Wines by Grape
Corvina is an Italian red wine grape most famous as a key constituent of Valpolicella wines, along with Rondinella. Its most commonly cited characteristic is its sour cherry flavour, as well as its lack of colour and tannin – Corvina wines tend to be bright red and lighter in structure. The variety also lends itself well to the apassimento process of air-drying grapes, used to make the famous Amarone wine.
Corvina is widely planted in Italy’s northeastern corner, making DOC, DOCG and IGT wines. In Valpolicella, Bardolino and Amarone wines, Corvina makes up the bulk but not the whole: 100-percent Corvina wines must be made under the regional IGT title. As with the famed Super Tuscans, top producers have not let this put them off making prestigious, concentrated wines, and many top Corvina-based wines are labeled IGT. In blends, Corvina’s high level of acidity and distinctive cherried, herbaceous flavours are essential to the character of the wine.
The variety ripens very late, which can be an issue for growers, but thick skins means that Corvina lends itself well to air-drying. Grapes are spread on straw mats after picking and can develop phenols and sugars, while drying out to concentrate flavours. This is the method employed in the production of Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella wines, and to a lesser extent the region’s Ripasso wines.
Corvina has dipped in and out of popularity in the last century, with excessive yields contributing to Valpolicella’s poor reputation in the 1980s. This has been rectified in recent years, with producers experimenting with the grapes: barrel-ageing has proved popular, as have longer maceration times to extract colour. The result has been a welcome upsurge in quality.
While Corvina is an important variety in its Italian homeland, it is yet to spread across the world: only Australia and Argentina have made progress with Corvina-based wines.