Dolcetto is a red wine grape best known in the Piedmont region in Italy, with smaller plantings elsewhere. The Dolcetto grape ripens early and produces wines with profoundly deep color and light acidity. Its name means “little sweet one” in Italian, but this is something of a misnomer, as most Dolcetto wines are bone dry and moderately tannic. Common synonyms of Dolcetto include Nera Dolce and Ormeasco.
Its pronounced tannins can be mitigated somewhat by a shorter fermentation time, though they remain a significant characteristic of Dolcetto wine. The name may derive from the wine’s low acidity, when compared with fellow Piedmont grape Barbera the Dolcetto may taste sweet.
Dolcetto wine is rich, round, soft and fruity. It nearly always has a deep ruby and purple color and intriguing aromatics of blackberry, plum and spice. On the palate, Dolcetto has distinctive flavors of licorice, blackberry and almond.
Its spiritual home is Piedmont, but Dolcetto is considered the lowest in a tier of three local red grapes. Many Piedmont producers grow Dolcetto in addition to the more celebrated varieties: Barbera and Nebbiolo. The latter is the grape responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco, two of Italy’s finest wines.
While Dolcetto does not match the prestige of either Barbera or Nebbiolo, it presents numerous benefits to the grower. The grape ripens sooner, is relatively easier to cultivate and by producing Dolcetto, the producer has a product that can be brought to market considerably sooner than wines made from Barbera or Nebbiolo. This early opportunity to sell offers financial security to support winery operations during the long ageing periods required for traditional Barbera or Nebbiolo. Additionally, thanks to their typically accessible price tags, it also offers consumers the opportunity to drink wines from the Piemonte region without breaking the bank.
Dolcetto is also relatively hardy and will ripen on lesser vineyard sites where Barbera and Nebbiolo would struggle. It is susceptible to fungal disease in the vineyard, but otherwise cultivating Dolcetto is a relatively easy prospect for the winegrower. Things get a little trickier in the winery, as steps need to be taken to address the grape’s naturally high tannin.
Dolcetto is grown almost exclusively in Piedmont and covers a few distinct Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) designations. Dolcetto d’Alba and Dolcetto d’Asti produce some of the best quality expressions of the grape, while Dolcetto di Dogliani (or just Dogliani or Dogliani Superiore) produces more age-worthy and complex examples. Outside of Piedmont, Dolcetto is also cultivated in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Searching for the top-rated Dolcetto wines has never been easier, using the online Buying Guide provided by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Our expert tasters offer insights into the best, most popular bottles to help you pick the best option for your next dinner or date night.
Bargetto 2018 Regan Vineyards Dolcetto (Santa Cruz Mountains)Central CoastGrown from a grape native to the family's Italian hometown, this darkly ...Cellar SelectionSee Full Review$35
Sandrone 2018 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontSavory and elegant, this lithe red has inviting aromas of crushed berry, ...See Full Review$25
Whipsmart Wine Company 2019 One Fine Morning Dolcetto (Russian River Valley)SonomaThis wine is whole-cluster fermented via carbonic maceration, providing a lasting freshness ...See Full Review$25
Woodside 2013 Auto Vino Dolcetto (Santa Cruz Mountains)Central CoastThis bottling from the cool-climate Regan Vineyard near Watsonville is a unique ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$40
Elvio Cogno 2018 Mandorlo (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontAromas of black-skinned berry, cooking spice and grilled herb emerge from the ...See Full Review$20
Castello di Neive 2016 Vigna Basarin (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontAromas of violet, black-skinned berry and spice emerge from the glass. The ...See Full Review$19
Tenuta Rocca 2018 Rocca (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontMade with organically farmed grapes, this medium-bodied red opens with aromas of ...See Full Review$28
Voerzio Martini 2018 Rocchettevino (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontBlack-skinned berry, licorice and cooking-spice aromas form the nose on this approachable ...See Full Review$23
G D Vajra 2018 Coste & Fossati (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontFragrant blue-flower, dark-skinned berry and nutmeg aromas lift out of the glass. ...See Full Review$24
Giorgio Carnevale 2018 Dolcetto di Diano d'AlbaPiedmontViolet, tilled soil and cooking-spice aromas lead the nose. The juicy palate ...See Full Review$17
Giovanni Abrigo 2018 Garabei (Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba)PiedmontThis opens with aromas of dark-skinned berry, tilled soil and a whiff ...See Full Review$26
Enrico Serafino 2019 Dosso (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontAromas of black-skinned berry, licorice and baking spice shape the nose. The ...See Full Review$18
Salvano 2017 Fosco (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontThis opens with subdued aromas evoking baking spice and ripe black-skinned fruit. ...See Full Review$30
Cantina Massara Burlotto 2019 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontThis has subdued aromas evoking red-skinned fruit and baking spice. The straightforward ...See Full Review$18
Giordano 2018 Sorì Costa Fiore (Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba)PiedmontSubtle aromas suggesting blue flower and baking spice lead the nose. The ...See Full Review$20
Pertinace 2018 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontEnticing aromas of blue flower, red-skinned berry and white pepper lead the ...See Full Review$15
Abrigo Fratelli 2018 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontAppealing aromas of red-skinned berry and white pepper emerge from the glass. ...See Full Review$18
San Silvestro 2019 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontThis has aromas of red-skinned berry, baking spice and a whiff of ...See Full Review$18
Abrigo Fratelli 2018 Dolcetto d'Alba SuperiorePiedmontSubdued aromas suggesting leather and menthol lead the nose. The brooding palate ...See Full Review$25
Abbazia 2018 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontCooking-spice, leafy underbrush and just-fermented wine aromas lead the nose. The simple ...See Full Review$20
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