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‘It’s the perfect wine to sip when you’re tired, at the end of a long day,’ said Ian D’Agata of Piedmont’s Dolcetto. ‘It’s perfumed, graceful, fruity and friendly – a great everyday table wine which goes with everything: pizza, pasta, barbecued meat. It’s never going to be hugely complex, that that’s not its role – you wouldn’t ask that of a village Burgundy either.’
His fellow tasters agreed, enthusing over the appeal and versatility of Dolcetto, and advising that it’s a wine to drink young and fresh. ‘They’re wines for fairly immediate consumption,’ said Michael Garner. ‘I like to drink them within a year or two,’ added D’Agata. Emily O’Hare said she would always go for the youngest vintage possible.
So what characterises Dolcetto d’Alba in particular? ‘Some people write that Alba Dolcettos are the best – that’s not really true,’ said D’Agata. ‘Certainly you’ll find more perfume in Dogliani. But Alba wines are typically the fleshiest and richest.’
Highly recommended Dolcetto d’Alba wines:
The tasters did comment on the use of oak, preferring the unoaked versions. ‘The oak was slightly distracting where present, and it’s nice to see how well the variety can do without it,’ said O’Hare. ‘The appeal of these wines is the freshness, the fruit quality and the immediacy,’ agreed Garner. D’Agata added: ‘Dolcetto will never be a blockbuster. Most wines are unoaked and usually those with oak are less successful as it’s easy to overwhelm the fruit. There are some good oaked examples, but they are a minority.’
Another attraction of the variety is the modest alcohol level of most wines, pointed out O’Hare. But at the same time they are structured wines and have highish tannins. So if you’re chilling the wines before serving, don’t overdo it, advised D’Agata.
‘Yes, it’s the perfect dinner party wine,’ added O’Hare. You can chill it, Beaujolais Nouveau-style, but it can also be smarter. Its structure means you can throw anything at it and it will handle it.’