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The Dolcetto Grape

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About Dolcetto

(Synonyms: Acqui, Barbirono, Bathiolin, Batialin, Beina, Bignola, Bignona, Bignonia, Bignonina, Bourdon Noir, Cassolo, Charbonneau, Charbono, Chasselas Noir, Cote Rouge Merille, Crete de Coq, Debili Rifosk, Dolcedo Rotstieliger, Dolceto, Dolcetta Nera, Dolcetto A Raspe Verde, Dolcetto A Raspo Rosso, Dolcetto Nero, Dolcetto Piemontese, Dolchetto, Dolcino Nero, Dolciut, Dolsin, Dolsin Raro, Dolzin, Dolzino, Dosset, Gros Noir de Montelimar, Gros Plant, Maennlicher Refosco, Mauvais Noir, Montelimar, Monteuse, Montmelian, Mosciolino, Nebbiolo, Nibièu, Nera Dolce, Nibio, Noirin D'Espagne, Nord Du Lot Et Garonne, Ocanette, Orincasca, Ormeasca, Ormeasco, Picot Rouge, Plant de Calarin, Plant de Chapareillan, Plant de Moirans, Plant de Montmelian, Plant de Provence, Plant de Savoie, Plant de Turin, Plant du Roi, Premasto, Primaticcio, Primativo, Primitivo Nero, Promotico, Provençal, Ravanellino, Refork, Refork Debeli, Refork Male, Refosk Debeli, Rotstieliger Dolcedo, Savoyard, Turin, Turino, Uva d'Acqui, Uva d'Acquia, Uva del Monferrato, Uva di Ovada, Uva di Roccagrimalda, Dolsin Nero.)


Dolcetto grapes Map showing the Piedmont region of Italy

Dolcetto is a red-wine grape originating in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, where its cultivation seems at least half a millennium old. Despite the multiplicity of local synonyms shown above, it rarely arrives in the U.S. as anything but simply "Dolcetto".

Throughout most of its native region, Dolcetto is treated as a "second fiddle" wine to the pre-eminent Nebbiolo and Barbera, being used as an early cash source owing to its quicker ripening; such bottlings produce decent but unremarkable wines. Some vintners, however, treat the variety with more respect, and these often produce very good wines. The wines are rarely if ever blended: virtually all Dolcetto bottlings are monovarietal.

The characteristics of Dolcetto are a black-cherry flavor with an almost licorice quality, with some also noting overtones of prune or black pepper, and with a characteristic bitter finish reminiscent of almonds. The wines are quite dry and typically medium-bodied, with middling tannins and a rich texture. It is widely regarded as a "food wine", being thought to be insufficiently fruit-laden to drink on its own; it is especially popular as an accompaniment to the traditional Italian antipasto platter. Dolcetto wines are not usually considered candidates for bottle aging, and drink best within their first two or three years (there are, however, always a few exceptional botlings that breach the rule).

Most monovarietal Dolcetto wines come in two grades: standard and Superiore, the latter requiring a minimum alcohol level of 12.5% (standard can be as low as 11.5%) and a year of bottle age.

There are eight Dolcetto-producing legally defined regions, but three of them are reputed to produce the highest-quality Dolcetto wines; those are:

  • Dolcetto d'Alba (by far the most commonly exported Dolcetto)

  • Dolcetto di Dogliani (biggest, longest-lived Dolcettos)

  • Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba (elegant, with good acidity).

Factoid: In 1700, Barnabà Centurione sent some Dolcetto as a gift to King George II of Great Britain.

