La Dolcetta Vita: The Underdog Grape of Piedmont

Dogliani, Italy. 

Dogliani, Italy. 

This week, we take a look at one of the more up and coming wines out of the Piedmont. Dolcetto is starting to have its moment in the sun, along with its much lauded brethren Nebbiolo and Barbera.  Discover the importance of having a nice fresh wine, and just what the Dolcetto grape is capable of. Dolcetto from Piedmont, its'our Featured Wine Sale of the Week. This sale runs through 5/13/18.

When you first step into the wine world, you're tempted to think Barolo or bust.  With my wallet, it was more often bust, but the wine world has been held captive by the idea of reputation. Of course, this isn't to tell you that highly regarded wines of the world aren't worth their fermented grape weight, but to assure you that wine can be enjoyable in all forms.  More often than not, my experience was shaped by bottles that weren't tied to a specific well known vintage or varietal.  

Barolo, of course, is in the Piedmont, and as most know, it is the town and immediate surrounding region where Nebbiolo is grown, Barbaresco falls under the same rules.  It's not wholly uncommon for a region to only produce one grape varietal for their wines, but Piedmont grows far more than its notable Nebbiolo, and we've come across some of their lesser known grapes before like Grignolino and Timorasso.  But Piedmont is often discussed as a triumvirate; Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, in that order of power and prestige.

Barbera has made leaps and bounds in popularity of late, thanks to more substantial plantings after the phylloxera outbreak in Italy, and its malleability-- often aged for a judicious amount of time in oak, resulting in wines that are favorable to the classic American palate- dense fruit, and dense tannins.  

But what about Dolcetto? Though it has tannin, this wine is often seen as lesser, and not as serious as its famed siblings. Surely, the soils play an integral role in what makes Piedmontese Nebbiolo the refined and renowned wine that it is? We thought we'd showcase a quartet of Dolcetto from selected regions and producers to give the "little sweet one" its proper due.

As far as origins go, there are a couple of competing theories, but that comes down to whether you're sentimental to the French or the Italians. Jancis Robinson maintains a theory that the vines came in from France sometime in the 11th century, but Karen MacNeil believes that it originated in the town of Dogliani, where it is still grown today.  

Four distinct wines, three fantastic regions, three great producers. Where does one start? 

Furthest west of all of these producers, just west of Dogliani proper, lies the Azienda Agricola Eraldo Revelli.  The vineyard is owned by Eraldo and his daughter Claudia Revelli and the second and third generation winemakers are fastidious in proving the high quality nature of the Dogliani DOCG. 

Some of Revelli's Vineyards.  Image Source

Some of Revelli's Vineyards. Image Source

Dogliani, after all, is Dolcetto (called duzzet in the local Piemontese dialect) heritage. The Revelli's focus exclusively on the little grape, with a fresh and expressive "rosato" to go along with a handful of single vineyard expressions of Dolcetto in the town of Farigliano.which is host to calcium carbonate rich mudstone, clay, and silex soils.  We're lucky to have their "Autin Lungh", the Revelli single vineyard that is distinctive for both its age (25+ year old vines) and the long growths of the vines ("autin lungh" is Piemontese for long vineyard). After harvest, the wine is elevated in stainless steel vats for a year, keeping the fresh bright fruit that Dolcetto's are known for.

North of Farigliano and Dogliani is where we find our next producer,  Mauro Molino. Molino has been making wine since 1973, but his first true self-made vintage was in 1982 with his Conca Vineyard Barolo from his family plot in La Morra.  Since Dolcetto doesn't have a specified appellation in the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco, Mauro Molino's Dolcetto is either categorized as Langhe Dolcetto, or Dolcetto d'Alba.  In our case, we have the Dolcetto D'Alba, sourced from vineyards in the family holdings in La Morra.  

Last, and certainly most to the east, we have Rocco di Carpeneto, whose vineyards are located in the Ovada DOCG of Piedmont. We've had the pleasure of meeting the two driving forces behind the winery, Lidia and Paolo. Carpeneto a commune located north of Ovada proper, and both of these towns are part of the Alessandria province, which borders Lombardy and is the meeting point of the Apennines and the marine influenced valleys before the Ligurian sea.  Lidia and Paolo themselves are in the midst of the Alto Monferrato, the region that the French claim to have introduced Dolcetto. This climate proves perfect for the "little sweet one", and Lidia and Paolo are dedicated to creating their wines in the most natural way possible, with as little intervention that they can get away with.  We're super thrilled to have two of their beautiful wines, the Aur-Oura and the Losna. In keeping with the classic tradition, Lidia and Paolo Baretta don't use oak on the Aur-Oura, and they choose to condition this wine with cement as well as the more modern stainless steel. 

Cement has been used since the Roman times, and like wood, it's a porous material, allowing interaction between oxygen and the wine, as well as with the cement itself. After sourcing the grapes from their Gaggero vineyard, the wine is spontaneously filtered in stainless steel before being aged in concrete for 13 months. With this wine, the name of the game is fresh, and the Baretta's use very few sulfites- about 9 mg/ L. Fitting then, that Aur-Oura means "just now" in the local Carpense dialect. It's meant to be drunk 2 to 3 years after release, and the wine drinks almost too well.

The Vicario Vineyard, where Losna is sourced.  Image Source

The Vicario Vineyard, where Losna is sourced. Image Source


On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Losna. Sourced from their Vicario vineyard with use of only indigenous wild yeasts and long spontaneous fermentation, the Losna (which means "flash of lightning" in the local Carpenese) sees a minimum of 14 months in mixed use woods, both large tonnes and old barrique. The result is a redolent, rich-fruited Dolcetto, that has more structure and power than the typical Dolcetto. A serious wine made by serious people, and an absolute delight.  

We encourage you to swing by this week to see just what this underdog wine is capable of, and who knows, maybe you'll find your next favorite bottle.


The Fine Print:

Eraldo Revelli "Autin Lungh" Dogliani -  ̶$̶2̶9̶.̶9̶9̶  $27

Mauro Molino Dolcetto D'Alba -  ̶$̶1̶7̶.̶9̶9̶ $16.20

Rocco Di Carpeneto Aur-Oura -  ̶$̶2̶1̶.̶9̶9̶ $20

Rocco Di Carpeneto Losna - $̶2̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ 0$27


Further Reading:

Eraldo Revelli (Fair warning, the page is in Italian, we feel our distributor, Giannoni Selections, gives a nice run down as well.)

Mauro Molino

Rocco di Carpeneto