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.
Whipsmart Wine Company 2020 One Fine Morning Proper Carbonic Dolcetto (Russian River Valley)SonomaThis wine was 100% whole-cluster fermented via carbonic maceration. Fruity and dry, ...See Full Review$22
Via Romano 2019 Dolcetto (Shenandoah Valley (CA))Sierra FoothillsThis well-rounded, smooth and plummy wine is easy to sip, broad in ...See Full Review$40
Via Romano 2018 Dolcetto (Shenandoah Valley (CA))Sierra FoothillsFresh, concentrated fruits like black cherries and blueberries accompany light accents of ...See Full Review$40
Meeker 2020 Hone #3-Hooky Dolcetto (Mendocino)Mendocino CountyVery fresh and overflowing with fruit flavors, this medium-bodied wine made by ...See Full Review$35
Prima Materia 2019 DolcettoLake CountyThis flavorful, smoky and moderately tannic wine offers black-pepper, bell-pepper and charred ...See Full Review$28
Mengler Family Wines 2018 Alegria Vineyards Dolcetto (Russian River Valley)SonomaAged in American oak, 30% of it new, this Cal-Ital tastes of ...See Full Review$45
Spangler 2016 Khayam's Block Dolcetto (Umpqua Valley)Southern OregonDark and aromatic, this is a svelte mix of plum, mocha, briary ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$35
Acorn 2017 Alegria Vineyards Dolcetto (Russian River Valley)SonomaA rarity for the appellation, this includes 3% each of Barbera and ...See Full Review$42
Melrose 2016 Dolcetto (Umpqua Valley)Southern OregonThis sharp-toned wine has a flavor mix of berries and dried leaves, ...See Full Review$28
Delfino 2018 Dolcetto (Umpqua Valley)Southern OregonSurprising richness is apparent in this forward, fruity wine. This is muscular, ...See Full Review$35
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
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
Sandrone 2018 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontSavory and elegant, this lithe red has inviting aromas of crushed berry, ...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
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