Some Descriptions of Dolcetto Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "Dolcetto wines are known for black cherry and licorice with some prune flavors, and a characteristically bitter finish reminiscent of almonds. While the name implies sweetness, the wines are normally dry. The tannic nature of the grape contributes to a characteristic bitter finish. The dark purple skin of Dolcetto grapes have high amounts of anthocyanins, which require only a short maceration time with the skin to produce a dark-colored wine. The amount of skin contact affects the resulting tannin levels in the wine, with most winemakers preferring to limit maceration time to as short as possible."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Dolcetto produces soft-styled, fruity wines with colors varying from deep ruby to purple. They are characterized particularly by their low acidity . . . When it comes to tannins, this soft, fruity, gentle, "sweet" grape variety executes an impressive about-face, delivering the same kind of drying, astringent tannins as Nebbiolo. This does not work in Dolcetto's favor; such tannins take years to polymerize and soften, over which time a Dolcetto wine, with its low acid levels, would deteriorate beyond enjoyment. Happily, the grape's oversupply of tannins can be mitigated by a short, gentle fermentation, avoiding over-extraction, but this naturally has its own downward effect on aromatic intensity. . . In the 1990s and into the early 21st Century, Piedmont's Dolcetto wines have been made increasingly rich, oaky and alcoholic, in response to growing consumer demand for such powerful wine styles. The world wine market has shown little opposition to this decidedly New-World take on Dolcetto. A typical Dolcetto wine is intensely and brightly colored and offers dark, gently spicy aromas with earthy undertones of almonds – or walnuts in more tannic examples. As the wines are not generally designed for long-term cellaring, they should be consumed within three or four years of vintage."

  • Cal-Italia.com

    "Bright reddish-purple in color. Aromas of ripe blackberries and plums are mirrored in the flavors. A direct, Zinfandel-like fruitiness combined with Merlot-like soft tannins make Dolcetto charmingly seductive. Usually approachable and drinkable upon release, Dolcetto can develop further with two to three years cellaring."

  • StarChefs.com

    "Dolcetto tends toward lower acidity, so the wines can be well-balanced at a traditional 14% alcohol. It also leans toward soft, round tannins, a rich, violet color, and lots of dark fruit flavors; some examples have a chunky, almost rustic quality to them, but the best overcome this and can be quite elegant. Dark fruit, a good, mouth-filling texture, and smooth tannins, and drinkable young. There’s lots of call for something this accessible. It makes a good, Italianate alternative for Merlot drinkers, and is generally priced quite well. Dolcetto’s generally pair best with rich foods: risotto, roasted meats, and such. However, its soft tannins make it more flexible than just that."

  • eatocracy

    "I am going to give Dolcetto a little boost. It’s a nifty grape. It makes juicy, lively, affordable and delicious reds, with a flavor that suggests black cherries and a faint, intriguing touch of bitterness. Dolcetto isn’t meant for deep thought but simply for happy drinking."

  • Phoenix New Times

    "There are a couple different ways that winemakers approach Dolcetto. Because the grapes have a pretty dark, tannic skin some winemakers don't let the juice stay in contact with the skins for very long. This method produces a lighter, less tannic version of Dolcetto with less body. Other producers macerate the skins with the juice for longer producing a more extracted style with abundant and plush tannins, which they will often put in new oak to make a more "international" style of wine. In either case the distinguishing characteristic of Dolcetto is its dark purple color and abundant dark fruit flavors. Think plum, blackberry jam, prune with some licorice thrown in and a finishing note of toasted nuts. When you get a Dolcetto that has spent time in new oak it's like having an English breakfast of fruit conserve and toast. I like both styles, I recently had two back to back that were great examples of both styles and a cool study in contrast. Because of its fairly low acid Dolcetto is not the most versatile food pairing wine. But it goes well with heartier meats especially grilled meat. A perfect pairing would be grilled duck breast with some kind of dark fruit sauce. However, drinking the lighter style just on its own is also delicious."

  • Eric Asimov, The New York Times

    "But dolcetto — thankfully, perhaps — has not been favored with similar [to Barbera] efforts at improvement. Instead, it is almost always free of the blemishing of new oak flavors. Left to its own devices, dolcetto offers what naturally makes it so winning: an object lesson in the very Italian push-pull of blending bitter and sweet flavors, along with an earthiness and a rounded, lightly tannic texture."

