Corvina Veronese, normally just called corvina, is the most important red wine grape in Valpolicella in Italy.
Valpolicella is located in the province of Verona, in the region of Veneto, at the northwest corner of the Adriatic Sea. The hilly area is situated inland between Lake Garda and the Adriatic, and so its continental climate is moderated by these two large bodies of water.
Valpolicella is the second largest DOC area in terms of the volume of wine production, next to Chianti in Tuscany, so corvina is an important grape in Italy. In fact, corvina is believed to have originated in the area. The grape is also used extensively in the neighbouring Bardolino DOC.
The standard red Valpolicella wine is a blend of several varieties in which corvina plays the dominant role. Single varietal wines made only from corvina are rare. Supporting roles are usually played by rondinella, molinara and corvinone. You are probably familiar with such wines as they have been popular imports for many years. They tend to offer light body and cherry flavours and are casual sipping wines.
Valpolicella Superiore wines are similar in makeup to the standard wines, but offer more body and flavour and must have a minimum of one year of wood aging.
Recioto is the sweet wine of the region. It is produced by using grapes from the most ideal vineyard locations for maximum ripeness which are then allowed to raisin in special drying rooms to concentrate the sugars. The dried grapes are partially fermented leaving the finished wine naturally sweet with some residual fruit sugars. Such wines have a distinctively different flavour profile from other sweet wines such as Sauternes and ice wines which concentrate the sugars using other means.
If the raisined grapes are fully fermented to create a dry wine, the well-known Amarone-style wine is created. Such wines are full-bodied and full-flavoured and make fabulous food matches.
The leftover grape skins and seeds from recioto and Amarone production retain some of the rich flavours of the wines they have produced. Soaking standard Valpolicella on these leftovers for an extended period of time creates a Ripasso-style wine in which the light style gets a boost of body and flavour.
Corvina on its own is considered to offer sour cherry aromas and flavours, sometimes with a touch of bitter almond. It is marked for its fresh acidity and moderate tannins. It is particularly suited for drying, obviously, and better examples benefit from some aging.
The grape has not travelled much in either Italy or the world, unlike Tuscany’s sangiovese. You can find it, however, in Argentina, where Masi, the well-known Italian wine producer, has established vineyards in the Tupungato area of Mendoza. Once again, the wine is a blend, but in this case the partner is malbec. Malbec brings big black fruit, game, and sometimes violet aromas and flavours, often structured with a solid tannin bite.
The Passo Doble 2010 (NLC $18.47) initially shows the typical nose and rich berry fruit of a malbec wine, but with a freshness that is presumably from the acidity of the corvina. At the end, the distinct sour cherry of the corvina is clearly evident. Somewhat strong tannins made this wine work much better with the steak than sipping before dinner. Score: 15, Rating: Very Good.
Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at email@example.com