Last night I was relaxing with some friends and decided the occasion called for a one of my favourite go-to grapes, Dolcetto. It’s a delicious and not often heard of red wine grape from Piedmont, in the north west of Italy. It means “little sweet one” but rarely is it sweet – in fact, it’s often a pain to grow for winemakers as it’s prone to frost and is tough to ripen, often leading to tough and bitterly tannic wines. But there are lots of good winemakers out there, who are putting a lot of love into this grape, and I am happy they are.
After rummaging through the cellar, I settled on a 2007 Dolcetto d’Alba from Vietti, a family-run winery in Piedmont that dates back to about 1919. Probably most famously known for its Barolos, Vietti also produces some other Piedmont varietals like Barbara, Barbaresco and the little known white grape, Arneis.
This brooding Dolcetto was a dark purple-black and took about 30 minutes to start opening up – not at all like the previous Dolcettos I’ve enjoyed from other producers, which are usually bright cherry red and filled with flavours of chocolate covered cherries and are ready to go as soon as the cork is pulled. That’s not to say this bottle was unenjoyable, it was quiet good – filled with dark raspberry and cherry, with a little bit of earthiness and a slight hint of that chocolate I’m so used to. I was intrigued that the wine I often associate with easy going simplicity was offering up complexity, character and a little bit of attitude.
My friends – who had never heard of Dolcetto and was therefore a smidge unsure of it, ended up enjoying it very much; paired with a cheese plate of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar from PEI, Riopelle out of Quebec, and Blue Haze – a cow’s milk blue that’s smoked in Toronto, the Dolcetto held up quite nicely and was especially good paired with the blue, as the smoky pungent flavours of the cheese intensified the black berry fruit of the wine.
While I often pick Dolcetto because it’s a fun wine that doesn’t require a ton of focus or thought, this bottle from Vietti showed me it can also be an all-grown-up, sophisticated companion, that can hold its own with the big boys. And that is very impressive, indeed.