    (As you can see, opinion divides on both the frequency and desirability of applying "world market" oaking to Dolcetto.)
  • wine.com

    "It produces wines that are soft and fruity and ready-to-drink when released. The Italians like this wine for everyday drinking because of its soft tannins, ripe fruit, and ability to match with a variety of foods. No cellaring required here and prices are usually quite affordable."

  • Wine Enthusiast

    "Dolcetto is the easier, more fruit-forward wine with less aging potential; it is usually consumed within a year or two of release. As opposed to Barbera, it is marked by low acidity. Its food friendliness comes from its natural fruitiness and drying tannins. In fact, these two qualities tend to balance sweeter foods, fragrant foods (with tomato sauces or perfumed herbs, for example) and foods with a fatty component, which is broken down by the tannins. If you are looking for a pairing partner to a steaming pizza pie with mozzarella and basil, or a home cooked plate of pasta, look no further than Dolcetto. A pulpy, purplish appearance and bright aromas of wild berry, blueberry and fresh plum characterize the wine. It is thick and generous in the mouth and that natural heft is pushed along the palate by the polished tannins."

  • Planet of the Grapes (philly.com)

    "Dolcetto is the opposite of Barolo. It’s fresh, fruity, and low alcohol, with a rustic, earthy, sometimes spicy character. It is usually free of oak influences. It’s not a wine you age or brood over. . . While dolcetto is fruity, it’s balanced by light tannins and often a hint of bitter on the finish."

Some Dolcettos to Try

(About this list.)

There is an embarrassment of riches here from which to try to select a few representative specimens. After poring over numerous experts' opinions, we have opted for the specimens shown below, but there seems to be quite a wealth of worthy Dolcetto bottlings out there.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Pecchenino San Luigi Dolcetto di Dogliani, $12 - $20.
    (They also have an upscale "Siri D'Jermu" bottling at $18 to $32.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Bright red-violet in colour with aromas of wild cherry, candied violet and earth. Vibrant strawberry and cherry flavours joined hints of smoked herbs and a bright acidity in the medium body, whilst pink peppercorn and traces of bitter almond comprised the cleansing, moderate finish. Exuberant and friendly, this is an excellent value and fantastic for sipping on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.

    This lovely Dolcetto is delicious, fresh and utterly drinkable. It has a classic fragrance of strawberry, cherry and licorice, all of which carry over to the palate, along with earthy notes and a hint of almond. Made to be enjoyed young.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown, 2009 vintage), 92 points.

    To preserve its freshness and fruitiness, the wine remains in stainless steel and never sees the inside of an oak barrel. The wine is very pretty and fresh, with plenty of traditional varietal character. Brisk and elegant on the palate, with flavors of raspberry, blueberry, licorice and baking spices, its dark fruit flavors open up and become more interesting after a half hour in the glass or decanter.

    A fresh yet energetic expression of blackberry jam, toast (not oak) and hints of wild herbs. On the palate, it showed ripe, juicy blackberry and herbs, which lasted through the mouthwatering finish. This was easy drinking, yet pure beauty in simplicity. (91 points)

    Fragrant scents and hints of blackberries rise from this medium-red wine. The fruit begins softly and grows delightfully to light tannins with tart overtones. It's a food wine, but also extremely easy to sip.

    The San Luigi is Pecchenino’s entry-level Dolcetto wine. It is aged in stainless steel until the spring of the following year. This is a straightforward, medium-bodied Dolcetto with appealing fruit flavors and good acidity.

    The San Luigi is the first to be bottled, to showcase its fresh, jammy fruit.

    San Luigi is the borgata between Monforte d’Alba and Dogliani, where the Pecchenino winery and estate are located. It sits at 390-430 meters a.s.l. Maceration is 10 days and aging occurs in stainless steel. This Dolcetto is the most traditional of Orlando’s Dolcetto and representative of this small area. True Dolcetto essesences of fruitcake, spice, and cherries – a fresh one with a dark finish: black licorice, chalky tannins, and a cinammon/nutmeg/clove character.

