Just miles away from the legendary wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco is a little-known wine territory only just beginning to gain the attention it deserves—Dogliani. Characterized by steep hills and panoramic mountain views, this up-and-coming Piedmontese is planted to Dolcetto, a ruby-colored variety with bright fruit aromas and loads of personality.
Dolcetto is capable of rendering intense and impressive expressions. It’s robust, elegant and fruit forward, with natural spice flavors and fleshy tannins. Its name, which translates as “little sweet,” also reflects Dolcetto’s slight sweetness—a characteristic not often found in the astringent Nebbiolo used to make Piedmont’s most celebrated reds.
Despite its name, however, don’t mistake Dolcetto for a variety that results in sweet wine. In fact, it makes some of the most food-friendly wines in Italy, great for pairing with meat and pasta dishes with wild mushroom or truffle-based sauces.
“Dolcetto is a very fragile and sensitive variety,” says Francesco Boschis, vice president of the Consorzio Bottega del Vino Dolcetto di Dogliani. “It’s capricious and demands full devotion and attention in both the vineyard and the cellar.”
Dogliani, ranging from 820–2,297 feet above sea level, includes some of the highest and consequently coolest vineyard sites in the Langhe. It’s favorably positioned on a sliver of land located between the Italian Alps and northern plains—a well-ventilated area, with temperatures that vary greatly.
“The wines can be drunk young or aged in the cellar,” says Orlando Pecchenino, who makes several vineyard-designated Dolcettos under the Pecchenino label. “Our land awards us this great opportunity,” he says.
To stress the importance of territorial identity, the designation Dogliani was created to replace Dolcetto Dogliani Superiore Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). A DOC appellation continues to be called Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC.
“It’s time people recognize the name of Dolcetto’s territory of origin, Dogliani,” says producer Anna Maria Abbona. “What truly distinguishes our territory is a sense of tradition, family and authenticity.”
91 Anna Maria Abbona 2009 Maioli Dolcetto (Dogliani). Maioli is an incredibly soft and velvety Dolcetto, with loads of chocolate, spice and black cherry flavors, and a beautiful dark ruby color. The wine is bold, well extracted and soft on the finish. Masciarelli Wine Co. –M.L.
abv: 14.5% Price: $25
91 Pecchenino 2009 Sirì d’Jermu Dolcetto (Dogliani). This single-vineyard expression of Dolcetto opens with enormous purity and intensity. The aromas recall blackberry, spice, leather, tobacco and Spanish cedar. Sirì d’Jermu is rich, well structured and longlasting on the finish. Vias Imports. –M.L.
abv: 14% Price: $NA
91 Poderi Luigi Einaudi 2009 Vigna Tecc Dolcetto (Dogliani). Here’s an elegant and age-worthy Dolcetto that shows drying firmness in its tannins and bright aromas of wild berry, tobacco and spice. Pair this wine with roast pork or lamb. Empson (USA) Ltd. –M.L.
abv: 14% Price: $25
90 Francesco Boschis 2010 Pianezzo (Dolcetto di Dogliani). Pianezzo is a beautiful expression of Dolcetto that has a dark, inky color. Rich aromas of black fruit, spice, leather and soft chocolate compose the bouquet; and the mouthfeel is smooth and luscious. Michael Skurnik Wines. Editors’ Choice. –M.L.
abv: 13% Price: $17
89 San Fereolo 2010 Valdibà (Dolcetto di Dogliani). This well-priced Dolcetto opens with pulpy red fruit and cherry spread over a dark, velvety consistency. There’s a spicy touch of crushed white pepper at the end that underscores the wine’s overall structure and freshness. Ideal Wine and Spirits Co. Inc. –M.L.
abv: 13.5% Price: $16