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.
In a sense, “Alba” is a catch-all phrase, and includes the declassified Nebbiolo wines made in Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the Nebbiolo grown just outside of these regions’ borders. In fact, Nebbiolo d’Alba is a softer, less tannic and more fruit-forward wine ready to drink within just a couple years of bottling. It is a great place to start if you want to begin to understand the grape. Likewise, the even broader category of Langhe Nebbiolo offers approachable and value-driven options as well.
Barbera, planted alongside Nebbiolo in the surrounding hills, and referred to as Barbera d’Alba, takes on a more powerful and concentrated personality compared to its counterparts in Asti.
Dolcetto is ubiquitous here and, known as Dolcetto d'Alba, can be found casually served alongside antipasti on the tables of Alba’s cafes and wine bars.
Not surprisingly, given its location, Alba is recognized as one of Italy’s premiere culinary destinations and is the home of the fall truffle fair, which attracts visitors from worldwide every year.
An easy-drinker with modest acidity, soft fruity flavors—but catchy tannins, 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 table on a casual Tuesday night, accompanying local charcuterie or "apertivo" hour (the canonical Piemontese way to tease your palate before dinner). 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 baking spice.
Dolcetto is a lively, exuberant variety without a ton of complexity in most cases, and as such is best paired with simple, flavorsome foods such as pasta, pizza and simple meats—anything an Italian farmer might consume after a long day in the field.
In most of Piedmont, easy-ripening Dolcetto is relegated to the secondary sites—the best of which are reserved for the king variety: Nebbiolo. However, in the Dogliani zone it is the star of the show, and here it makes a bigger, riper and a more serious style of Dolcetto, many of which can improve with cellar time.