If you were to ask a roomful of wine drinkers to dash off a quick list of the most common terroir-sensitive grapes, you’d likely, and quite correctly get names like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo and Riesling, but for me, to that list you can also add Dolcetto. As I went into in more detail in an earlier post, Dolcetto is cultivated in many different zones in northwestern Italy, from Alpine Valle d’Aosta, across the variety’s broad heartland in Piemonte, all the way down to the rocky, sunny Mediterranean vineyards of Liguria.
This fairly extensive range is a testament to Dolcetto’s ability to roll with the climatic punches as it were, but many if not most classically terroir-sensitive grapes (including all three examples above) are famous fusspots, but the stout and stalwart Dolcetto, while perhaps not in the league of the three aforementioned giants in term of ultimate quality and expressiveness, has more than a few stories to tell of its own account.
The story told by Dolcetto di Dogliani in particular is nearly always a dark one. This zone in southern Piedmont near the border with Liguria, consistently produces the burliest, most alcoholic, and darkest-fruited Dolcettos anywhere, often deeply purple-black in color, full of brooding, dense aromas…
I served this little lip stainer with a risotto of roasted butternut squash, carrot, red pepper, and rosemary, and then a main course of pork tenderloin stuffed with buttered chunks of shallots and crumbled thyme, oven roasted in a reduction of red wine, prunes, apricots, and bay leaf, sliced and laid down next to some creamy polenta.
Gillardi Dolcetto di Dogliani “Cursalet” 2009
Very deep and saturated blackish purple color with garnet at the rim. Sultry and slightly brooding nose of smokey fruit leather, black plum, blackberry, tomato paste, dried herbs, and hint of white truffles. The palate is deep and muscular with stiff but smooth, fine tannins, and a chunky texture studded with flavors of roasted walnut, juniper berries, fresh blood, mocha, and sweet black currant fruit. The finish is warm with dry, echoing flavors of chocolate cherry cordial.