Walking upward on steep cobbled lanes through the village of Lugano Switzerland still enshrouded by morning mists rising from Lago di Lugano is certainly one of life’s finer ways to get a workout. If you’re up for even more climbing (or a short cab ride), include a visit to Fattoria Moncucchetto, Lugano’s only urban winery.
On a narrow plateau carved out high above the village with breathtaking lake views, family-run Fattoria Moncucchetto sources their base Merlot grapes from a tiny 2.5 acres onsite vineyard as well as several offsite plots. This means no distribution networks or market share to fret about.
Even though production is still small scale, the number of bottles produced since they started in 1970 has increased from 1,000 to 25,000 bottles. “But increasing production beyond this would only compromise the wine’s integrity by blending imported grapes from outside the region”, says winemaker Cristina Monico.
Several years ago, Fattoria Moncuccheto owners Lisette and Niccolò Lucchini hired Monico for her fine talent of making wines that reflect Lugano’s terroir in a straightforward way. Flinty with tannins strong enough to define the bold fruit spiciness is the crowning characteristic I experienced during my tasting. Merlot grapes are clearly Monico’s specialty. The non-barrel aged base Merlot that Fattoria Moncucchetto has used for decades won Best Merlot in Switzerland for 2010.
Since wine making at Fattoria Moncucchetto is closer to a hobby rather than finely tuned profit-making enterprise, the results are artfully unique… striking fruity minerality reveals the subsoil’s intense schist enriched by loamy soil. “Everyday drinking wines” Cristina intimates modestly. On the one hand she has the freedom to create vintages from intuition without concern for ultimate pairing, but on the other has to balance both owner and buyer preferences.
The winery itself is a work of modernist art designed by architect Mario Botta. Large windows open up much of the operation to natural light. Solid stone, polished wood and clean angles outfitted with the latest wine making technology contrast nicely with the surrounding buffer of leafy green vines. A tasting kitchen with event space on the top floor welcomes gatherings large and small. Be sure to call ahead before visiting.
Photos courtesy of Fattoria Moncucchetto and Steve Mirsky respectively.