The "Little Sweet One's" Surprise
The Piedmont region in Italy is home to the famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines that you can easily find on your wine retailer's shelf or in any decent Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, most of these wines are consumed years before they reach their optimal taste levels due to the very aggressive tannins that come from their Nebbiolo grapes.
Dolcetto is another type of wine (named after the grape from which it is made) produced in the Piedmont region that does not have long aging requirements to allow it to become an accessible and enjoyable wine to drink.
This grape, whose name means "little sweet one", is planted prolifically in the region. It is the earliest ripening red grape in all of Piedmont. Even though it's not as popular as Barolo or Barbaresco, it is planted in seven different D.O.C. appellations. Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d"Acqui and Dolcetto di Dogliani seem to be the most common found in the United States.
This grape makes a wine with a beautiful deep purple color. That's what first attracted me to it. It's also a fairly low-acid wine, which helps place it into the category of "easy-drinking" or "fun" wines.
Dolcetto is usually drunk young. I have always advised our readers to purchase the youngest vintage available, since the attraction of the wine is its fruit-forward taste. It loses this characteristic the longer it remains in the bottle.
I recently tasted a Dolcetto that made this wine writer eat (or drink) his words! What a surprise!
Luigi Pira, along with his two sons Giampaolo and Romolo, own a winery in Serralunga d'Alba. They produce Barolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto wines from the grapes that they grow. I found a bottle of their Pira 2003 Dolcetto at a local wine store. I wouldn't have normally brought the wine home; it wasn't the youngest vintage available in my area. However, the proprietor suggested that I try it. It had been in his temperature-controlled warehouse since he purchased it. He said I might be surprised.
And I was! The wine had lost its youthful bright purplish color, however it had evolved into a very smooth delicious wine with silky tannins and a fairly complex taste. I'm sure that this "little sweet wine" was a very intense one in its youth.
That's one of the things that I love about wine; just when you think you know what a particular wine should taste like, you come cross something like this Dolcetto.
Beneath every cork lies your next surprise!