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Dolcetto grapes

The Dolcetto grape is an Italian black grape variety that is grown in the wine capital of Italy, the Piedmont Mountain.

Literally meaning ‘the sweet one’, the grape has little to do with sugar levels as these are high tannic, high acidic grapes.

Believed to be originated in France, these are not hardly grow in the latter country, however, its name could be thought of having been derived from the hills where its cultivated.

Historically, these are an old variety, with records dating back to the medieval times. These were even gifted to Queen Anne of Britain.

Wine grape varieties

So they have historical value attached. In modern times, these grapes have found new homelands in Australia and California, where suitable Mediterranean type weather exists for their ideal growth.

It’s a distant cousin of the Nebbiolo and Barbara but grows at somewhat different conditions than the latter grapes, something that we discuss in this fact sheet.

Some facts considering viticulture and winemaking are also covered here.

Remember to read the Wine Tasting guide…


Origins of Dolcetto

Dolcetto is said to have French origins, but is hardly grown over there. Records suggest that it was brought by Monferrato in the 11th century where since then, the grape found its base at Piedmont, where the cool, dry climate along with its appropriate soils gave it mass popularity in the peninsula.

One advantage of Dolcetto wines are their longer periods of survival that are not enjoyed by its relatives.

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Nebbiolo and Barbara wines have shorter survival periods, that is they generally age quicker as compared to Dolcetto, a fact that has been recorded by several winemakers right from medieval ages

There are however certain contradictory theories to this. One theory points out to their origin around the village of Dogliani in the Piedmont region since an ordinance written in 1593 by the town’s municipality forbade the cultivation of the Dozzettigrape at certain religious festivals.

Other evidences point out to its origin in the Valenza region where a wealthy family “produced Dolcetto wines” in the 1600’s.

Viticulture and winemaking

Dolcetto grapes, like other Piedmont varieties, grow in relatively cooler and drier climates of the foothills.

These cooler areas help the grape to retain acidity and tannins that are essentials to its fruity touch and flavor.

Comparatively earlier ripening, it produces herbaceous grapes if picked prematurely. Dolcetto is not very resistant to pests’ ad bugs, so requires attention towards viticulture hazards and diseases.

The phylloxera crisis had already proved a major damage to Dolcetto vineyards.

Dolcetto, when harvested in ideal conditions, produces bitter, fruity wines that are now being modified by modern winemakers.

Characteristically similar to Nebbiolo as far as the tannins are concerned, the Dolcetto produces drying, bitter tannin content.

If the ripening gets extended, the grape becomes even bitter while retaining some of its fruity nature. Winemakers experiment with their own methods when it comes to controlling acidity and structure.

Fermenting in oak barrels, greatly helps in controlling acidic content while developing further the fruity nature of the produce because of oak elements mixing with the wine.

Longer maceration periods along with oak barrels also give off unique notes and clichés. As already noted above, the Dolcetto wines have longer survival periods that greatly help winemakers maintain their cash flow and stocks.

These cannot be observed for Piedmont grapes like Nebbiolo.

Wine regions

Dolcetto has primarily been an Italian variety. It is still grown predominantly in the Piedmont region and villages like Dogliani and Dianod’Alba where these have been under cultivation since the Middle Ages, although highest volumes come from Liguria as well Alba and Ovada.

Each region has its own percentage of the blend and winemaking procedures associated with it, so Dolcetto wines differ greatly from province to province.

These grapes have also found new lands in California and Australia where cooler areas in addition to dry soils give a nice environment for the grape to be grown.

Pairing up

Dolcetto wines have a bitter, fruity nature to them so they go well with mild risottos, pizzas and pastas.

Spice it up with chickpeas mixed with spinach, spaghetti or even a margarita.

Also works very well with French, Spanish or any Mediterranean dish with mild spices in it.

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Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

I have been online since it all began, with blogging and creating websites. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one of my passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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