Anyone who has ever enjoyed a meal in an Italian restaurant (haven’t we all?) will be familiar with the word ‘dolce’ – the dessert or pudding course. But you might also find a ‘dolce’ on the cheese board: dolcelatte (“sweet milk”). And who of a certain age could ever forget Fellini’s famous film, ‘La Dolce Vita’ (The Sweet Life)? There’s that word again. But there’s a ‘dolce’ for wine lovers to look out for, too: dolcetto – a delicious and under-rated red grape variety native to the Piedmont region in Italy’s north-west.
Mention Piedmont and red wine and most will immediately think of Barolo or Barbaresco and there’s little doubt that the Nebbiolo grape that goes to make these wonderful, powerful, age-worthy wines is Piedmont’s most respected variety. But 2 other high quality red grapes are also widely grown in the region: Barbera, that I blogged about some months ago, and Dolcetto.
Dolcetto – the ‘little sweet one’ takes its name from the small size of its grapes and their lovely flavour, yet, despite the ‘dolce’, the wines made from it are almost invariably dry. And, happily for those who find Italian wine complicated, you’ll usually see the grape name on the label as Dolcetto d’Alba or Dolcetto d’Asti (Alba and Asti being the areas from which the wines come).
Long established producer Ascheri makes 2 Dolcettos from different vineyards (as well as a selection of Barolos, Barberas and other interesting bottles). I opened an example from the Nirane vineyard in Alba recently (Great Western Wine, £13.95): a lovely summer wine; not too heavy – you could even lightly chill it if you wanted and the fresh, clean fruit of this unoaked red shines through – delightful bitter cherries to perfectly cut through rich food. We enjoyed it with a spicy chicken dish but duck or, as the label suggests, fresh water fish would be other good matches.
And, of course, ideal to share with your own ‘sweet one’!