Family history | Corvina is an offspring of Refosco del Peduncolo Rosso and a parent to Rondinella. It is also related to Oseleta and Marzemino. However, it is not related to Corvinone or Corbina which are completely distinct grapes.
Wine style | Thick, darkly-coloured skins but the wine is never inky, and usually no darker than bright ruby. Wines express violets, blackberry, red cherry and aromatic herbs. The acidity is bright and elevated while tannins are very light and fine. Low tannins mean that bitterness will not be exacerbated by air-drying.
The name | Corvina translates as little raven (‘corvo’ means raven in Italian). Either the dark colour of the grapes (not the wine itself) is reminiscent of the raven’s plumage or it refers to the raven’s attraction to the grapes when they are ripe.
Biotypes | Corvina has many biotypes, one of which (Corvina Grossa) has big berries leading to the confusion with Corvinone.
Clones | Plantings of the ISV 48 clone are increasing as many producers seek to produce a deeper hued wine.
Wines | Veneto: Valpolicella DOC. | Valpolicella Ripasso DOC (soon to be Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC). | Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG. | Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG. | Bardolino DOC. | Bardolino Superiore DOCG. | IGP Verona. | Lombardia (Lombardy): Some plantings.
Site selection | Corvina does best in dry, well-exposed hillside sites.
Viticulture | Corvina is vigorous and high yielding but disease prone and sensitive to botrytis. Many vines are still trained in the pergola veronese (Verona area pergola) system, believed to be an appropriate structure for this grape. For one, it can provide shade for Corvina’s sunburn-prone berries. Thick, resistant skin makes Corvina suitable for air-drying. This technique has long been used as Corvina has trouble reaching adequate sugar concentration and therefore potential alcohol.
Wine styles | While monovarietal wines do exist, Corvina is blended with other grapes like Rondinella and Molinara as well as Corvinone and Oseleta (the latter two give colour and tannin) in the DOPs of Valpolicella and Bardolino. Amongst the dry wines, Bardolino and Valpolicella are characterized by light to medium-bodied reds made from fresh grapes while Amarone della Valpolicella is a full-bodied, rich, high alcohol red made from air-dried grapes. Valpolicella Ripasso is made by adding the unpressed skins of Amarone to Valpolicella which encourages a second fermentation increasing the alcohol by a couple of degrees and giving the wine extra weight. Recioto della Valpolicella is a sweet counter-part to Amarone. Finally, Bardolino Chiaretto is among Italy’s finest rosatos.
See Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014).
Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.95-6.