    My first Pecchenino....dark grapey berry fruit, dried and sweet....wonderful florals, smooth and creamy, yet good kick of structure with cherry skin acidity and crushed minerals. Simple, yet darker and richer than most Dolcetto.....but sometimes NOT so simple....complexing with dried florals, Good n Plenty Licorice, dark chocolate, wood spice. Very tasty, with good structure....does well with food. I like this! If you can get it in the mid teens...DO IT! (91 pts.)

  • Boroli "Madonna di Como" Dolcetto d'Alba, $13 - $19.

    Some quotations and facts:

    The richness and freshness of this wine together are a compelling combination. The wine’s fruit character is very ripe, and the high alcohol of 14.5% attests to the ripeness of the grapes. But the wine is not at all jammy. The fruit flavors, ripe as they are, remain fresh -- not baked, not cooked, not even over-ripe. . . The juice ferments in stainless steel and the wine has no oak aging. Apart from its aromas and flavors of dark berry and grapey fruit, the wine gives a strong mineral suggestion (ink, lead pencil) and notes of dusty earthiness and black pepper spice. The flavors are more intense than the aroma, but not over-the-top in intensity. The wine is totally dry and is full-bodied, with only a medium amount of tannin and a soft, well-knit texture. Rather than lean of structure, the wine is round. Since when is Dolcetto round?! . . It is drinking beautifully now [2006 vintage drunk in 2009]. Achille Boroli says that he finds this Dolcetto can last ten years. (Another assumption bites the dust.) 91 Points.

    Color is a brilliant purple mahogany. Aromas are full of yeast and grapes. On the palate, this dolcetto is full and round, delivering mounds of yeast and raspberry in the foreground, with plenty of mouth-filling tannins. A complete, moderate-length finish wraps up the package. I must say I keep coming back to this very young, but very intriguing red. ****

    ♣ Wine Spectator (December 15, 2009), 87 points.

    Juicy and bright with tangy blackberry, cherry and spice; racy and nicely structured; clean, balanced and tangy with smooth texture and good length. 88 points.

    For weeknight, after-work drinking, [this wine] is much lighter and brighter [than a Barolo], but will hold its own nicely with a store-bought roast chicken picked up on the way home from work.

    The wines of Italy’s Piedmonte region are excellent food wines for the holiday filled with earthy, wild mushroom and dried fruit notes with balanced acidity and supple tannins. Boroli Madonna Di Como Dolcetto D’Alba, leaps from the glass with dried red cherry, blackberry and toasted oak and leather notes.

    The peppery tannins in this dolcetto lend grip to its ripe blueberry flavors. Fresh and lively.

    [A] well-rounded beautiful wine that can drink now or after a couple years of storage and offers blackberry and spice with violet notes balanced with nice tannins and acid.

  • Marcarini "Fontanazza" Dolcetto d'Alba, $14 - $19.
    (Marcarini also makes an upscale "Boschi di Berri" Dolcetto d'Alba.)
         ($14.44 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    The wine is a fairly deep garnet color. The sensuous nose has cherries, plums, baking spices, white pepper, minerals, and violets. This is barely medium body with soft tannins and great acidity. On the palate the spicy fruit takes center stage with minerals and pepper coming in from the sidelines. Nice length on the mineral driven finish. Not one to keep in the cellar but easy to enjoy over the next year, maybe two. (89 pts)

    My third great Dolcetto was the wine that first made me realize how awesome the humble Dolcetto variety can be when grown under the best conditions. Marcarini is renowned as a traditional producer of well-priced Barolo wines in La Morra, the largest and prettiest village in the Alba/Barolo zone. . . Marcarini's standard Dolcetto d'Alba "Fontanazza" is a good example of a solid, well-made Alba Dolcetto.

