Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dolcetto: A Perfect Anyday Wine

I have something of a secret affection for Dolcetto. It started almost as far back as my love for Barolo. Let’s face it; we can’t drink Barolo everyday, although I know some people who try. Dolcetto, which translates to Little Sweet One, is for the most part, an easy drinking wine from Piedmont, Italy. However, it’s hardly ever sweet and if you know the right producers to look for, than you can find Dolcetto with amazing depth, clarity and nuance. Far from just an easy drinking wine.

Some producers use Dolcetto as a means to turn a quick buck with affordable juice that can be enjoyed and sold while their Barolo ages toward release. Other’s, like many on this list, look at it as it’s own beautiful expression of terroir. Personally, I believe it is the ultimate weeknight spring or summer wine. Dolcetto goes wonderfully with food, especially sausage, lamb, burgers and pizza. And on a very hot day, try one at cellar temperature (55 degrees) for a real treat. I obviously couldn’t include every wine I admire, but what follows are some of the best Dolcetto I’ve had this year.

Marziano Abbona

Most of the Dolcetto you'll find stateside will come from Alba. However, the Dolcetto from Dogliani is another animal all together. In Alba, Dolcetto vines are grown in the poorest sections of Barolo vineyards but in Dogliani, Dolcetto is king. With a focus on quality, optimal vineyard locations and older vines (in this case 47 -60 years old), you'll find much more powerful and even age worthy examples here.

2009 Marziano Abbona Dolcetto di Dogliani Papa Celso - The nose was like a blackberry pie with black fruits, herbs and aromas of toasty savory pate brisse. On the palate, it was juicy with more blackberry and medicinal herbs. The finish was tight with woodsy notes. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Flavio Roddolo

Flavio Roddolo was a new name for me this year and one I will not soon forget. The wines are made "naturally" from vines that are 10 - 70 years old and have not seen chemical treatments in 40 years. Fermention is done using indigenous yeast and there is no filtering before bottling. This results in wines that show true terroir, character and depth with the potential to improve in the cellar.

2010 Flavio Roddolo Dolcetto d’Alba – The nose showed a darker and more seductive side of Dolcetto with black cherry and dark wild berries; floral perfume followed with a hint of Indian spice. On the palate it was velvety soft, but not heavy, with juicy acidity ushering in blackberry fruits and then flexing it’s structural muscle with slightly drying tannin. On the finish an attractive herbal character mixed with wild berries lingered to the close. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

G.D. Vajra

Everything the house of G.D. Vajra touches, seems to turn to gold. At a recent portfolio tasting, I was floored by the consistency across the board. The Baroli are top notch, with their Bricco delle Viole being one of my top scorers each year. Their Dolcetto is no different.

2009 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba - The nose showed focused blackberry fruit with spice, floral notes and wood tones. On the palate, this showed vibrant acidity with more blackberry and hints of citrus, leading to a clean fruity finish that provided those token Dolcetto bitters that I have grown to love. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Elio Grasso

I would be remiss not to mention the excellent Dolcetto made by Elio Grasso. It's made in a slightly rustic style that's not for everyone, but that's okay, because then there will be more for me. However, if you love Dolcetto or want to understand it, then you owe it to yourself to check it out.

2009 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d'Alba dei grassi - The nose showed ripe blackberries, with floral undergrowth and a hint of bouillon. On the palate, it was soft and enveloping in a mid-weight style with blackberries, a hint of sweet spice and a touch rustic with juicy acidity. The finish was pleasant and fresh just as a Dolcetto should be. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Bartolo Mascarello

This is one of those Dolcetto that actually appears to need more time to come around. The house of Bartolo Mascarello needs no introduction to anyone that knows about Barolo. The style is a bit rustic but with intense purity and layers that seem to keep unfurling in the glass. As much as I enjoyed this recently, I will purposely forget a few bottles in the cellar for future enjoyment.

2010 Bartolo Mascarello Dolcetto d'Alba - The nose showed crushed blackberry, floral notes, wild herbs and earth with a rustic twist. On the palate, it was medium bodied with plush blackberry fruits and a bit of tart citrus, which coated the senses and lasted through the long finish. The wine's structure could be felt in the close as hints of tannin clung to the palate. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Domenico Clerico

Domenico Clerico goes for a richer style of Dolcetto yet somehow manages to keep it juicy and fresh. It’s a combination that I find particularly appealing on autumn and winter nights.

2010 Domenico Clerico Dolcetto Visadi Langhe - The nose was robust, showing rich black cherry, blackberry jam, dark chocolate, pepper and hint of herbs. On the palate, intense dark fruits and earthy stone were ushered in by gripping acidity, which blossomed toward the finish with a bitter twinge and hints of tannin. This was racy yet unexpected and atypical of a Dolcetto. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

G.B. Burlotto

Burlotto makes some great Barolo in a traditional style. However, you’re missing out if you don’t try their entry-level wines as well. The Barbera, Freisa, Pelaverga and Dolcetto are all worth the price of admission

2009 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Dolcetto d'Alba - As I sat and sniffed around the edges of this glass, it reminded me of everything I love about Italian wine. The first impression was of blackberry jam and brioche, but with time in the glass, the slightest hint of barnyard and earth added dimensions that I had at first not noticed. It was easy on the palate, with perfect balance and flavors of wild berries and a bit of old wood. Some gravelly tannin was noticeable on the finish but it served to remind me that this wasn't just a forgettable wine from who-knows-where, this was Dolcetto from Piedmont and a truly excellent example at that. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

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