It is very popular in the area, with at least seven appellations, both DOCG and DOC, in Piedmont alone, made with 100% Dolcetto; a grape which gives dry red wines (despite the fact that the name suggests otherwise) that are smooth, pleasant and aromatic. Some people think that Dolcetto originated on the Monferrato hills. And it is there that we find it first mentioned, in a comedy set in Asti, in which a maidservant asks, among other things, for a "dossèt di Mongardino” in exchange for her services. Others claim that it comes from Liguria, where it is known by the name of Ormeasco, and that it made its way to Piedmont during the numerous interregional commercial exchanges that took place in the Middle Ages. Regardless of its origin, the production zone of this variety is still limited to Piedmont and the neighbouring regions of Liguria and Valle d'Aosta.
IIn the many interpretations of Dolcetto offered in Piedmont, the wines made with this variety in Alba are definitely the most popular and well-known. Dolcetto d'Alba is made on the right of the River Tanaro, in that part of the area where Piedmont’s famous hazelnuts are grown too. It is a grape which ripens sooner than the others in the area, with harvesting usually taking place towards the middle of September.
The name "Dolcetto" can be slightly misleading, as the Italian word for “sweet” is “dolce”, while this is not a sweet wine. What is sweet however, is the grape. Dolcetto grown in the mountains and high hills tends to produce elegant and delicately aromatic wines, while Dolcetto grown on flat lands tends to be more robust, with a slightly higher alcohol content. Dolcetto is usually a fresh, fruity wine, made for drinking between two and four years after harvesting. Some producers, however, choose to make more concentrated wines, suitable for ageing. The intrinsic characteristics of Dolcetto are modest acidity and slight tannins, and it presents a bouquet of suave aromas, resulting also very smooth on the palate. This smoothness accompanies the intense notes present in the nose and lingers in the taste. The Dolcetto grape variety offers excellent wines which are served every day on Piedmont’s tables, full of pleasant surprises for the taster. Dolcetto produces wines that are structured and complex, even though they don’t age in wood (which doesn’t agree with this grape variety), characterised by outstanding smoothness and sensory wealth and complexity. The colour is usually very deep ruby red, almost impenetrable, with purple nuances often
accentuated by the fact that the wines are generally tasted when very young. The consistency is always very good. In some cases, a modest amount of purple coloured froth forms during pouring. It is an intense and complex wine in the nose, characterised by a fruity and floral bouquet, with immediately recognisable scents of cherries and blackberries, and often plum, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry, but also violet, red rose and cyclamen. It often closes with a bitter note of almond. Ageing in wood, in the few cases in which this occurs, conveys ethereal and spicy tertiary notes, which are pleasant if they don’t alter the natural bouquet of the Dolcetto. As already mentioned, the name Dolcetto shouldn’t make you think that this is a sweet wine. It is dry, not very tannic and of moderate acidity on the palate, persistent with pleasant almond-flavoured nuances. These characteristics help make it a smooth and pleasant wine, very drinkable, persistent and popular with consumers. Consequently, Dolcetto is an excellent wine for drinking throughout a meal. It pairs well with cured meats and dishes such as agnolotti, tagliatelle with ragout, and soups made with pulses. It is also the perfect companion for boiled meats or roast rabbit, as well as mild or medium-mature cheeses.