Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Are you down with Dolcetto?

Original post by JonDerry, Jun 3, 2014.

Thought this was an interesting mailer I'd share with you all. Already forwarded the e-mail to Fox as he is one of the few champions of Dolcetto that I know. This would also fit in well with the "weekday wines" thread. Fox and I agreeing it's a good week day pasta night wine, or even a 1st wine in a flight of Northern Italian Reds.

 

To all Best Winers,

 
Dolcetto. Ever hear of it?
 
For years this was a grape that wallowed in mediocrity. Not even Dolcetto’s very own growers in the Piedmont region of Italy gave the grape its due. Outside of the very special place I’ll be talking about today, it has traditionally been planted at the bottom of the hill, around the corner in the shade, over where the standing water gathers. Catch my drift?
 
But, Dolcetto is in fact the Napoleon Dynamite of Italian wine grapes.  You give it just half a chance and all of a sudden, BOOM! You’re nerd grape is a break-dancing, world-beating superstar.
 
Dogliani gave Dolcetto the chance. And it hasn’t looked back.
 
Some of you may not be familiar with Piedmont’s Dogliani zone, probably because most of you have been trained to not care about Dolcetto. Dogliani shares a common border with the uptown Monforte sub-zone of Barolo, but, unlike its neighbor, Nebbiolo is not the star here.
 
Could Dogliani have planted Nebbiolo? Sure. And would probably make more money doing it. But Dolginai wasn’t having it. Dolcetto has been a staple of this area since at least the 16th century. It loves the mixed soils here and loves the fact that it’s a star, benefiting from all the bets vineyard positions and hillsides that are usually reserved for its pushy brother next door, Nebbiolo.
 
In 2011, Dogliani was finally awarded D.O.C.G. (Italy’s top appellation status) by the Italian government. It was about time.
 
Today we’re rocking a quartet of Dogliani’s finest wines. These three bottlings show the heights to which Dolcetto can climb if given the proper vineyard, love and attention.
 
Also, recognize the intense value in these wines. Because Dolcetto has always received the ‘cold shoulder’, even form its native Piedmont, prices on these wines are almost laughable given the age of vines, vineyard and cellar work required. These wines will increase in price as the Dogliani appellation becomes established. Get them now with a ‘1’ in the price while you still can.
 
Marziano Abbona’s 2012 Papa Celso (92 points Galloni) is from a single vineyard of 50-60+ year-old vines. It is a refined, almost Burgundian spin on the genre. This has been a staple in our house for years.
Galloni writes it is, “…striking in this vintage. Fresh, perfumed and impeccable in its balance, the2012 is one of the most refined versions of this wine I can remember tasting. Layers of deeply perfumed blue/black fruit caress the palate in a wine that captures the essence of Dolcetto from the village of DoglianiWhat a fabulous wine this is!
 
Francesco Boschis is also one of the major ‘players’ in the Dogliani zone. Their 2011 Sori San Martino (92 points as well) also comes from 50+ year-old hillside vines on chalkier soils. Galloni raves, “The purest essence of raspberry jam, wild flowers, crushed rocks and spices wrap around the palate and never let up. The 2011 Dogliani San Martino boasts superb depth and pedigree. Rich and layered, but never heavy, the San Martino is a fabulous example of the heights Dolcetto can achieve when it is planted in the best sites. All the elements fall into place in this drop-dead gorgeous Dogliani from Boschis.
 
The Pecchenino brothers helped turn Dogliani were also instrumental in Dogliani attaining DOCG status with their passion and intense commitment to quality. Their 2012 Dogliani San Luigi (91 points) is a joy. Raised entirely in stainless steel, it emphasizes the fresh, quaffable side of Dogliani. Again, Galloni was in love, noting, The 2012 Dogliani San Luigi is deep, rich, flavorful and beautiful. Dark red cherry, plum, spices, tobacco and menthol all wrap around the palate in an absolutely gorgeous Dolcetto with tons of pure appeal. There is plenty of Dogliani richness, but with less weight than in some of the other wines. The textured finish is especially inviting. Sweet floral notes, a hint of spice and raspberry jam add the final notes of complexity in a drop-dead gorgeous wine.”
 
