to that Gwendolyn!


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