Corvo a complex wine without the high cost

Two decades ago, Corvo captured the hearts, and more importantly the taste buds, of Americans to became one of the leading wines imported to the United States. Sicily’s only widely exported wine at the time, it was a fixture in Italian restaurants across the country because it delivered consistent quality at a low price. Corvo became a casualty of the worldwide privatization phenomenon, though, and lost its dominant position in the US market. Quality plummeted when the company that produced it lost focus as it slowly morphed from a quasi-independent entity under government control to a private company.

Illva Saronno, best known for their liqueur, Disaronno (formerly known as Amaretto), saw an opportunity, purchased Corvo, and hired the famous Italian winemaker Giacomo Tachis as a consultant. They still own no vineyards, relying on growers throughout the island for grapes, a practice that should allow them to achieve a consistent blend every year. The quality has returned, still at a low price, an incredible feat considering the vastly increased competition from a rapidly ballooning number of excellent Sicilian producers. Those include Planeta, Donnafugata, Morgante, Rapitala, Benanti, and Cottanera – all names worth remembering – whose wines are available in Massachusetts and other parts of the United States.

Corvo Rosso is made from a blend of red, indigenous Sicilian grapes, mostly nero d’Avola combined with smaller amounts of pignatello and nerello mascalese. Tachis eschews the use of small oak barrels for aging the wine so as not to mask its fruity character. Still, the 2001 Corvo Rosso has more than just simple fruit flavors. Subtle smoky or gamy overtones, probably from the nero d’Avola, add complexity not usually seen in this price range. A great everyday choice for take-out pizza or pasta, it also would go well with casseroles or roasted meat. At this price, Corvo makes us an offer that’s hard to refuse. Corvo Rosso 2001, about $10.

January 29, 2004.