What comes to mind when you hear Dolcetto?
The Italian translation means “little sweet one”. Trust me, it’s anything except sweet!
Dolcetto is a red grape variety from Piedmont. We’ve already seen Brachetto.
Unfortunately it’s very underrated. It has to compete with Nebbiolo (especially from Barolo and Barbaresco) and Barbera. It’s not easy at all!
Piedmont is a very complex region. It’s composed of:
- 17 DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita);
- 42 DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata).
Microclimate, soil, and a lot of indigenous grape varieties are key factors of this complexity.
But our focus is on Dolcetto and I want to give you more info.
Are you ready?
What are the origins of Dolcetto?
The first mentions and documents are from the end of the 16th century.
Dolcetto was for farm life. This grape variety was the bargaining chip with Liguria. People took oil, salt, and anchovies – the ingredients used to prepare bagna cauda. In the Cuneo area it was traded for calves.
1593 is the year of the first mention. An important document in Dogliani was about a harvest of “Dozzetti” – a dialectal word indicating Dolcetto. Another document from 1633 records Dolcetto in the Arboreo’s cellar of Valenza. In 1700 Marquess Barnabà Centurione sent some Dolcetto wines as a gift to King Giorgio II.
Dolcetto grapes were used as a medicine during the 1920s and 1930s. The therapy consisted in eating max 1 kg of grapes during in the morning and small meals for the rest of the day. Dolcetto was popular for its low acidity and not so high quantity of tannins. The properties of Dolcetto grape are remineralizing, depurative, diuretic, laxative, and decongestant for the liver. It can help against arteriosclerosis, arthritis, rheumatic conditions, and joint upsets in the medium term.
Dolcetto technical data
Dolcetto is a thick-skinned variety. It has a huge quantity of anthocyanins, so its colour is a deep ruby (sometimes purple).
It buds and ripens early. This grape variety prefers a cool climate on calcareous marly terrains. The range for its cultivation is between 250 m and 600 m above the sea level (some exceptions tolerate even 700 m).
Its bouquet offers the aromas of black plum, red cherry, dried herbs, violet, and raspberry. Acidity is low to medium, tannins are medium to high, and the body is medium to full. The finish is bitter.
Style – it’s a wine that is usually drunk young. In my opinion some years of ageing are better. Especially when the wine is very concentrated (maybe for the low yield).
It’s a dry wine. The name is related to the exceptional sweetness of its pulp.
Dolcetto is not easy to grow. This is one of the reasons why a lot of wineries are removing vines of Dolcetto in favour of Nebbiolo and Barbera. They’re easier to grow and commercialize.
Spring frosts can be a hazard.
Generally the vines are not so young exactly because no one starts to grow Dolcetto for its problems. Who produces Dolcetto wine has usually done it for some years.
Where is it grown?
Piedmont is its natural home.
Dolcetto is mainly grown in the provinces of Cuneo, Asti, and Alessandria. Then, the areas are Langhe and Monferrato.
It expresses itself at the best in 3 DOCG: Diano D’Alba DOCG (2010), Dogliani DOCG (2005), and Ovada DOCG (2008). Three different areas that give three different interpretations of Dolcetto.
Other denominations from Piedmont in which you can find Dolcetto are Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Dolcetto d’Asti DOC, Dolcetto d’Acqui DOC, Dolcetto di Ovada DOC, Colli Tortonesi DOC, Pinerolese DOC, Valsusa DOC, Langhe DOC, Monferrato DOC, and Piemonte DOC.
You can also find it in Liguria, but it’s called Ormeasco (Ormeasco di Pornassio DOC). Other Italian regions that host Dolcetto are Sardinia and Calabria.
Outside Italy, Dolcetto is grown in Australia and the USA.
Food & Wine
Now you know that Dolcetto is very versatile.
You can organise an entire meal around Dolcetto wines (except for the dessert). From a young Dolcetto for the starters to more structured one for the further courses.
Its fine aromas combine very well with salami and cold cuts. Also good with medium-aged cheeses.
The low acidity is perfect with main courses based on ragu, like homemade pasta or ravioli.
Dolcetto pairs well with beans soups. Another traditional pairing is with Bollito alla Piemontese.
Fuller body is better with the main courses such as beef or calf.
And if you want to try an untraditional pairing, taste it with a pizza!
2019 is the year of Dolcetto
Its deep roots and the consumption to the area of origin have limited its diffusion. The name also has not helped!
Have you ever tasted this wine? What was its style like and from which area was it? Let me know by leaving a comment.
Many thanks to Fratelli Aimasso for the beautiful pics.
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