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Marchesi di Barolo Dolcetto d'Alba 2010
Setting precedents is a characteristic of Piedmontese winemaking and Marchesi di Barolo, one of the region's premier producers of Barolo, is no exception. In the mid-1800s, Marchesi di Barolo became the first estate in Italy to vinify its red wines in a dry style, a revolutionary concept at the time, but one with enduring and immensely beneficial consequences for the entire Italian wine industry.
In contrast to its noble French counterparts, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, which flourish in various corners of the world, Nebbiolo rarely thrives outside its native Piedmontese habitat. While relatively resistant to frost, damp and mist, it is highly sensitive to terrain, faring best in the Langhe district's chalky, marly soil of maritime origin.
Producing majestic red wines of phenomenal depth, complexity and longevity, Nebbiolo is the earliest red grape variety in Piedmont to bud and the last to ripen. Its name derives from the early morning mists, or "nebbia," that shroud the lower slopes of the Langhe hillsides during the fall harvest period.
The Marchesi di Barolo estate takes pride in the international reputation it has established for its fine Barolo DOCG and two superb single-vineyard crus, Barolo Cannubi DOCG and Barolo Sarmassa DOCG, all made from 100% estate-grown Nebbiolo grapes.
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, 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.