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Dolcetto is a black wine grape variety widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The Italian word dolcetto means "little sweet one", but it is not certain that the name originally carried any reference to the grapes sugar levels: it is possible that it derives from the name of the hills where the vine is cultivated.[1] In any case the wines produced are nearly always dry. They can be tannic and fruity with moderate,[2] or decidedly low,[1] levels of acidity and are typically meant to be consumed one to two years after release.[2]  

Color of berry skin Black
Wine description In any case the wines produced are nearly always dry. They can be tannic and fruity with moderate,[2] or decidedly low,[1] levels of acidity and are typically meant to be consumed one to two years after release.[2]
Food pairing a light easy drinking red wine that pairs well with pastas and pizza dishes
Origin Italy
Notable regions Piedmont
Notable wine(s) Dolcetto di Dogliani, Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba



One theory suggests that the grape originated in France and was brought to Monferrato some time in the eleventh century.[3] A competing theory has the grape originating in the Piedmontese village of Dogliani.[4] In 1593 an ordinance of the municipality of Dogliani which forbade the harvesting of dozzetti grapes earlier than Saint Matthews Day, unless an exceptional authorisation had been granted, has been taken to refer to this variety, which is still known in local dialects.[5][6] A document of 1633 records the presence of Dolcetto in the cellars of the Arboreo family of Valenza.[1] In 1700 Barnabà Centurione sent the wine as a gift to King George II of Great Britain.[6][7]


Most Dolcetto is found in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, where many of the top estates produce Dolcetto on less favoured sites as an "early to market wine" to generate some income for the winery while the Nebbiolo and Barbera are being matured.[8] It is particularly associated with the towns of Dogliani and Diano d'Alba in the province of Cuneo, although the greatest volumes come from around Alba and Ovada. The grape is also found in Liguria under the name Ormeasco, and in the Oltrepò Pavese where it is called Nebbiolo or Nibièu.[2][9]

All but one of the 100% Dolcetto DOCs have two levels, the "standard" version typically requiring a minimum 11.5% ABV, the Superiore 12.5%.[10] They are Dolcetto di Dogliani (DOCG since 2005), Dolcetto d'Acqui, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti, Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi, Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Ovada and Langhe Dolcetto (no Superiore).[10] Riviera Ligure di Ponente Ormeasco requires >95% Dolcetto/Ormeasco; Colli Tortonesi Dolcetto, Monferrato Dolcetto and Pineronese Dolcetto a minimum of 85%, and Valsusa a minimum of 60%.[10] Golfo Del Tigullio requires 20-70%, while Lago di Corbara and Rosso Orvietano can contain up to 20% Dolcetto.[10]

Outside of Italy Dolcetto is known as Douce Noire in Savoie and Charbono in California.[2] However, DNA fingerprinting done at the University of California, Davis have shown that the actual Douce Noire and Charbono vines are not, in fact, Dolcetto but two different vines.[8] In spite of this confirmation, some plantings of true Dolcetto vines still retain the local synonyms in some areas of Savoie and California.[2]

The grape was first brought to California by expatriate Italians and is most popular in Mendocino County, Russian River Valley AVA, Napa Valley AVA, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA, and Santa Barbara County. There is also some plantings in the Oregon AVAs of Umpqua Valley AVA and Southern Oregon AVA as well as the state wide appellations of New Mexico and Pennsylvania.[11]

Australia is home to the oldest current plantings of Dolcetto with vines dating back to the 1860s.[2]

Dolcetto di Dogliani

Dolcetto di Dogliani, and Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore are Italian red wines produced in the Langhe using only the Dolcetto grape variety. The wines were recognized as DOC in 1974. In 2005 the original DOC for Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore was revoked and replaced by a DOCG; this wine, which can also be sold under the name Dogliano is made within a more limited zone than the DOC and the yield of grapes is restricted to 70 quintals per hectare. Furthermore, to qualify for the DOCG status the wines must be aged for at least one year. The vineyards are restricted to the hilly areas within the boundaries of the communes of Bastia Mondovì, Belvedere Langhe, Cigliè, Clavesana, Dogliani, Farigliano, Monchiero and Rocca Cigliè, plus parts of the communes of Cissone and Somano.[1][12]


Dolcetto wines are known for black cherry and licorice flavors with some prunes and a characteristically bitter finish reminiscent of almonds. While the name implies sweetness, the wines are normally dry. The tannic nature of the grape contributes to a characteristic bitter finish.[2] The dark purple skin of Dolcetto grapes have high amounts of anthocyanins in them which require only a short maceration time with the skin to produce a dark colored wine. The amount of skin contact affects the resulting tannin levels in the wine with most winemakers preferring to limit maceration time to as short as possible.[13] During fermentation the wine is prone to the wine fault of reduction.[8]

Food pairing

Overall, Dolcetto is considered a light easy drinking red wine that pairs well with pastas and pizza dishes.[14]

See Also:

Home Wine Page
History of Wine
Classification of Wines
Science of Taste
The Science of Wine Aroma
About the Acids in Wine
Polyphenols (Tannins) in Wine
Oak in Wines
The Basic Wine Pairing Rules
Science of Food and Wine Pairing
Sugars in Wine
About Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting Terms
Storage of Wine
Aging of Wine
Wine Acessories
Headaches from Wine
About a Wine Sommelier

Notes and references

  1. Dolcetto, Associazione italiana sommeliers: Sezione territoriale Trentino. A report of a presentation given by Roberto Perrici in Trento at the Palazzo Roccabruna on 27 February 2007.
  2. O. Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 86 Harcourt Books 2001
  3. J. Robinson Vines, Grapes & Wines pg 209 Mitchell Beazley Publishing 1986
  4. K. MacNeil The Wine Bible pg 332 Workman Publishing 2001
  5. Dolcetto di Dogliani: Il principe dei vini doglianesi, Comune di Dogliani, 2004.
  6. Dolcetto, Consorzio di tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Roero.
  7. Barnabà Centurione was marquis of Morsasco where Dolcetto di Ovada is still produced today. See Morsasco, Alessandria: 190 Comuni, Provincia di Alessandria, Dipartimento Economia e Sviluppo
  8. J. Robinson "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 233 Oxford University Press 2006
  9. Vitigno Dolcetto, Agricoltura in Piemonte: Vini, Regione Piemonte.
  10. "Banca Dati Vini DOC, DOCG". http://www.politicheagricole.it/SettoriAgroalimentari/Vitivinicolo/Vino/vinidocdocgelencovitigno.htm?codvitigno=73&vitigno=dolcetto. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  11. Appellation America Dolcetto Details
  12. Ministero delle Politiche Agricole e Forestiale, Disciplinare di Produzione. Decree of 6 July 2005, published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana, of 23 July 2005.
  13. O. Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 87 Harcourt Books 2001
  14. Per-Henrik Mansson "Light Makes Right" Wine Spectator October 31, 1995
  15. Maul, Erika; Reinhard; Eibach, Rudolf (2007). "Vitis International Variety Catalogue". Institute for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof (IRZ), Siebeldingen, Germany. http://www.vivc.de/. Retrieved 2007-08-29. 

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