Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Worth The Hunt: Dolcetto di Dogliani

An article by: Eric Guido

Dolcetto grapes on the vine, looking good enough
to eat.
There is a lot to love about the wines of Piedmont. It seems that there is something for everyone and a wine to pair with every course of the meal. When I started down this road of wine appreciation, Barolo was one of the first wines I grew to truly adore. I was drawn to its power, which seemed to perfectly coexist with its gracefulness and elegance. As I worked to understand this wine and the grape (Nebbiolo), which it is made from, I also began to read about the people and the place from which it came from. I experimented and fell in love with the cuisine. I think back to large tasting menus I created, centered on Piedmontese edibles. Then there was the wine and the multiple varieties from the region. Almost anyone who knows Barolo will also be familiar with Barbera. It's also not a stretch to see Arneis at your local wine shop. However, one grape that still doesn't receive the attention it deserves is Dolcetto.

A parmigiano polenta topped with wild mushrooms,
is one of my favorite Dolcetto pairings.
Dolcetto was, and in many ways still is, the everyday wine of Piedmont, being grown throughout the region. In many cases Dolcetto fills the vineyard areas where Nebbiolo—or, these day, even Barbera--won't thrive. It can be easily made into a young and remarkably fresh daily drinker. However, there is also a tannic backbone, allowing some producers to create a more serious expression, with short-term ageability. It pairs beautifully with a large array of foods, from starters to entrees of hearty stew, game, red meat, pasta and almost anything with mushrooms. The fruit leans to the darker spectrum with ripe blackberry, hints of herbs, minerals and with a bitter twang, yet doesn't take very well to new oak. The result is a beautiful varietal wine of character. Frankly, it's one of my favorite wines for winter.

The Pecchenino Farm in Dogliani 
However, there is one more factor to keep in mind. As I mentioned, Dolcetto is grown throughout the region, but in many places it sits second or third place to the bigger wines that can demand a higher price. A Dolcetto d'Alba or d'Asti can be great, and there are many that I love, but it wasn't until I began to explore the neighboring areas, some of which specialize in Dolcetto (such as Dogliani), that I truly began to understand what Dolcetto is capable of. In Dogliani, Dolcetto sits second to none. Here, Dolcetto has been produced for hundreds of years, and now by artisinal wine makers willing to give it the attention it deserves, while the vines enjoy the best vineyards and exposures that the region has to offer. The wines are intense and expressive, robust, elegant and often fruit-forward. Dolcetto Dogliani are incredibly food-friendly and made in both easy to understand and intense, deep styles. They are absolutely worth searching for and should fill the shelves of your local wine shop.

Below, you’ll find my tasting notes from a number of the best producers’ current releases from the region. This is in no way the end all list, but it’s a great place to start. I urge you to give them a try and to add these incredible, unique wines to your arsenal--and try paring them with some of your favorite foods. You will not be disappointed.

On to the wines:

2010 Pecchenino Dogliani Bricco Botti – This was explosive on the nose, showing intense ripe blackberry, sandy mineral tones and spice. On the palate, it was rich yet balanced with blackberry, hints of bitters and black licorice. Fine tannin showed itself throughout the finish, giving this even more depth and resulting in a long and satisfying experience. (94 points) avg. cost $36 Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2011 Marziano Abbona Dolcetto di Dogliani Papa Celso – The nose was rich, exciting and somehow autumnal, showing blackberry and spice, violet floral notes and undergrowth. On the palate, tart blackberry and herbs filled the senses in a juicy, soft textured effort. The finish was long and saturating with herb infused black fruits. Beautiful. (92+ pointsavg. cost $23 Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2011 Poderi Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani - 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 pointsavg. cost $18 Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2012 Pecchenino Dolcetto di Dogliani San Luigi – 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 pointsavg. cost $15 Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2011 Gillardi Dolcetto di Dogliani Cursalet - The nose showed blackberry, floral notes, and herbs with a fresh airiness that imparted a lifting note to the blackberry fruit. On the palate, it was rich with juicy dark fruits and a hint of tannic heft, which gripped the senses, ending in a refreshing, dark fruity finish. This was everything I wanted in a Dolcetto. (90 pointsavg. cost $18 Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2011 Francesco Boschis Dolcetto di Dogliani Vigna Dei Prey - The nose showed blackberry jam, herbs, lifting menthol-laced floral notes, and hints of peppery spice. On the palate, it was acid-driven with focused dark fruits and a mineral core. The finish showed drying tannin with tart blackberry and citrus notes. (89 pointsavg. cost $21 Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

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