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Cascina Maddalena Celebrates Its 100th anniversary: a Long Story of Love Linked to the Lugana Territory

In 1924 Cascina Maddalena, a small family-run vineyard and farmhouse based in Sirmione, one of the five municipalities producing Lugana wine Denomination of Origin, took its first steps in what is now considered to be one of the best-known and most appreciated Italian wine regions in the world. On 28 May 2024, the Zordan family – now with the fourth generation of siblings and Mattia, Elena and Elisa – celebrated their 100th anniversary of owning the farm, as documented in old notary deeds unearthed a few years ago that certify the transfer of ownership to great-grandmother Maria Marangoni, Zordan’s widow. This is a highly coveted milestone in the wine world that places Cascina Maddalena, to all intents and purposes, among the most historic and representative realities of the lower end of Lake Garda and a pioneer in the production of Lugana wine as we know it today.

Cascina Maddalena Celebrates Its 100th anniversary: a Long Story of Love by four generations Linked to the Lugana Territory on Lake Garda.

Cascina Maddalena Celebrates Its 100th anniversary

It all began in the mid-19th century, when Gedeone Gennari, originally from the Veneto region, bought a piece of land in Lugana, Sirmione:  on it stood a lovely, typical farmhouse, which Gedeone decided to name after his daughter Maddalena; today, the name of this family is also linked to Sirmione’s thermal tourism, of which Angelo Gennari, Maddalena’s brother, was the forerunner.

To celebrate this important anniversary, on 27 and 28 May, Cascina Maddalena inaugurated an exhibition of old family photographs and organised two events on the estate, delighting the guests in attendance with dishes from the Mos and Dal Complice restaurants, which are famous for their unique cuisine inspired by Gardesana traditions, paired with their wines. But above all – and after a long wait – during the event Cascina Maddalena presented their six-bottle limited edition box set, which includes vintage Capotesta Lugana Doc wines from 2013, 2014 and 2015, all with a different closure: cork, diam and stelvin. This was an ambitious ten-year project that was brought about thanks to Mattia Zordan’s patience and determination to keep back bottles every year to highlight the longevity of the Turbiana grape. An approach that, according to the Zordan family, consistently interprets the essence of Lugana and enhances its excellent ageing qualities.

Cascina Maddalena Celebrates Its 100th anniversary: a Long Story of Love by four generations Linked to the Lugana Territory on Lake Garda.

Mattia is in charge of the agricultural part of the business, alongside his ever-present father Luciano, while the welcoming of guests and the farmhouse are in the capable hands of Elisa, Elena and their mother Raffaella, who still gets up early to harvest her vegetables from the garden, and then runs to the kitchen to prepare delicious local dishes.

Cascina Maddalena can be found in the Lombardy region of the Doc wine growing area, where everything began and where the success of one of the most popular Italian white wines in the world today originates. This is the beating heart of the Lugana territory, a plain that stretches horizontally between Desenzano and Sirmione, where there is the hardest clay and the most lacustrine and mineral land. It dates back to the first post-war period, when the Zordan family started the business and worked on reclaiming the land in the fields south of Lake Benaco, formerly marshy plots, which made this area exceptionally suitable for the cultivation of vines and especially the Turbiana grape.

A long story of love and dedication to their vineyards written by four generations of winegrowers intimately linked to the Lugana territory

Capotesta, Cascina Maddalena’s workhorse, is Mattia Zordan’s wine. Mattia, like the rest of the family, does not follow trends, but chases his own goals, with determination, always remaining true to himself, his land and his production. An example of this is his courageous decision not to harvest in 2023, on the eve of the centenary: a sign of destiny, perhaps, that has tested the family’s centuries-old philosophy – and consistency. “After four disastrous hailstorms during the summer last year, we decided not to use even the 10-15% of grapes left on the vine and to go, as always, in the direction of quality; this meant that no wine was produced”, says Mattia, and continues, “It was a very hard blow for the business, but it did allow me to go and visit other wine-makers at home and abroad – in Champagne, in Moselle, in Borgona, and even in Franciacorta and in lower Piedmont – and to participate in new and important training experiences”.

