ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DOLCETTO
The Dolcetto grape has a finicky personality with all sorts of fun stuff to talk about! First of all, as you may know, it is not sweet but almost bitter so its name is deceiving. So what else should we know about Dolcetto?
THE NAME DOLCETTO
DOLCETTO IN ITALIAN OR DUSSET IN PIEMONTESE ?
We already mentioned how the name can be deceiving but there are a few theories of how it got that name.
1. Dolcetto grapes were often eaten as table grapes because they were so sweet. However, once made into wine it would have a bitter finish!
2. Dusset (Do-set) in Piemontese dialect means “dosso” in Italian. Dosso in Italian means bump. One story I have heard is that Dolcetto can handle the wind better than Nebbiolo (maybe because Nebbiolo’s shoots grow so high and get knocked over) so it was planted at the top of the hill to withstand the windier bumps at the top.
Dolcetto is really only commonly grown in the provinces of Cuneo and Alessandria in Piemonte and prefers lighter white marl soils. There are 7 DOC/Gs in Piemonte and 1 in Liguria where it is called Ormeasco!
DOESN’T LIKE CHILLY MORNINGS!
Dolcetto grapes can sometimes drop to the ground if it gets too cold for them in early Fall mornings! He can suffer from cold soils or too extreme temperature changes.
DOLCETTO AS A WINE
Usually oxygen is wine’s enemy but Dolcetto loves fresh air otherwise he will get stinky in the vats. In other words, Dolcetto is a reductive wine and must be racked multiple times in the cellar. Because it is also e precocious ripener, it is usually the first red to be harvested so the vats must be very clean for the next wines to come in.
Dolcetto is thought to be a low alcohol table wine that is not suitable for aging. But Dolcetto’s slight tannin can make it be quite a surprise when stored well and obviously when it is coming from more structured soils.
Dolcetto has a beautiful deep color ranging from ruby red to purple. Its aromas are usually quite congruent with the taste and include red berry jams, plums and cherry flavors with a slightly bitter almond finish.
Poor Dolcetto used to be more popular a few decades ago but is now in the shadow of Barbera and Nebbiolo. At the grape trading markets Dolcetto used to cost more than Nebbiolo grapes!
Dolcetto used to be so popular that when some neighboring villages were asked if they wanted to enter into the Barolo appellation, they turned it down because it was more important to focus on Dolcetto. Crazy how times change!
Nowadays it has a reputation as a farmer’s wine or a light wine to drink slightly chilled. Often it is called a pizza wine although I think the right Dolcettos can even be great throughout a meal with something heartier like white meats and egg based dishes like quiches.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DOLCETTO?
The Dolcetto Paulin from Gagliardo is a true express of the style.
Hi Vito! I will have to try that Dolcetto again! Thanks for the suggestion!