At oenopole, our love for the wines of Piemonte is unconditional. We simply cannot get enough! We are in awe with the versatility of Nebbiolo on different terroirs. From the volcanic soils of Boca and Bramaterra, to the limestone-rich vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco, Nebbiolo can express itself in ways that make it the king of grapes, and in turn, the wine of kings (as the piemontese are fond of saying). But there is a grape that lives in the shadow of Nebbiolo that is also capable of making GREAT wines of beguiling perfume, complexity, depth, finesse and longevity. And that my friends, is Dolcetto. It’s a grape that is often used by Barolo and Barbaresco producers to make cheerful, easy-drinking wine that play second or third fiddle to Nebbiolo. An exception to this is the DOCG appellation of Dogliani, where Dolcetto is the king of kings.
Located in southern Piemonte, Dogliani is a commune located about 60 kilometers southeast of Turin. Geologically, it is an extension of the limestone shelf of Monforte d’Alba, and a beautiful series of rolling hills. It is also dotted with hazelnut orchards and plenty of pasture and forest. Dogliani received the DOCG, the highest order of quality in the Italian classification in 2005 (with a DOCG Superiore added in 2011), after over 30 years of being a DOC. It was a recognition for the quality of wine that can be made exclusively with Dolcetto, and it was a long time coming. The region has been famous for its wines since medieval times. Documents dating back to1593 in the archives of Dogliani mention Dolcetto vines, along with an ordinance issued by the Municipality of Dogliani regulating the grape harvest to keep the fruit from being picked too early. It was, in fact, absolutely prohibited to pick berries that were not fully ripe; at risk was the severe penalty of having the entire harvest confiscated. In other words, they did not f$%# around!
Dolcetto is a tricky grape to work with. It has notoriously difficult tannins to deal with (especially in the seeds) and is very sensitive to sudden temperature changes, which is a very frequent occurrence in the hills of Dogliani. It prefers limestone-rich soils found in vineyards that are between 300-600 meters, and especially when they are exposed to the south / southeast. While it has sweet fruit before fermentation (hence the name), it can get very bitter and rustic when over extracted. The acidity can be piercing if yields are too high, so proper vineyard work ensures that balance is achieved between these three components. Historically, Dolcetto in Dogliani has been raised in large casks, but more and more people use stainless steel and cement vats. Experiments with barriques have shown that this grape gets pissed off quite easily, and screams obnoxiously as opposed to being politely assertive.
Dogliani is a small appellation, just under 900 hectares divided into 21 communes with 79 crus, where about 3 million bottles were produced in 2017. It is a region where almost all the wineries are family-run affairs (around 70 wineries) that oversee EVERY aspect of production. We proudly represent three wineries. Allow me, kind reader, to present them.