    Marcarini Fontanzza 2010 is simply an outstanding representative of everything great about Italian wine – massively food friendly, traditional, terroir-expressive, honest, and above all, delicious. . . Scents of fresh cherries and violets with delicate notes of brown spice that transfer nicely to the palate. Warm in the mouth, sensations of marzipan, cinnamon, and a persistent finish with the most delicately bitter grace note. An affordable, delicious wine that brings a bit of class to everyday life at table.

    Lovely, big, soft aromatic nose which is smoky and earthy. There is plenty of juicy, jammy cherry fruit. On the palate it is rich and mouthfilling, but with tannins and highish acidity that give it a serious edge. Very good.

    The Fontanazza is produced from grapes grown on 25 year-old vines. It is made in the "traditional" manner i.e., the wine is aged in steel tanks and doesn’t see any oak ageing. It’s warm and inviting with a full and velvety texture. The wine has enticing fruity aromas, a pleasant acidity and a delicate, slightly bitter aftertaste.

    This young Dolcetto opens with loads of fresh fruit, but there’s also a slightly musky smell at the back that gives the wine a touch of complexity. It’s an earthy, warm wine with a full and velvety feel. 86 points.

    Marcarini’s least-expensive Dolcetto, robust and earthy, comes from vines growing primarily in the La Morra subregion of Piedmont.

    Licorice, balsamic, strawberry, smoky aromas. Dry, round, ripe palate with light tannins. Olive, licorice, strawberry, earthy flavours. More forwards style with a slightly herbal note on the finish.Licorice, balsamic, strawberry, smoky aromas. Dry, round, ripe palate with light tannins. Olive, licorice, strawberry, earthy flavours. More forwards style with a slightly herbal note on the finish. 86 points.

  • Chionetti "Briccolero" Dolcetto di Dogliani, $15 - $27.
    (They also have a "San Luigi" bottling at about $19.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Quinto Chionetti, a producer in Dogliani who is now [in 2010] 85 years old, is the uncrowned king of Dolcetto wines. On a hillside overlooking the town of Dogliani, Chionetti makes two superb, long-lived Dolcettos, and a little bit of Nebbiolo Langhe (which is quite good!). I mentioned that Dolcetto should be generally consumed in the first three years, when it’s at its best, to enjoy its fresh fruit. But Chionetti’s Dolcettos are an exception: Don't drink them in the first three years; they’re too big, too tannic, and are still closed. I would wait at least five years. Chionetti’s single-vineyard San Luigi Dolcetto is his larger-production wine (about 48,000 bottles), and is slightly more approachable; his single-vineyard Briccolero (about 32,0000 bottles), as dark and as concentrated a Dolcetto as you can find, which can age for up ten years or more, is only slightly pricier than the San Luigi.

    Nose of ripe plums and violets with a hint of sage. Big, warm entry, richly textured mid-palate with bags of energy and concentration, excellent grip in the finish, with a return of plummy fruit and a hint of almonds. 4/5.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (15 December 2012), 90 points.

    This red is ripe, packing blackberry, black cherry, violet and chocolate flavors. Shows plenty of structure to weather a few years in the bottle. Fine length.

    The Briccolero is one of the most deeply flavored Dolcettos produced. It is nearly opaque in color and has wonderful, vibrant fruit aromatics coupled with hints of oak and earth. The wine shows beautiful lush purple fruit upfront with touches of mint and basil that signal the pedigree of this wine. The length of flavor is outstanding as well as the majestic balance that evidences itself through the soft, drippy tannins that flow over the middle and finish, pulling along luscious fruit and nuances of sweet earth.

    Chionetti's 2005 Dolcetto di Dogliani Briccolero presents a lively ruby color along with pretty aromatics. Initially somewhat restrained it took an entire day to open up and show its fruit and big, powerful structure. It is a highly enjoyable Dolcetto and another great effort from Chionetti. 90 Points.

