Corvina: It’s Not Just For Amarone Anymore

The next wine I want to talk about is really cool. We are leaving Sicily and bouncing like the incredible hulk all the way up the boot to the northeast where we find the Veneto; A region that was made famous in the 1950’s by a mistake that became a international phenomenon, Amarone (the wine I am rambling on about today is not an Amarone but a major player in the blend). This region has got a lot going on. Its capitol is Venice, which was at one time the most important cities in Europe for trade and commerce and is the most visited city in all of Italy, which…I guess makes the region the most visited. It is flanked by the Alps in the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east and is crossed by the rivers Po and Adige and Piave. Rivers that have historically lent importance to wines in other regions climactically and trade-wise. That’s a lot to take in. Oh and the Veneto is one of the more industrialized of the Italian regions.
On the western border of the Veneto at the foothills of the Alps is Lake Garda a huge lake that is shared with the regions Trentino Alto-Adige and Lombardia. East of lake Garda lays the Valpolicella in the Province of Verona. This area has a rich and controversial wine history. Named after the intricate system of caves in the area the Valpolicella is home to the wine of the same name made famous on the American market by wine giant Bolla. Valpolicella the wine was traditionally a blend of three grapes Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. This blend became quite popular before the 1950’s in Europe and to meet the demand producers in the Valpolicella began to extend the wine growing area to the plains.
As a result the wine began to suffer because of the heavy water build-up in the lower lying areas the vineyards were not able to develop properly and resulted in watered down wine. This created a long couple of decades of ignorance and mass production that tarnished the reputation of Verona wine. So the delegating authorities got together and put the Valpolicella in check by re-zoning the laws and creating the Valpolicella Classsico appellation for the original area in which these grapes thrived. But it wasn’t until after the 1980’s that this area got back on its feet. Although in 1953 Bolla produced the first commercial Amarone (a silky sweet version of the areas dessert wine Recioto that was said to be a mistake where they dry the grapes out for a bit and press the sugared juices to make an elegant and expensive wine), which brought mild international focus to the area.
Getting back to basics the Veronese realized to further the re-building of their reputation they needed to get rid of one of the three grapes in the blend due to its bitterness. Molinara was used less and less and sometimes-even Rondinella was cut out a bit. The base grape for Valpolicella had always been Corvina so the purpose of cutting and weighing of the other two was to find the right balance with the main element. By the 1990’s Amarone was gaining quick popularity and the focus on maintaining better growing environments and vinifying facilities began to hone in. The Molinara grape was completely erased from the blend to make sure the Amarone business thrived. Now-a-days Amarone is everywhere and the Veneto is moving along just fine keeping in tune with the focus of quality-driven wines. With this new approach we are seeing some cool stuff coming out of the region like Recioto and Ripasso della Valpolicella.
But what I want to talk about is that noble mainstay in the Valpolicella blend Corvina. A few years ago I had heard that 100% Corvina was making it onto the American market and kept my eyes open for them. Eventually I found one and it knocked my socks off. This grape makes a great single-variety wine with versatility and vibrancy. The one we have to offer you is the 2005 Corvina Veronese from Giuseppe Campagnola. We have this wine on our wine list at In Vino and at the shop and man is it popular. At the shop it is actually hard to keep it on the shelf. If you don’t know it you could pass right over it but that is why we are here to help. The Campagnola Family have been making wine in the area since the 1800’s so they have seen it all and are one of my favorite Venetian producers.
This wine is what I call a crowd pleaser. It has depth yet has vibrancy. It’s fruit driven but not too fruity. And it goes great with lighter far like antipasti or can definitely be drunk alone. Let me see if I can convey this wine to you. The color is a deep bright red with great acidity because when held up to the light you can kind see through it. The body of the wine is deep yet bouncy. You’ll know what I am talking about once you take your first sip. The acidity dances on the tongue allowing your palate to enjoy great fruit concentration with a lively sour cherry feel with a hint of spice and earth. This wine goes down very smooth and I have even read that it could be chilled a bit and sipped like Beaujolais. I concur. This wine is deep enough for this time of year and is ready to go for picnics in spring. This is a great wine that doesn’t get enough face time on shelves and on wine lists. Come check this beauty out and grab the February Italian Wine Starter Kit for $99 and for an extra $25 we will throw in six label removers and a sexy little journal to take down notes in so you can come in and rap with us about what you thought.

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