This week we’re sharing our first Dolcetto, the early ripening, workhorse grape of Northern Italy’s famous Piedmont region. Dolcetto is an incredibly delicious, dark, vivid, aromatic, bold and intense variety that is unique in its own, wild style. It’s early ripening and low acid nature means it is planted on the cooler, north and east facing sites of the rolling, foggy, Piedmont hills. It delivers full, juicy, soft and slurpable wines when made in the right hands.
Because it’s the first time we’ve offered Dolcetto, and we’re not sure when the next will be, we’ve decided on a set of wines that features three of Barolo’s most highly touted and respected wineries, and three of our favourite. Most Barolo producers also make a Dolcetto (and Barbera) as earlier drinking styles, to be enjoyed in the years immediately following vintage, as the Barolo goes through elevage. This also makes them markedly cheaper than Barolo and great little pizza or charcuterie wines.
Dolcetto translates to ‘sweet little one’, which refers to the grapes, but not the wine. The wines here are bone dry, soft and satisfying. The three producers we are sharing with you are the micro cult producer Cavallotto, Massolino and Lucien Sandrone.
Cavallotto Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot 2017
“Cavallotto may very well be the greatest Barolo producer few people have ever heard of, something that continues to mystify me. Truth is, it isn’t just the Barolos here that are impressive, the entry-level wines are every bit as delicious and well-priced…” Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Perhaps the pick of the three, from the Vigna Scot vineyard which is nestled between two of Barolo’s most famous sites, Bricco Boschis and Monprivato. It is made with respect, kicking off with wild ferments, long extractions, six months in traditional large Slovenian oak and a further six months in cement tanks. This is a level of attention not often afforded to Dolcetto.
2017 was warm in Piedmont, and the wines are generally full, but Cavallotto always achieve restraint and finesse in their wines and it keeps this wine in the soft and medium bodied spectrum. There is a nice mix of red and black cherry, liquorice and purple flowers. It is supported with 91 points from Wine Advocate, the upper end for this variety. Delicious and to be enjoyed over the next two years.
Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba 2018
Founded in 1896 and now run by brothers Franco and Roberto Massolino, the winery holds 23 hectares of prized vineyard land around the Barolo sub-zone of Serralunga. This is where this Dolcetto comes from, planted side by side with some of the regions best Barolo. These wines have power, but they also have beauty and elegance, which is on show here. This has some power, so ragu based pasta and hard cheeses will work well. Drink over the next two years.
"One of the most distinctive wines in this range, the 2018 Dolcetto d'Alba is a powerful wine that really shows the grip and intensity of Serralunga in its structural feel. Smoke, iron, incense, dark spice, menthol and licorice add character to a rich, flavorful Dolcetto that will shine at the dinner table. The Dolcetto is often a standout at Massolino, as it is again in 2018." 90 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba 2018
Luciano Sandrone is a charismatic, enigmatic vigneron who works his 27 hectares of vineyard in Piedmont with his three grandchildren. His style is known for his bold, powerful, rich Nebbiolo wines, and this translates through to his Dolcetto. However, this is from the cooler 2018 vintage, which holds the wine in nice check.
“The 2018 Dolcetto d'Alba is elegant, super-refined and all class. The 2018 shows all the richness that is typical of the Sandrone Dolcetto, but in a slenderer style that is actually very appealing. There is plenty of varietal character in the dark fruit, spice and licorice flavors, but the 2018 is more about persistence than size. I loved it.” 90 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media