What's Schiava Wine? The grapes from Dolomiti, Alto Adige - Italy

Schiava is a type of grape that’s grown in the Alto Adige region of Italy. Schiava is a dry red wine. There are several unrelated grapes with the Schiava name: Schiava Gentile, Schiava Grossa, and Schiava Grigia. Famous areas for Schiava are Alto Adige.

By Lucie Robson
Mar 22, 2022
tagAlt.Lake Caldaro Vineyard Classic Superior DOC Kalterersee, near Lake Caldaro. Bolzano. Italy

Schiava (grapes) wine in 30 seconds

  • Schiava is a dry red wine.
  • There are several unrelated grapes with the Schiava name: Schiava Gentile, Schiava Grossa, and Schiava Grigia.
  • Famous areas for Schiava are Alto Adige.
  • It’s light ruby and displays aromas and flavors of cherry, strawberry, cranberry, almond, red currant, pomegranate, and violet.
  • It has fresh, medium to high acidity and light tannins.
  • It appears in several DOCs in Italy.
  • The most renowned DOCs are Lago di Caldaro DOC and Santa Maddalena which is a subzone of Alto Adige DOC.
  • It covers around 1,836 hectares.


What is Schiava?

Schiava’s home in Italy is the Alto Adige region of Italy where it’s grown since the 1500s. As of late, it’s been experiencing a renaissance with plantings expanding. It’s also a very popular varietal in the Baden wine region in Germany where it’s called Trollinger and there’s a special event held for it every year. That being said, most German Trollinger is earmarked for the local market, so Schiava is easier to come by outside Italy.

Schiava_ (Vernatsch)_grape _variety_20220519


Learn about Schiava

Like the vast Moscato or Malvasia families, the Schiava network is made up of grapes that aren’t always related but bear the same name. The range of Schiava grapes incudes Schiava Gentile, the most finessed grape and Schiava Grosso, which is very widely planted. 


In Italy, most Schiava is found in Trentino and Alto-Adige. In these famous alpine foothill wine areas, the fuller-bodied Santa Maddalena DOC is the finest example. Soft and fruity styles come from Lago di Caldaro DOC. In the same neighbourhood, Merano from the Südtirol DOC boasts fruity Schiava with spicy, herbaceous notes. Schiava accounts for 1,836 hectares across Italy.




Schiava Flavors

Schiava is a light-colored red wine with red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, almond, red currant, pomegranate, and violet notes. It also has hints of potpourri and even bubble gum.


It’s generally light-bodied, has bright acidity, and alcohol clocks in at about 12%. As well as being an enjoyable food wine, Schiava makes a refreshing aperitif when serve chilled.


What does Schiava wine taste like?

Schiava is made predominantly in a dry red style. In addition to a regular DOC, Schiava may appear as Classico meaning it’s made with grapes from the historic center of an appellation. It can also be Superiore, indicating higher alcohol. Some Schiava appears as Auslese. This is a German wine term that means “selected harvest” used for grapes picked late for extra richness. Schiava also appears in rosé style.




What food does Schiava pair with it?

Schiava is a food-friendly wine with bright fruit, gentle tannins, and medium to high acidity. It’s important to consider these components when pairing both red and rosé wines with food. On the whole, light- to medium-weight dishes best suit this wine and the more acidic styles go well with fatty food. 


Schiava Food Pairing

  • Appetisers: Cured meats; green olives; tomato-topped Bruschetta; grilled shrimp.
  • Meat and Fish: Alto Adige dumpling soup with bacon; herb-coated venison; smoked ham; southeast Asian lemon chicken; Thai beef noodle.
  • Vegetarian/ Vegetables: Vegetarian pizzas; vegetable couscous; tomato risotto; pasta dishes with tangy tomato sauce; sage-butter gnocchi.
  • Cheese: Mature Pecorino; Taleggio; Parmesan-Reggiano.
  • Desserts: Red fruit salad.


In Which region is the Schiava grape grown?


Top Schiava Appellations/ Areas

Alto Adige Santa Maddalena is a sub-zone appellation of the Alto Adige DOC. Vineyards are located north of the town of Bolzano.


Schiava wines from this DOC are regarded as some of the finest expressions of the grape and among the best wines in the wider area. Medium-bodied and concentrated, Schiava accounts for at least 85% of the wine with Lagrein a varietal used in the remainder.


Lago di Caldaro DOC is south of Bolzano. Another reputable appellation for Schiava, wines are smooth, fresh, and fruity.


North of Bolzano tucked further into the Alp foothills is the city of Merano. Part of the Südtirol DOC, Schiava from here is also sought after. The alluvial-gravel soils craft rich fruit that makes concentrated wines with a spicy note.


Where does Schiava come from?

The Schiava grape has an obscure history with roots reaching back generations. To add to the intrigue of its tale, in Alto-Adige, Schiava’s main growing area, there are three official languages: Italian, German, and Ladin. This means Schiava appears under the guise of numerous names.


Ampelographers say that Schiava is a translation of the word “slave” indicating that the grape may originate from Slavic regions. Other grape authorities say the translation is a reflection of its pergola-method vine training.


Whatever its origins, Schiava is a very old grape with a sprawling network of varietals that make some of the most notable wines in the Alto-Adige.




How is Schiava made?

Schiava is a light wine with aromas that have a floral, sweet character. In order to balance out the sweetness of the aromas, many producers in Alto-Adige ferment Schiava dry.


Vintners follow standard red winemaking methods fine-tuning processes along the way to suit the character of the grape. For example, much Schiava is fermented in stainless steel to preserve its signature red fruit character but matured in oak to add gentle structure. 


When “Superiore” appears on the label, it shows that the wine has higher alcohol than the appellation dictates and could have longer aging.


Some Alto-Adige Schiava has “Auslese” on the label. This German term means the fruit is late harvest, therefore riper for richer, fuller-bodied wines.


Classico” on a label shows that the wine comes from the original heartland of an appellation.


Rosé Schiava is made through a light pressing followed by white wine-style fermentation or a short maceration on the skins. 




What kind of wine is similar to Schiava?


Fun facts

  • Schiava is known by many names including Grauvernatsch, Kleinvernatsch, and Koelner Blau.
  • Schiava is one of the Alto-Adige’s most prestigious wines.
  • Schiava is an old grape with obscure origins.
  • Its name may derive from the word “slave” indicating roots in Slavic countries.

all.sign in to leave a review