The name ‘Dolcetto’ may evoke images of a sugary or dessert wine, given that it translates to “little sweet one” in Italian. Yet, this grape variety and its resultant wines are anything but saccharine. Bursting with fruit and sporting a pleasantly bitter edge, Dolcetto holds its own in Italy’s revered Piedmont wine region, a territory often dominated by its powerhouse siblings, Nebbiolo and Barbera. Let’s uncork the bottle on Dolcetto, shedding light on its delightful nuances and the wines it so elegantly crafts.
Origins and History
Dolcetto is believed to have originated in the hills of Piedmont, Italy, a region renowned for its viticulture. Historical records mention Dolcetto as early as the 16th century. Over the years, Dolcetto has been affectionately embraced for its approachability both in the vineyard, due to its early-ripening nature, and the glass, given its friendly, fruit-forward palate.
While overshadowed in fame by Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco (both made from Nebbiolo), Dolcetto has carved its niche, particularly in areas like Dogliani and Alba.
Characteristics and Flavor Profile
Dolcetto grapes create wines that are often deep purple in hue, almost ink-like in their intensity. These wines typically have moderate acidity and low tannins, which makes them highly approachable and perfect for early consumption.
When you take a sip, expect to be greeted by a burst of fresh and dried fruits: blackberries, cherries, and prunes are typical. This fruitiness might be layered with hints of licorice, cocoa, and almonds. But what really sets Dolcetto apart is its characteristic bitter finish, a delightful twist that keeps the palate engaged.
Notable Wine Regions for Dolcetto
- Piedmont (Italy): This is the heartland of Dolcetto. Sub-regions like Dolcetto d’Alba, Dolcetto di Dogliani, and Dolcetto d’Asti are particularly noteworthy. Dolcetto di Dogliani is often considered a step above, with some vineyards producing more structured and complex versions of Dolcetto wines.
Dolcetto’s fruit-forward nature with that intriguing bitter edge makes it a versatile food wine. It’s splendid with antipasti, making it a perfect opener for an Italian feast. Its compatibility with tomato-based dishes means it’s a dream with pizza and pasta, especially those with meat sauces.
Considering its Piedmontese roots, try pairing Dolcetto with regional dishes like “tajarin” (thin pasta) with ragù or “agnolotti del plin” (meat-stuffed pasta). Dolcetto also harmonizes beautifully with roasted vegetables, grilled sausages, and hard cheeses.
Dolcetto offers a refreshing diversion from the more austere and age-worthy wines of Piedmont. Its charm lies in its simplicity, immediate pleasure, and the touch of bitterness that graces each sip. In a world that often celebrates the grandiose, Dolcetto is a gentle reminder that joy can be found in the straightforward and the unpretentious.
So, the next time you’re browsing through Italian wines, looking for a friendly companion to your meal, or simply a pleasant sipper for an evening, give Dolcetto a shot. Its inviting character and surprising depth are sure to leave an imprint on your palate. Here’s to Dolcetto, the “little sweet one” that brings so much joy to the table!