What Is Dolcetto?
Dolcetto is a delicious wine that is often overlooked when one thinks of Italian Piedmontese reds. Piedmont is an important wine region in north-western Italy. Piedmont means “at the foot of the mountains”, reflective of its picturesque location at the foot of the Italian Alps.
Dolcetto has been grown in the Monferrato hills of Piedmont since the 16th century. A case of Dolcetto was even sent to King George II of Great Britain in 1700 as a gift. The grape travelled with Italian expatriates and is now grown all over the world, including Australia and America.
Unlike its more famous Piedmont counterparts Nebbiolo and Barbera, Dolcetto vines ripen early and the resulting wines have lower acidity and medium tannins. It is not as long-lived as Nebbiolo wines, or as famous as Barbera, but it is still a seriously delicious wine.
Dolcetto wine has an enticing deep garnet or crimson colour. It has distinctive aromas of raspberry, cranberry, liquorice and prunes, with a slightly bitter finish. Some winemakers produce a lighter version, by limiting skin contact. Others macerate the skins with the juice for longer to produce a more modern style with more abundant tannins.
There are a handful of Dolcetto appellations, including Dolcetto di Dogliani, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Acqui, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti, Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi, and Dolcetto d'Ovada. The finest and most well-known examples are Dolcetto di Dogliani and Dolcetto d'Alba. Both of these appellations are DOCG level wines, which is the highest level for Italian wine.
Dolcetto from the Dogliani area tend to be the richest examples. This is due to the limestone rich clay soils, which is well suited for growing Dolcetto grapes. The hills are higher and closer to the mountains, which means a cooler, more Alpine conditions. Vines are planted between 300-550 meters above sea level, which exposes them to the strong winds.
Dolcetto di Dogliani wines have intense fruity aromas, with flavours of cranberry, raspberry, and black plum. There are also floral notes of iris and orchids. Generally, Dolcetto di Dogliani is not aged in oak, in order to retain and highlight its fruity flavours. This results in a sumptuously delicious wine that pairs well with pasta and lighter red meats. To qualify as DOCG, the wine is aged for at least 12 months.
However, some winemakers have been experimenting with oak aging. For example, the family-run Pecchenino Wine Estate age their Dolcetto in large French oak barrels for 12 months, to produce a richer, darker and more intense wine. This Dolcetto is structured and complex, with layers of dark fruits and spices.
Both Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC and DOCG must be made from 100% Dolcetto. The Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore designation is aged for longer.
Dolcetto d’Alba comes from the town of Alba and surrounding hills. This is the same territory that Barolo and Barbareso comes from. Whereas Dolcetto di Dogliani tends to be more structured and powerful wines, Dolcetto d’Alba tends to be fruitier expressions.
Why We Love Dolcetto
Dolcetto wines are loved for their juicy freshness, softer textures and fruity flavours. Characteristic aromas associated with Dolcetto wines are dark fruits, such as cranberry, cherry, boysenberry, blackberry and plum, with hints of earth and almonds. More powerful versions of Dolcetto are more oaky and alcoholic.
Compared to the more famous Barbera or Nebbiolo grape from the same region, Dolcetto is quite affordable. It is lively and makes for happy drinking. Dolcetto is usually drunk young, and is best enjoyed within 3-5 years.
The Italians love Dolcetto for everyday drinking, as it matches well with a variety of food. We love Dolcetto paired with pasta, pizza, gnocchi or a fatty fish like salmon. It goes well with tomato based sauces, or salty antipasto. Its natural fruitiness and drying tannins balance well with sweeter foods and fragrant foods. Indeed, its softer tannins make it quite versatile with food pairings - Dolcetto is delicious with Asian cuisine, where the fruity flavours complement spicier dishes.
Try Dolcetto For Yourself
Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian. But don’t be fooled, it’s not a sweet wine. Rather, it is a reference to its luscious sweet fruity flavours. We know that you’ll fall in love with this little sweet wine, if you give it a chance.
We have searched far and wide to bring you the best expressions of Dolcetto wine, so that you can experience it for yourself. It’s perfect for a midweek glass!
As lovers of Italian Alpine wines, we support family producers who uphold generations of traditional winemaking practices. These family producers take their jobs very seriously – they respect the grapes and preserve the characteristics that are given by nature.
Our suppliers are Australia’s best, hands on importers who specialise in high quality wines of place. We’re thrilled that you’re joining us on the journey so get your hands on some delicious Dolcetto and enjoy!