Last, but certainly not least, we have Gillardi’s classy Dogliani Cursalet 2011. It's not too often a wine in this price range wins the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso, which is essentially Italy's version of the Wine Spectator Top 100, but even more selective.  Gillardi is one of the real aces of the zone, and his wine is a thoughtful, complex, refined version of the genre.  The dark, pinpoint blackberry fruit is evident, as is the elegance we always see from this estate.  
 
Want to get to know Dolcetto? Now’s the time, these are the wines, Dogliani’s the place.

 

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Replies

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 6, 2014.

Tough luck, I could sense the anticipation...but maybe it's for the best. As I alluded to above, Dolcetto doesn't do well with expectations, best treated as just "wine" for those weeknight Italian nights.

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 6, 2014.

Dolcetto and I have unfinished business now....I will be coming back to revisit this one. :)

 

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 6, 2014.

Thanks for the Barbera suggestion - as it turns out, I've picked a Barbera blend to go with the pizza instead.

The wine is an Italian blend of Croatina (making 2 new-to-me grapes today); Barbera; and Shiraz - Tenuta Maggiore Amphorae Clelia. I'm really happy with it and I think it will make for a good if not great pairing. 

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Reply by GregT, Jun 6, 2014.

Jennifer - Barbera is always nice to have around. It's one of the more versatile wines IMO, partly because it comes in several iterations.

As to your Nerello Mascalese - that would be a good pick. The irony is that it looks a little like Pinot Noir when it grows. It's one of the "native" grapes of Sicily that kind of got rediscovered when the Nero d'Avola grape became respectable. Make a Sicilian pie and you're good to go!

But don't let anyone tell you that it's somehow traditional or more natural because it's "local" food and wine pairing. The Sicilians weren't doing much pairing back in the day. They just mixed all the grapes together and made some pretty evil wine. They didn't sit down in the 1500s and decide to develop their cuisine with this new tomato thing and see how it paired with their grapes. In fact, it's only in our lifetimes that there's been much respect for Nerello Mascalese outside of the island.

As far as your comment about the "grapey" note - I have to find out what exactly that is. It's not uncommon in fresh, young wine so my bet is that it has to do with some of the fruit aromatics, but I don't know precisely what molecules are involved and I'm not sure how to find out. I suppose we could look at the molecular make up of various grapes and see what Pinot Noir has most of and then see whether that's common to many wines in their younger stages. But I don't have my own private lab!

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 6, 2014.

It would be interesting to know where the distinctive grapey notes come from, assuming we are talking about the same thing. I don't think it's just the lack of acidity. I find it almost flat, if not a bit sulphuric? I don't know, it's been awhile. 

In my efforts to learn about wine I usually purposely leave just a little in the glass so I can taste it the next day. This is an interesting exercise, but rarely pleasurable! I started doing it to get a feel for what oxidation tastes like. In my experience, it always simplifies and sharpens the profile. Looking back I somehow I felt like the grapey-ness was the opposite, although it's not like I know what reduction tastes like :)

Back to questions that can actually be answered - what does the drinking window tend to be like for Dolcetto? My understanding is that it is narrow.

I did pick up a Dolcetto that I randomly came across earlier today (ironic, I know) - 2008 Sandrone Dolcetta d'Alba. I'd be interested to know if you guys feel like it would already be over the hill? I might just bring it back to the store to return it if that's the case. 

Just checked their website and they put the upper limit on the drinking window at 2012. :( Given that estimate is from the producer, I am guessing that it's not overly conservative. 

 

 

 

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Reply by GregT, Jun 7, 2014.

So I would think a little past but that's just a WAG as I honestly have no clue.

OTOH, if you drink it, you will be the data point.

That's the kind of thing I can't resist. I'd open it just to see how it was.

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 7, 2014.

Sounds like it'd be interesting to try Jen...Sandrone is a good producer. Chances for disappointment may be greater, but Dolcetto's are relatively cheap.

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 7, 2014.

