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Fratelli Alessandria Dolcetto d'Alba 2002
Vittore's arrival in 2001, post commercial and oenological studies at Torino University, coincided with a period of positive change. 'More attention to detail' is how Vittore explains the improvements that have taken place over the past decade. No more so than in the vineyard, now a picture of health and source of bright fruit from appropriately low yields. 2001 was also the year that their single Monforte cru 'Gramolere' was released, echoing a regional trend. In the cantina: new static stainless steel tanks, better temperature control, the addition of a few French 500 litre tonneaux, while persevering with 15/20 day wild yeast fermentations & 30 hectolitre botte (slavonian & French oak) ageing have all combined to promote sales of bottled wine and thereby reduce their reliance upon sales to the bulk market; now down to approx 15% of production.
Monvigliero is Verduno's & Alessandria's standout wine site, first bottled as such by the family in 1967 and more recently recognised in the recent classification of Barolo vineyards that now awaits Rome's rubber stamp. The family own 1.3ha out of a total 13. Alessandria's wedge faces plum south, on a near vertical slope, at between 250 - 320 metres, blessed with gleaming white calcareous soils and 30 year old vines. Alessandria's annual average production is a eye-watering 600 cases; invecchiamento kicks off in 20% tonneaux, before spending a further 2 years in 30 hl botte.
Gramolere, their Monforte d'Alba vineyard, is a larger site at 4ha out of a total 20, alongside those of Sandrone and Pira. Its elevation is higher than that of Monvigliero at approx 425 metres above sea level, and it enjoys a particularly warm microclimate created by its altitude, tree sheltered location, a south-western aspect & by even steeper sandy clay soils. From 40 year old vines, the Barolo is stylistically very different to Monvigliero: a broader, denser wine, more mulberry than raspberry on the nose, the palate has a definite succulence, boasting velveteen tannins; so all in all a richer brew. But you may be wondering how a Monforte vineyard's came to be in the hands of a Verduno estate: it's all thanks to Vittore's mother Flavia, nee Manzone.
Beloved for flavorful red wines, Alba is an epicurean’s dream. The historic walled town at its heart is where growers from throughout the Piedmont region would once go to sell their produce to winemakers and négociants following the harvest, but today it is better recognized as one of Italy’s premiere culinary destinations. Sandwiched between Barolo and Barbaresco, the best vineyards, located atop sunny, south-facing hills, are planted with Nebbiolo. A popular entry-level alternative to its pricier neighbors, Nebbiolo d’Alba is softer and less tannic, ready to drink within just a couple years of bottling.
Dolcetto, one of Piedmont’s more easygoing varieties, is commonly grown here, known as Dolecetto d'Alba, and can often be found casually served in carafes on the tables of Alba’s oseterias and trattorias. These light and smooth wines are meant to be drunk young and with gusto while the region’s more serious wines age. Barbera is planted here as well, and takes on a more powerful, structured personality than that of its counterparts in Asti.
An easy-drinker with modest acidity and soft fruity flavors, Dolcetto is often enjoyed in its native Piedmont while more serious Barolos and Barbarescos take their time to age. Here, this is the wine you are most likely to find at the dinner table on a casual Tuesday night. In recent years Dolcetto has found some footing in California, but plantings are fairly limited outside of Italy.
In the Glass
Dolcetto translates to “little sweet one,” and though the wines produced are typically not sweet in terms of residual sugar, they do possess delightfully fruity flavors of red cherry and blueberry, with an almond-like bitterness at the end and occasional hints of chocolate and licorice. While Dolcetto can be tannic, it is relatively low in acidity.
Dolcetto is a lively, exuberant variety without much complexity, and as such is best paired with simple, flavorsome foods such as pasta, pizza, and grilled meats—anything an Italian farmer might consume after a long day in the fields.
In most of Piedmont, easy-ripening Dolcetto is relegated to the less ideal vineyard locations, which are reserved for more finicky Nebbiolo and Barbera. However, in the Dogliani zone it is the star of the show, and here it makes a bigger, riper, and often more serious style of wine.