Piemonte (or Piedmont, if you prefer the anglicized version) is home to more great red wines than any other Italian region. From the charming, juicy Dolcetto to the spicy, high-acid Barbera and finally the powerful, long-lived wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco made from the Nebbiolo grape, the red wines of this area offer a wonderful variety of choices, depending on what foods you are enjoying or when you want to consume the wine.
For this post, we’ll deal with Dolcetto. We’ll look at Barbera and Nebbiolo in upcoming posts.
Dolcetto, which literally means “little sweet one”, is a grape that is all about fruit – tantalizingly delicious fruit, such as back raspberry, cranberry and plum. Tannins are moderate, as are acid levels, meaning that a Dolcetto is very approachable upon release. For example, most releases currently on the market are from the outstanding 2007 vintage and are very enjoyable now, as are the 2006s. From most years, a good Dolcetto will drink well for 2-3 years, although the 2007s may age a bit longer, as this year provided deeper concentration and a slightly higher degree of tannins that normal.
The most typical Dolcetto of this area is known as Dolcetto d’Alba, meaning it comes from a number of communes near the town of Alba. There is also Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba (or simply Diano d’Alba), which is produced entirely from Dolcetto grown in the town of Diano d’Alba, situated just south and east of Alba. These wines are laced with black fruit as well as hints of red flowers and banana in the aromas and are definitely meant for early consumption. One of the best examples of Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba on the market is the “La Lepre” bottling from Fontanafredda. Produced from old vines (at least 40 years of age), this is deep purple with delicious black raspberry and plum flavors and moderate tannins.
For Dolcetto d’Alba, there are dozens of excellent examples on the market. A few of the best include:
- Elio Grasso “Dei Grassi”
- Pio Cesare
- Ettore Germano “Pra di Po”
- Elvio Cogno “Vigna del Mandorlo”
Another Dolcetto that is quite special is Dolcetto di Dogliani, produced from grapes grown in and near the commune of Dogliani, south of the Barolo zone. As Dolcetto and not Barbera or Nebbiolo is the most important grape here, this is a more “serious” Dolcetto, one that can age longer than a typical Dolcetto d’Alba. Most examples of Dolcetto di Dogliani drink well for 5-7 years and even longer from the best vintages.
The D.O.C.G. bottlings from Dogliani – ones that have been made according to stricter regulations – are now labeled as Dogliani. Several of the top producers of Dolcetto di Dogliani release cru (single vineyard) bottlings, which are quite robust for Dolcetto. A few of the most famous bottlings include:
- San Romano “Vigna del Pilone”
- Chionetti “Briccolero”
- Pecchenino “Bricco Botti”
- Pecchenino “Siri d’Jermu”
- Luigi Einaudi “Vigna Tecc”
While you will see cru bottlings from many producers in Diano d’Alba, there are not many cru bottlings of Dolcetto d’Alba.
There are other D.O.C. Dolcetto wines, such as Dolcetto di Ovada and Dolcetto d’Acqui, but these wines are not seen often in the United States.
As for food, Dolcetto is often served at lunch or dinner with local salumi or pastas. A richer style of Dolcetto, such as that from Dogliani, is best paired with ligher meats or game or aged cheeses.
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