A grape that could use some love: Dolcetto
June 14th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant - and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Dolcetto has a tough time getting the attention it deserves. Mainly its problem is that it’s grown in Piedmont, in Italy. The other red grapes that are grown in Piedmont? Well, first there’s Nebbiolo, the grape in Barolo, which means Dolcetto is competing against a beverage that’s been known since as the mid-1800s as “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” Not a fair fight.

Then there’s Barbera, which is kind of the Avis to Nebbiolo’s Hertz. It’s number two. It tries harder. Which leaves Dolcetto as, what, the Rent-a-Wreck of grapes?

When I am the emperor of reality, after the bazillion dollars and the private island and the sudden ascent to George Clooney-like savoir faire, I am going to give Dolcetto a little boost. It’s a nifty grape. It makes juicy, lively, affordable and delicious reds, with a flavor that suggests black cherries and a faint, intriguing touch of bitterness. Dolcetto isn’t meant for deep thought but simply for happy drinking. You can chill it lightly. You can serve it with burgers. Hey, you could put it in a CamelBak and take it up a mountain. Dolcetto is fine with that. It would make me think of my Italian grandmother back in Alba and her great homemade agnolotti, except that I’m mostly Irish plus some random Welsh-German craziness and the only thing I remember my grandmother cooking was toast.

So, Dolcetto. Go buy a bottle. Invite some friends over. Get a pizza. Drink the stuff. Don’t think about it—there are plenty of other things think about. Besides, how can you not love a grape whose name translates as “little sweet one?”

5 Dolcettos to Hunt Down

2009 Elio Grasso ($17)
The rich fruit here recalls pomegranate rather than cherry.

2008 Renato Ratti Colombè ($15)
Mild tannins make this a good candidate for a light chill; an ideal picnic red, in other words.

2009 Cavallotto Vigna Scot ($16)
Dark fruit and soft tannins make this a good introduction to the Dolcetto variety.

2009 Borgogno ($20)
An old-school producer making old-school wine: earthy and herbal, rather than fruity and ripe.

2009 Massolino ($20)
Clear, precise flavors define this streamlined red.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Harry

    When Sangiovese is planted in the right places, cultivated and harvested in the right way, and vinified correctly, something magical happens. It's a lot more interesting to taste a series of good Sangiovese wines than it is to, say, taste a series of Cabernets. Cabernet is little influenced by Terroir whilst Sangiovese is strongly influenced by Terroir, with much variation from one area to the next. Check-out these guys if you want to learn more about top quality Sangiovese based wines: https://riseccoli.net

    June 16, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  2. Dick

    Sanguis Jovis, the Latin origin for the varietal name, literally means "blood of Jove" and it is likely that Sangiovese was known by Etruscan winemakers. It is indigenous to Tuscany, whose most famous wine is Chianti Classico.

    June 16, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  3. Tom

    Ahhhhhhh !!! Sangiovese, now we're talking !

    June 16, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  4. Ben

    The name is misleading, b/c Bolcetto is NOT a sweet wine, although it sounds like it's awfully sweet ! Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto ... wow ! Try Sangiovese next time ... the only grape variety for serious Tuscan reds ... very interesting as it is really a "terroir-driven" variety ...

    June 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nick

      Ben, you are soooooo right !!!

      June 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  5. SonomaFan

    Viansa winery in Sonoma makes some really great Dolcetto wines, too.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  6. Rick

    Dolcetto is fantastic with grilled italian sausage and peppers. I've done the research, people.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  7. Les

    mmm ...Dolcetto and a grilled flatbread. sounds like a plan

    June 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  8. Lila

    Never had it before, will give it a try this weekend.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  9. Mitch Hedberg

    I saw this whino, he was eating grapes. I said, "Dude, you have to wait."

    June 14, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  10. Goober Grape

    Grapes! Cool!

    June 14, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Slim

      Too funny with you handle and all.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:39 am |
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