    The Quinto Chionetti label is one of the symbols of the Langa area and it is synonymous of the Dolcetto di Dogliani; it is one of its highest and purest expressions. Quinto, who is [in 2013] eighty-six years old and the soul of the company, perfectly embodies the figure of the laborious winemaker, who is loyal to tradition and is respectful of his land. . . This is a classy wine: its raspberry and blackberry aroma blends well with a rich and fairly tannic taste. The vinification is carried out in steel vats. Yeasts are not used. Filters too are not used (only for slight clearing) and sulfur is used very sparingly.

    Nose of ripe plums and violets with a hint of sage. Big, warm entry, richly textured mid-palate with bags of energy and concentration, excellent grip in the finish, with a return of plummy fruit and a hint of almonds. 18.5pts/20

    The well-known patriarch of the Dolcetto di Dogliani continues unabated in producing exquisitely classic wines which respect tradition without using wood during maturation, with one small exception for the new Langhe Nebbiolo, where old oak is used. And, when he’s not in the vineyard or in the cellar, renowned Quinto prepares a little bit of home-made bread and then gives it to his neighbors, along with some advice aimed at avoiding using the “notorious” barrique barrels in their wine cellars. There are two selections of Dolcetto di Dogliani: the first is the Briccolero which is structured and dense on the palate and the second is San Luigi, slightly less rich but equally pleasant. Dogliani Briccolero '11 – two glasses [Gambero Rosso rating, 2/3]

  • Massolino Dolcetto d'Alba, $15 - $21.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Long, lingering, mouth-filling flavors of fruit, earth and minerals. 3/4 stars.

    Massolino’s Dolcetto d’Alba is fermented and aged in stainless steel. It has a deep red color with dark fruit aromas that follow through to a silky-soft mouth feel with an overlay of soft tannins. Unlike some other Dolcettos, this is a full-bodied wine with good texture and definition. The wine’s ripe cherry and blackberry fruit flavors and light spice notes are perfectly balanced by the wine’s bright acidity. For those not familiar with Dolcetto wines, this well-made, utterly delicious Dolcetto will leave you wondering, "How did I miss this?"

    ♣ Wine Advocate (November 2011), 90 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (March 2014), 90 points.

    The 2012 Dolcetto d’Alba is an extrovert wine with bold intensity and fleshy black fruit. It delivers so much heft and personality upfront, but pulls back in the mouth to reveal polished notes of mineral and cracked white pepper. It concludes with a refined and elegant note that is rare for Dolcetto. This is very enjoyable wine for drinking now.

    The 2010 Dolcetto d’Alba is a fleshy, generous wine endowed with tons of varietal character and incomparable class. Leather, licorice and blueberries linger on the finish. Massolino’s Dolcetto has an extra gear most of the time.

    [T]his Massolino product shone with the most beautiful garnet colour. Because of the pigmentation in the skins of the Dolcetto varietal, it does not take long for the wine to develop a very deep colour during masceration. In most cases, lighter-bodied varietals will not be as dark as the Dolcetto due to that difference in pigmentation. First sniffs revealed a fruity, yeasty, and animalistic bouquet. A closer look exposed hints of black cherry alongside a horse and barnyard aroma, and it led me to visualize what this small place in Italy is all about. . . Dolcetto tends to be on the dry, light to medium-body side of the scale, and this product stood true to that fact. Specifically, this Dolcetto d’Alba was well-balanced, and the oaky edges and soft tannic structure were quite charming. The woodiness was merely hinted at, and its liveliness was in the leathery red berries that burst onto the palate with every beautiful sip. The attractiveness of this product was also in its terroir-driven character.

    Decisive and lean. Powdered cherry, delicate florals of cherry blossoms and violets, and a hint of grape soda. Balanced and mineral rich with a strong acidic snap. Lightly rustic with just a trace of leather and dry earth. Green herbs are predominant, offering thyme and lavender. A confident wine that bucks any perception of an old world/new world identity crisis that has dogged many Italian wines in recent years. This is a summer red that will pair perfectly with fine cheeses, cold antipasto dishes, and even shellfish, if you prefer a red wine instead of a more traditional white pairing.