Capotesta has all the characteristics that have made Lugana an international phenomenon: it is vertical, very mineral, savoury and rich in structure. “We owe everything to the power of the clay,” says Mattia. With his hands constantly in the earth and his heart in the vineyard, Mattia has one and only objective of continuing to bring to the bottle, with pride and determination, the most authentic expression of its territory of origin, to which his family has been intimately linked for a century.

Cascina Maddalena Celebrates Its 100th anniversary: a Long Story of Love by four generations Linked to the Lugana Territory on Lake Garda.

Hence the extreme attention to everything that revolves around work in the fields and in the wine cellar. The land is listened to and respected, to make the consumer aware of what he enjoys in the glass. “We have always been sustainable, without certifications,” says Mattia, who prefers to speak in his case of common sense viticulture.  Consequently it is natural to want to treat the land using your head – ‘and your heart’, adds Elisa – starting with good agronomic practices, such as fertilising using manure or green manure, to eco-sustainable methods of controlling adversities, such as the use of organic means or sexual confusion.

This longing to achieve his goals also led Mattia to choose the Stelvin cap in 2015, an organoleptically neutral closure to guarantee the integrity of the wine. The result of this choice becomes evident in the vertical proposal of the Capotesta tasting box where – observing in particular two not too dissimilar vintages such as the 2013 (cork) and 2015 (screw cap) – the differences deriving from the different corking methods emerge clearly: the 2013 wine shows a driven evolution, with more ethereal, classic and elegant notes, whereas the 2015 wine offers greater composure and responsiveness.  However it is in the 2014 wine (diam cork) that freshness and longevity emerge, where the time of evolution in the bottle has guaranteed a unique result.

These are the assumptions that make Capotesta – and Lugana in general – a wine that does not fear time. “Drink your Lugana young, very young, and you will enjoy its freshness. Drink it two or three years old and you will enjoy its completeness. Drink it ten years old and you will be astonished by its composed authoritativeness,’ said maestro Luigi Veronelli. The more time passes, therefore, the more you will discover in your glass the flavours of the lands around Lake Garda and all the savoir-faire of the Zordan family when managing their vineyard and cellar with respect to this extraordinary variety.

Today it is Mattia’s, Elena’s and Elisa’s turn to look to the future and to preserve the same love for the land, the vineyards and the grapes, ingredients that generate good wine and make a difference. This was the most important lesson that mamma Raffaella and papa Luciano have given them. After all, “you raise vineyards like children, within the family and with love”… But also, as we have seen, with patience.

Cascina Maddalena Capotesta Lugana Doc Tasting Box: The Vintages

  • 2013. A very dry and hot year, early ripening of the grapes and low production. The winery was not using the drip irrigation system yet, so the vines were watered using sprinklers.

Cork: one-piece cork (last year of use). The wine is warm, ethereal, spicy and floral. With driven, elegant and classic evolutions.

  • 2014. A year to forget due to bad weather, a very rainy spring/summer, but at the same time spectacular for the wine it provides today. There was a significant hailstorm in mid-September with the loss of half the grapes and a selected harvest in early October. After this event, the winery waited to harvest until the beginning of October, picking botrytis and overripe grapes that gave the wine unique notes of hydrocarbons and smokiness; 2014 was a unique vintage due to the extreme weather conditions.

Cork: Diam. Then 2014 surprised us: the best came out with time, due to its longevity and freshness. The wine is vertical, mineral and fruity.

  • 2015. A dry and hot year, not unlike 2013, which produced a very concentrated grape. During the hottest season, relief irrigation with rain. Here one can clearly feel the difference in corking compared to the 2013 wine: the 2015 wine, which uses the screw cap, is a livelier, composed and responsive wine, which also retains more crispness.

Cap: Stelvin. The wine is warm, ethereal, fruity, exotic and spicy with hints of saffron.

Cascina Maddalena Celebrates Its 100th anniversary: a Long Story of Love by four generations Linked to the Lugana Territory on Lake Garda.