This week we look the grape that lives in the shadows of the great Italian varietals of Nebbiolo and Barbera – Dolcetto. Dolcetto is known as the “little sweet one” although it generally produces dry wines that are more tannic with low to moderate alcohol levels. These wines are typically meant to be consumed young and are usually made to generate revenue while the Nebbiolo and Barbera are maturing in barrel and bottle.

Dolcetto is widely planted in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. It is most know to come from the towns of Dogliani and Diano d’Alba as well as Alba and Ovada. There are several DOCs in Italy where Dolcetto is 100 percent required to carry the name, including; Dolcetto d’Acui, Dolcetto d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Asti, Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi, Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Ovada and Langhe Dolcetto. All of these DOC’s have two levels of quality (standard and superior) except the Langhe Dolcetto. In addition, there are several other DOCs where Dolcetto is produced.

There are also several other Italian DOCs where Dolcetto is produced: Riviera Ligure di Ponente Ormeasco (95 percent minimum of the varietal); Colli Tortonesi Dolcetto, Monferrato Dolcetto and Pineronese Dolcetto (85 percent minimum of the varietal); Valsusa (60 percent minimum of the varietal); Golfo De Tigullio (20 – 70 percent of the varietal); Lago di Corbara and Rosso Orvietano (up to 20 percent of the varietal).

Outside of Italy, Dolcetto has been known as Douce Noire in Savoie and Charbono in California. However, it has been proven by DNA fingerprinting that these two grapes are indeed not actually Dolcetto, but rather two different vines. In spite of this confirmation, some plantings of true Dolcetto vines still retain the local synonyms in the two areas.

The wines made by Dolcetto tend to have intense, bright color with aromas of dark fruit such as black cherry, licorice and plum and flavors of prune, dark berries and bitter almonds or walnuts. With some producers now tending to new world characteristics of more alcohol and oak with richer flavors to please more palates.

Giocomo Borgogno & Figli Dolcetto d’Alba 2010

Appearance: bright reddish-purple in color

Aroma: aromas of black cherry and currant

Flavors: dark berry flavors carry through with a touch of tannins balancing out the alcohol

Finishing Notes: polished and integrated with earthy dark fruit and berry flavors that carry to a long finish with supple tannins

Perfect Pairing: We would pair this old world style Dolcetto with a portabella mushroom risotto with white truffles to bring out the earthy tones of the wine along with ancho spice rubbed pork tenderloin with a current glaze to match with the dark berry and fruit tones.

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett, who are both longtime residents of Door County. Jody is the owner operator of Chop Restaurant in the Sister Bay Country Walk Shops and Karl is the General Manager and Executive Chef of the Mission Grille in Sister Bay. They have both been awarded the first level of certification from the Court of the Master Sommeliers.