    Appearance: bright red. Aroma: so much of cherry perfume. Palate: classic sweet but yet sour flavour of cherry across the palate, medium bodied texture, acidity somewhat dominants but clean. Warm and rich aftertaste.

    It's delicious, with lots of chocolate covered cherries, plums, violets, and hints of earth. Smooth, suave, and well balanced. Definitely Dolcetto from a talented maker that has tamed the rusticity of Dolcetto. It's almost like a grown-up version of Dolcetto. If this were $15 somewhere locally I would go grab a couple more bottles. It's really superb and well done.

  • Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani, $16 - $25.
    (Einaudi also bottles has upscale bottlings—see the "Splurge" farther below.)
         ($16.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Of the many bottles we liked, none appealed to us more than the 2010 Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore from Luigi Einaudi, with its superb structure and beautiful balance of sweet, bitter and earthy flavors. . . Excellent combination of fruity, bitter and earthy flavors; great structure and balance. 3/4 stars.

    This is the estate’s entry-level Dolcetto and is produced from a blend of Dolcetto grapes from the estate’s vineyards around the small town of Dogliani. The wine spends eight months maturing in steel tanks and two months in in the bottle prior to release in the summer following the harvest. It is a traditional, easy to drink wine with a rich and fruity bouquet, medium-body and a pleasantly tannic taste with the traditional, slightly bitter note of almond on the finish.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (March 30, 2011), 90 points.

    The second-great Dogliani producer, Poderi Luigi Einaudi, is a much larger winery than Chionetti’s. . . This producer takes its Dolcettos very seriously. I tasted Einaudi's big-production (160,000 bottles) 2009 Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC at the winery (Einaudi uses the DOC appellation on its standard Dolcetto and DOCG for its two premium Dolcettos), and found it to be excellent, much more concentrated and powerful than other Dolcettos.

    The nose was intense and ripe yet wonderfully fresh, showing dark cherry, blackberry, herbal hints, chalk dust and floral undergrowth. On the palate, it was rich with saturating dark fruit spreading across all of the senses, followed by a tug of tannin, which lasted into the finish. It's a food wine, for sure, yet just as satisfying to enjoy a glass on its own. (92 points)

    Wild berries, blueberries and some natural rubber come to the forefront of this bright, young Dolcetto. In the mouth, it offers cooling fruit flavors with a hint of firmness in the form of polished tannins. 87 points.

    This wine is 100% Dolcetto that was sourced from three different vineyards surrounding Dogliani. The vineyards were planted between 1937 and 2001 on generally marly-calcareous soils. The wine was aged for 10 months in stainless steel. The wine began with a floral red nose. In the mouth the red fruits are supported by plenty of acidity, have a smooth texture, and a particular flavor, a sweet nut/herb combination, that is nice. The flavors comes out midpalate before fine tannins develop in the back-end. Fresh and complete! ***

    A standout wine from Italy’s Piemonte (Piedmont) region - the Poderi di Luigi Einaudi 2009 Dolcetto di Dogliani is an elegant, well-made medium bodied wine. The nose is vibrant with an aroma of red fruits and wild berries. The tasting profile is classic Dolcetto, with intense dry fruit flavors and a pleasing, easy to drink tannic structure. The finish is dry and refreshing, leaving your palate in ‘ready-mode’ for the next bite.

  • Anna Maria Abbona "Sorí dij But" Dolcetto di Dogliani, $16 - $22.
    (This winery, not to be confused with Marziano Abbona, makes two other Dolcettos as well.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Vivid purple color, with an open and attractive nose showing assertive and concentrated aromas of flowers and small berries. The palate opens with lovely fruit reminiscent of cherries and plums sprinkled with cacao and white pepper, framed by good acidity, fine tannins and a pleasant tartness at the finish. Very nice Dolcetto.

