It is rare to hear of people mentioning Corvina as a grape. That is because it one of those grapes that is more commonly called by the region it is grown in; Valpolicella or Bardolino in Italy. It is typically blended with two other red grapes Molinara and Rondinella. But don’t worry about those because Corvina is thought of as the superior of the three.
And if you like the wine called Amarone, the good news is that it comes from this region and grape and is actually a Valpolicella wine made in a special method. More to follow on that.
First what are the flavours of Corvina. I would describe it is a tasting like the first bite of a fresh cherry, with mild herbal twists and lively acidity. At the basic level it is typically un-oaked fruit forward and light in body, then more serious styles can have a bit of oak giving it richer flavour and a bit more structure. This is a good wine to chill in the summer. And can appeal to Pinot Noir drinkers who like something that is a bit more delicate in body than most reds.
And back to Amarone, which is a wine I have seen cast a spell on many people. This is the polar opposite in style to Valpolicella, in the sense it is bold, structured and can be over 15% alcohol in many cases. So how can that be, if it is made with the same grapes? The secret is the “Apassimento” method. Here the grapes are picked at the same time as others, then kept in whole bunches in large cases and dried slowly over months. Typically in large warehouses that allow then to gently raisen. In that process water evaporates out of the grape and the sugars and skins concentrate. So when these grapes are made into wine, they have that extra richness and structure that transforms them into this very different style. It is heady and enticing, the fruit has a dried cherry, marzipan richness. It is the ultimate winter warmer.
If you want to try and “inbetween” style there is a version of Valpolicella called “Ripasso” this uses both raisened grapes and normal wine to create a Valpolicella with a touch of that Amarone richness; and therefore not quite as much alcohol.
A low tannin grape which give the wines their lightness in structure. Naturally high in acidity, which can feel a bit nervy and taught. There are two main styles of Amarone, the traditionalists use large oak barrels to age given the wine roundness and more savoury spice notes. Modernists are leaning to using smaller and newer oak barrels which give it a bit more of a fresh fruit note along with dark chocolate twists.
Gamay, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Barbera, Teroldego
Italy: Veneto (Valpolicella, Bardolino)
Australia: New South Wales
Valpolicella: Chicken curry, tagines, pizza pasta with tomato ragu
Amarone: Chocolate desserts, braised meats