When wine lovers speak of the great wines of Piedmont, they often refer to Barolo and Barbaresco, but I consider Dolcetto to be among them, too. Although it does not offer the same amount of complexity or ageability as the “King and Queen” of northern Italian wine, it provides unrivaled value, incredible versatility, and more regular enjoyment. In Native Wine Grapes of Italy, Ian d’Agata writes that the country’s second president, Luigi Einaudi, loved the variety so much that he “planted thousands of Dolcetto vines on his Piedmontese estate.” More recently, it has diminished in surface area in the region. This decrease is likely due both to the rising popularity and market value of Nebbiolo and to the difficulty of growing Dolcetto—its buds are fragile and the grapes grow low to the ground, requiring grueling work from the vigneron. Neither of those issues has stopped fourth-generation grower Paolo Olivero, who makes Dolcetto from one of the grape’s great crus, Diano d’Alba. With its slightly higher elevation, this region is known for producing Dolcetti that are among the most perfumed and fruit-driven. The 2018 Sörì Cristina features supple, pretty notes of freshly crushed blackberries and raspberries, and possesses enough structure to pair perfectly with roast fowl.
The Olivero family has produced wine on their property for four generations, but it wasn’t until after Paolo finished oenology school and worked for another domaine in Diano d’Alba that he returned home to lead the family domaine and bottle their wines. Paolo’s Sorì Cristina vineyard produces a soft Dolcetto, with good structure and an elegant balance. The Sorì Santa Lucia vineyard produces a more structured Dolcetto than the Cristina and can be cellared for three to five years. Paolo’s Dolcetto is delicious, straightforward, and an honest ambassador of this workhouse grape that the Piemontese drink daily with their robust cuisine.
Kermit’s love affair with the great reds of Piemonte dates back to the early days of his career: the very first container he imported from Italy, in fact, featured legendary 1971 and 1974 Barolos from Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Regular visits since then have seen our portfolio grow to now nine Piemontesi estates, with a strong focus on the rolling hills of the Langhe.
Nebbiolo rules these majestic, vine-covered marl slopes, giving Italy’s most mystifyingly complex, nuanced, and age-worthy reds. When crafted via traditional production methods—long macerations and extensive aging in enormous oak botti—the powerful, yet incredibly refined Barolos and Barbarescos provide haunting aromatics of tar, raspberry, incense, tea, roses, and more. At times austere in their youth but well worth the wait, they pair beautifully with the hearty local cuisine starring veal in many forms, braised beef, pastas like tajarin and agnolotti, and of course, Alba’s famous white truffles.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Piemonte’s climate is continental, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Nebbiolo is only part of the story here: juicy, fruity Barberas and Dolcettos represent the bread and butter throughout the region, and other native grapes like Freisa, Croatina, and the white Arneis are also noteworthy. Value abounds in the Monferrato, while Alto Piemonte also has its share of thrills to provide.
Every corner of Piemonte is rich with tradition, especially when wine is concerned. It’s no wonder we have been singing the region’s praises for over forty years.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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