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Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani 2000
A prestigious and distinctive region for red wines in northwestern Italy, Piedmont is responsible for some of the country’s longest-lived and most sought-after wines. Set with a backdrop of the visually stunning Alps, its most prized vines are planted at higher altitudes on the warmer, south-facing slopes where sunlight exposure is maximized. The climate is continental, with cold winters and hot, muggy summers. Despite the rain shadow effect of the Alps, precipitation takes place year-round, and a cooling fog provides moisture that aids in the complete phenolic ripening of its grapes.
Easy-going Barbera is the most planted grape in Piedmont, beloved for its trademark high acidity, low tannin, and juicy red fruit. However, the most prized variety is Nebbiolo, named for the region’s omnipresent fog (“nebbia” in Italian). This grape is responsible for the exalted wines of Barbaresco and Barolo, known for their ageability, firm tannins and hallmark aromas of tar and roses. Nebbiolo wines, despite their pale hue, pack a pleasing punch of flavor and structure, and the best examples can require about a decade’s wait before they become approachable. Barbaresco tends to be more elegant in style while Barolo is more powerful. Across the Tanaro River in Roero and the farther north regions of Gattinara and Ghemme, provide more affordable and imminently drinkable Nebbiolo.
Dolcetto is Piedmont’s other important red grape, ready to drink within a couple of years of release. White wines are less important here but can be high in quality, and include Arneis, Gavi, Timorasso and the sweet, charming Moscato d'Asti made from Muscat.
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.