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Home | Red Grape MP | Dolcetto - When a Show Bet Pays Off




Dolcetto - When a Show Bet Pays Off

August 7, 2013

The Piedmont region in the northwestern corner of Italy produces some of the most famous red wine in the world.  The grapes that go into making these thoroughbreds are Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco), Barbera, and coming in third, a much less known red grape called Dolcetto [dohl-CHEHT-oh].  Italian for “the little sweet one”, Dolcetto is anything but sweet. The grape is thick skinned and dark red, ripens early and produces tannin rich, dark fruit flavored, low acid wine, quaffed by the locals while they tend to the more prestigious vineyards of Nebbiolo and Barbera. Dolcetto is relegated to the less favorable vineyard locations, as it requires a shorter growing season than the Piedmont stars.  Despite this subordinate role, Dolcetto can be a delightful, affordable alternative to include in your red wine repertoire.

Where does Dolcetto Grow?


Italy – While not indigenous to Italy, Dolcetto is widely produced in the Piedmont region, specifically in the towns of Alba, Dogliani (pr. dohl yani), and Ovada, and in the province of Cueno.  There are eight Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOCs) or DOC Garantita (DOCGs) regions within the Piedmont producing 100% Dolcetto wines.  The most widely exported Dolcettos are from the DOC Dolcetto d'Alba.

Dolcetto di Dogliani

DOCG

Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba

DOCG

Dolcetto d'Ovada

DOCG

Dolcetto d'Acqui

DOC

Dolcetto d'Alba

DOC

Dolcetto d'Asti

DOC

Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi

DOC

Langhe Dolcetto

DOC

 

Dolcetto is vinified in two levels based on alcohol content.  The standard version requires a minimum of 11.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), and Superiore, requiring 12.5% ABV.

Dolcetto is also grown in the mountainous regions of Liguria, south of the Piedmont region, where it is called Ormeasco.

Italian Producers to look for:  Chionetti, Francesco Boschis, Giuseppe Cortese, Marcarini, Francesco Rinaldi.

Rest of the World



Plantings of Dolcetto outside of Italy are few and far between, limited to California, Oregon, Australia, and the Savoy region of France.  The influence of Italian winemakers in California wine history traces to late 1800's, when immigrants from Tuscany and the Piedmont region settled in the State.  The resurgence of native Italian grape varieties however, would have to wait nearly a hundred years.  In the 1980's the Cal-Italia wine movement began, with a focus on growing the likes of Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto.  Today, over a dozen Cal-Italia producers grow and bottle Dolcetto.

Producers to look for:  Lucas & Lewellen, Mosby, Pietra Santa, Rosa D'Oro Vineyards, Viansa,

The Styles of Dolcetto

Wines made from the Dolcetto grape are more uniform and consistent in style that many of its Vitis Vinifera brethren.  The style is dry, with moderate tannin levels, low acidity, and alcohol levels in the 11-13% range yielding a medium bodied wine.  Aromas include black cherry, licorice, prune, almond, and plum.  The wine is a deep red, almost purple in color.  The wine is also characterized by an ongoing sparring between fruit aromas and a touch of bitterness on the finish.  Made to be consumed young, Dolcetto is best consumed within the first two years following release.

Despite the uniformity, there are some wines that are considered more serious in their efforts to compete with the likes of Barolo and Barbaresco from the same region.  Longer extraction time and oak aging yields bolder fruit laden Dolcettos with higher tannin levels, and fuller body.  This style is found in the wines from the DOCGs Dolcetto di Dogliani and Dolcetto di Ovada, indicating their efforts to move Dolcetto up from its third place finish.

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