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.
Maryhill 2015 Vineyard Series Art Den Hoed Vineyard Painted Hills Dolcetto (Columbia Valley (WA))Columbia ValleyThe aromas offer enchanting notes of red cherry, tar, raspberry, herb, cranberry, ...See Full Review$46
Unico Zelo 2016 Cherry Fields Dolcetto (Clare Valley)South AustraliaThis wine is rustic and just a touch funky. Bright, crunchy red ...See Full Review$30
Klinker Brick 2015 Dolcetto (Lodi)Central ValleyLavish dark-fruit flavors meld with moderately spicy oak nuances for a rich, ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$25
Scheid 2016 Riverview Vineyard Estate Grown Dolcetto (Monterey)Central CoastWhile plum-driven on the nose, aromas of carnation and hibiscus round out ...See Full Review$34
Chris James 2016 Red (Yamhill-Carlton)Willamette ValleyThis is a blend of one-third Lagrein and two-thirds Dolcetto from the ...See Full Review$26
Spangler 2015 Khayam's Block Dolcetto (Umpqua Valley)Southern OregonThis is a strong heavy wine, with dense blueberry fruit bordering on ...See Full Review$32
Bryn Mawr Vineyards 2016 Dolcetto (Eola-Amity Hills)Willamette ValleyThis exciting wine points the way for this Italian variety in the ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$35
Ponzi 2015 Dolcetto (Chehalem Mountains)Willamette ValleyThis is the second varietal offering in Ponzi's Italian series, a sibling ...See Full Review$30
Viola 2016 Allegre Vineyard Dolcetto (Columbia Gorge (OR))Oregon OtherThis is bound to be controversial, because it incorporates a certain leathery ...See Full Review$25
Delfino 2015 Dolcetto (Umpqua Valley)Southern OregonDolcetto has good potential in the Umpqua, though overall production remains quite ...See Full Review$27
Mengler Family Wines 2014 Alegria Vineyards Dolcetto (Russian River Valley)SonomaThis light-drinking wine is exotic for this neck of the woods, soft ...See Full Review$38
Wind Rose 2014 Dolcetto (Yakima Valley)Columbia ValleyThis wine was aged in stainless steel—a rarity for a red in ...See Full Review$20
Klinker Brick 2014 Dolcetto (Lodi)Central ValleyDramatic in aromas and opulent in flavors, this rich and gorgeously fruity ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$25
La Folia Winery 2014 Dolcetto (Sierra Foothills)Sierra FoothillsThis tiny maverick winery is doing wonderful things. This well-structured firmly textured ...See Full Review$30
Enotria 2013 Dolcetto (Mendocino County)Mendocino CountyThis exuberant and friendly wine has delicious and very pure straightforward fruit ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$19
Ca' Del Grevino 2014 Estate Vineyards Dolcetto (Santa Maria Valley)Central CoastFrom a grape that's rarely planted in the Central Coast, this bottling ...See Full Review$100
Grevino 2014 Estate Vineyards Dolcetto (Santa Maria Valley)Central CoastRipe black cherry, roasted meat, wet stone and caramel notes show on ...See Full Review$75
Marcarini 2015 Boschi di Berri (Dolcetto d'Alba)PiedmontOne of Italy's most fascinating wines, this rare red is made from ...See Full Review$28
Walla Walla Vintners 2015 Dwelley Vineyard Dolcetto (Walla Walla Valley (WA))Columbia ValleyThis wine's bright, fruit-forward raspberry, herb, cocoa and barrel spice aromas are ...See Full Review$29
Veglio 2015 Dolcetto d'AlbaPiedmontBlack-skinned fruit, underbrush and game aromas lead the nose of this wine. ...See Full Review$16
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