Piedmont for Paupers
A Dolcetto Duo
Ain’t alliteration great? As my quest for the perfect pasta sauce continues (slow roasting tomatoes is proving to be a revelation), drinking habits too have taken a swerve towards Italy. As Italian wine is plentiful and reasonably priced , I have always found it easily approachable, and generally you get what you pay for. Piedmont, however, has remained a mystery.
Barolo and Barbaresco, both products of the nebbiolo grape, requires extended cellar time. Even ‘modern styled’ versions are tough pieces of meat in their youth and besides, there is little available under $60 a bottle. Barbera is a bit more approachable but it’s high natural acidity makes it a much better drink after 2 to 3 years in the basement. That leaves us with Dolcetto.
Dolcetto is a strange grape, often planted in altitudes and on expositions where Nebbiolo and Barbera won’t consistently ripen. Apparently it is difficult to vinify, requiring shorter fermentations as to not extract too much tannin from it’s rich skin. But when done properly, it is a fragrant and alluring wine. If I had to compare it to Beaujolais, it has a touch more structure, a richer color, less acidity and slightly brighter fruit. Here’s two beautes that went down over the last week.
Dolcetto D’Alba 2003, Sandrone ($24..importation)
The DOC takes it’s name from the the region that it is grown and along with Diano and Dogliani, Alba is said to produce the best Dolcetto. A rich, almost creamy texture and packed with dark , almost black cherries and plums. An interesting mineral quality adds freshness which the frightful heat of ’03 might have taken away. A true pleasure and I can’t wait to try a more classic 2004.
Dolcetto di Dogliani 2002, Poderi di Luigi Einaudi ($24..saq)
One of the few grapes of 2002 that escaped the fall rains, this Dolcetto was less vibrant than the Sandrone but had a touch more complexity. It showed the same signature dark cherry fruit, but with earthy notes of truffle and tobacco, and almost an almond bitterness on the finish. Worked wonders with the spag, smothered in the secret sauce and a sautée of king erigé mushrooms.