    Producers in Dogliani take Dolcetto as seriously as Barolo producers take Nebbiolo. Dolcetto is planted in the best locations in Dogliani, which is not the case with Dolcetto where Barolo is made. This gives a certain amount of esteem to this grape when you think about it. Why wouldn't they plant Nebbiolo in Dogliani where they're planting Dolcetto? I've not figured out the answer to that question and, frankly, it doesn't matter. When a bottle of wine drinks as well as this does-and costs what it does-just go with the flow. It shows great color, reddish purple and violet-tinged, aromas of blueberries and tealeaf, and some tea tannins to go with the abundant fruit on the palate.

    ♣ Slow Food (2010 & 2011), 2/3 glasses; special prize 2010 as "best everyday wine".

    Dolcetto 100%. Floral with spoonfuls of strawberry jam. Inherent acidity and tannins (unoaked Dolcetto can communicate its essence and terroir), finishes with pleasant notes of cedar. Made from up to 45 year old vines since 1989.

    The quality of Dolcetto from the village of Dogliani has been skyrocketing in the last few years, and Anna Maria's work is a good example of this. Her oldest vines were planted by her grandfather in the 1930s, and the vineyards are steep and perfectly exposed. More recently she has become a convert to the doctrine of low yields, and she has joined the elite of Dogliani. First, understand that producers in Dogliani take Dolcetto as seriously as producers in Barolo take Nebbiolo. Dolcetto is planted in all the best sites and vinified with great care, which is not always the case with Dolcetto d’Alba. Second, understand that Dolcetto is not the Beaujolais of Italy. The best modern Dolcettos have inky color, lashings of blueberry fruit, and tannins to match. In fact, the concentration of top Dogliani wines has reached a point where the tannins need to be carefully managed to be pleasant. There are three techniques that help with this—picking for phenolic ripeness, micro-oxygenation, and oak; Anna Maria is using all three. . . This is classic Dogliani Dolcetto, fermented and aged in stainless steel. It shows great color, reddish purple and violet-tinged, aromas of blueberries and tealeaf, and some tea tannins to go with the abundant fruit on the palate. Dolcetto is one of the best table wines I know; so grill some lamb chops, pour everyone a glass, and all will be right with the world.

    Deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim, almost poured ink. The bouquet is fairly intense, with violets and some bitter accents mingling with moderate fruit and some jammy tartness. On the palate it's medium bodied, with moderate fruit supported by bitter accents and sour acidity, while the tannins are smoother than I would have expected in a young Dolcetto, and flow into a clean bitter finish. Its direct, and I'd have liked more richness on both nose and palate than I found. It will drink well with simple grilled meats and such. 1 star

    The "Sori DIJ BUT" is the classic trick of Dogliani: made by assembling different vineyards, with exhibitions and different ages. The nose is very fruity with hints of plum and raspberry, on the palate is intense and full, soft with good tannin, a slightly almond. It is vinified and aged in steel, bottled in the summer following the harvest and eaten in two/three years.

    Deep and dark, with baked cherry and a hint of menthol on the finish.

    Our next bottle, the 2006 Anna Maria Abbona Dolcetto Di Dogliani Sori Dij But ($50 [restaurant price]), was a lighter, fruity wine though with food structure and decent complexity. An easy drinking wine sure to appeal to most wine drinkers.

For a Splurge

One of the premier producers of Dolcetto is Luigi Einaudi, and if you want a splurge, you could do worse than to go for his single-vineyard "Vigna Tecc" Dogliani Superiore ($22 - $33).

     ($26.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

Or, for a yet further step up, try Einaudi's other single-vineyard Dolcetto, "I Filari", at about $33 (though it seems hard to find in the U.S.).

Or as an alternative to those, one could try Marcarini's "Boschi di Berri" Dolcetto d'Alba (c. $24 - $25).

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