Posted by: tomciocco | September 2, 2013

CORVINA’S BEAUTIFUL SOLO

The identities of Italy’s noblest red grapes are mostly household names, at least among winos. Nebbiolo in the north, Sangiovese in Central Italy, and Aglianico in the Mezzogiorno are the three most celebrated, but there are lots of others from all over the peninsula and the islands that make equally great wine whose names have far less notoriety, and Veneto’s Corvina is definitely one of them.

You almost sure know Corvina, but most likely in the context of the company of a few of its usual viticultural cronies in the form of blended wines with names like Valpolicella and Bardolino. And though grapes like Rondinella, Molinara, and Oseleta that round out these wines are fine varieties in their own right, Corvina is still the top dog, and this wine, which is neither Valpo or Bardo, makes this abundantly clear.

This wine originates from within the production zone of Bardolino, but since by law Bardolino must be a blend, this wine carries a (theoretically) lesser I.G.T. (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) classification, but the key term here is “theoretically”. Sourced from vineyards situated on the southeastern corner of Lake Garda, the fruit that supplies this bottling springs from very poor soil (this is a good thing when it comes to vines) comprised of a mix of stone and chalk with a bit of clay that gives this assertive but still quite feminine grape variety a superb equilibrium and minerally complexity. And because this special patch of earth has a very dynamic play between the warmth of the lake and the sun that reflects off it during the day, and the surprisingly chilly northerly winds that blow through it at night, the wine made from this plot takes on a particularly fresh and complex elegance. This is a wine that, at least by dint of its denomination, should be a simpler wine than any Valpolicella or Bardolino, but in reality, it frankly puts many of the wines with these more famous names to shame. This sort of stellar performance is a clear testament to what terroir and winemaking know-how can do when applied to a great cultivar like Corvina without its usual supporting cast and despite laxer regulations.

This beautiful bottle paired especially well with both the radicchio, red onion and Italian frying pepper risotto I served as a first course, and the rosemary-scented sliced top round steak with mushroom, garlic, and parsley sauce and the pureed butternut squash that went along with it.

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Corte Gardoni Corvina Veronese “Becco Rosso” I.G.T. 2011

Just translucent, deep ruby color. Very pretty and elegant but still slightly earthy nose of dried cherries, red currants, allspice, underbrush, roasted chestnut, dill, filter coffee, juniper berries and rose petals. The body of the wine is medium-weight with a fresh and lively acidity, smoothly dry tannins and a wonderful overall balance that perfectly frames minerally flavors of red plum, cranberry sauce, fig paste, and toasted fennel seed. Strawberry and cocoa on the long and complex finish. Really lovely stuff.

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