Dolcetto is a black Italian wine grape grown in Piedmont in northwest Italy. Dolcetto ironically translates to “little sweet one,” but it is unlikely that this name originated from the grape’s sugar levels – especially because the wines produced with Dolcetto are very often dry. It’s possible this name came from the hills where the grape was cultivated.
Dolcetto is often tannic and fruity with medium to low acidity. Dolcetto is sometimes made as an “early to market” wine while other late-ripening grapes in the region, such as Nebbiolo and Barbera, mature. Dolcetto does well in cooler, higher altitudes where other grapes might struggle to ripen. These cool temperatures also help the grapes retain acidity.
Douce Noire in Eastern France and Charbono in California were falsely termed as synonyms to Dolcetto, but DNA fingerprinting has since shown that those are different types of vines. However, confusion still stands with regions that call real Dolcetto vines by these other terms. Dolcetto vines brought to California by Italian expatriates flourished, and the grape has also been successful in Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Australia.
Dolcetto wines have aromas of black cherry, licorice, and prune, with a characteristically bitter finish reminiscent of almonds. This nutty, bitter finish is in large part due to the tannic nature of the grapes. Dark-colored wine is produced even with a short maceration time due to the high number of pigmented compounds in this grape. Winemakers often try to limit maceration in order to extract lower levels of bitter and astringent tannins while keeping an optimal deep purple color. Black plum and dark fruit notes balance cocoa, black pepper, and violet aromas in Dolcetto. Dolcetto also has gentle spice aromas and earth undertones. Its deep and intense color, light acidity, and ample tannins make it an intriguing wine to explore.
Keep your eyes open for this varietal featured in our Wine Clubs!
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