It's true - I really think this is the only Sandrone wine that I can afford right now. Their Barolo is a bit out of my price range.

Thanks for the advice guys, I'll hold onto the wine and check back when I open it. 

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Reply by zufrieden, Jun 7, 2014.

Breviter:  No.  Dolcetto is a silky little wine that has (like everything else) become expensive.  But down on the wine?  Never.

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Reply by Wineogre, Jun 10, 2014.

I have 2 bottles of Sottimano 2012 Dolcetto d'Alba Bric del Salto. The drinking window is approximately 2014 to 2017. I am waiting for our next dinner at an Italian BYO restaurant, but may have to drink one with our next pizza night.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 10, 2014.

Yeah, in my household those soldiers would do their duty and fall over long before the next Italian night at a restaurant. Which is never that far off...  ;-)

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 11, 2014.

Just brought up a couple to the house yesterday, actually the Marziano Abbona and Gillardi from the mailer.

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 15, 2014.

Ideas to reality, this 1st bottle of Marziano Abonna performed very well...appealing nose that needs time to open, the palate leads with it's elements of earth and chalk, though still rather lean in body as you'd expect from Dolcetto. With hours of air, the dark purple fruit emerges...licorice and pomegranate, with lead pencil and mild spice. Graceful, low intensity finish with good length. Definitely a winning Dolcetto...interestingly it was a better match with a burrito than with pizza, though the burrito (bean, cheese, hot sauce) pairing was after an additional hour of air time.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 15, 2014.

So the dolcetto went better with the burrito than a beer would? Anything in the burrito besides beans and cheese?

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 15, 2014.

Much better than beer I'd say...there were a few raw white onions and green chile sauce but nothing else. 

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 15, 2014.

Hmmm. Sounds like a good burrito. I'm a purist when it comes to them. Learned to eat them over picking-field fires as working day lunches with braceros as a kid. Only beans and onions and cheese inside the wrap for me, with good hot sauce (even Pico Pica from San Pedro). Am still horrified by those monster rice-and-salad contraptions that in my personal experience first issued from the Mission District in The City. I'm happy that I was able to turn the proper versions into comfort food for a couple of half-American half-Japanese kids growing up in Tokyo.

Back to the appropriate beverage, I do enjoy them with beer (and milk growing up, of course). Somehow the fruit from the wine makes it a secondary choice for me. The barley and hops work better, with my body chemistry, anyway. Standard eats during surfing outings at the Point in Ventura was burritos from the hole-in-the-wall Johnny's, together with some Sierra Nevada (or the milk fallback on occasion). Then back in the water--how soon depended on how many brewskis.

Will give both barbera and dolcetto a try, though. Barbera perhaps tonight, now that you've got me hungering for the things...  ;-)

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 15, 2014.

That sounds like good experience to draw from...I'll have to revisit with some beers. Sushi, fried chicken, and Korean BBQ are the only beer pairings I've enjoyed til now.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 15, 2015.

Epic Dolcetto had last night, absolutely crushed the Chianti Classico, but it wasn't a fair fight really. Something wrong about the CC, since this was my second bottle. Again found a bit of a gamey note here, over ripe, and not so fresh, which is a deal breaker.

Anyhow, this is a game changing Dolcetto for me. The two neighbors I had over were raving about it as well. Had a very expressive nose, characteristic of the variety and region. Excellent deep, dark berry fruit. Dusty, and finessed tannins, lending some chalkiness and structure to the back end and finish. Really nice lively acidity. The kind of wine you could drink and drink. Opened with mild expectations, but found plenty of magic in this bottle.

Passively stored for about a year in my kitchen closet, which approaches 80 degrees on occasion. Must have helped this one along. At least, it couldn't have hurt. If there's better Dolcetto I'd love to hear about it. Will have to dig through my cellar to hopefully find more, never entered into my inventory when purchased.

 

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Reply by dmcker, May 15, 2015.

Was the Chianti store there, too?

Just think what the Sori San Martino would taste like if stored properly!  ;-)

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Reply by JonDerry, May 15, 2015.

Chianti was also held for about a year, half of that time in my active wine fridge I'd say.

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