Schiava Group | Though morphologically similar, Schiava is a group of unrelated varieties found in Europe’s alpine countries. They are all characterized by a rugged disposition and make light-bodied, light-coloured wines. Schiava is better known as Trollinger in Austria and Germany and as Vernatsch in Alto Adige.
Why the name? | Rather than indicating a specific set of related grapes, the name Schiava possibly refers to the common grapevine training system they share. It comes from the latin vineis sclavis meaning ‘vines enslaved’ alluding to the fact that these vines were tied to poles in an- cient Roman times.
Where grown in Italy | Varieties of the Schiava group are almost exclusively grown in Trentino and Alto Adige (though Schiava Nera is only found in Lombardy and some believe it is identical to Schiava Grossa). Schiava Grossa is apparently the most popular particularly as new clones give smaller berries making richer wines that age better. DOC regulations (such as Alto Adige DOC Santa Madd- alena and Lago di Caldaro DOC) do not stipulate which Schiava can be used so when not specified, they are likely a combination of all or two of the main three. They are often inter-planted and simply referred to as Schiava.
Wine style | All Schiavas are generally intensely fragrant with strawberry, violet, and almond notes, and light to medium-bodied with high acidity. Though charming, they tend to be simple and straightforward still, dry (though sometimes semi-sweet) reds. However, old vines have demonstrated that they are capable of imparting surprising concentration and complexity, suggesting that age of vines rather than sub-variety might be key to quality.
See Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014).
Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p69-70.