On April 27th after tasting two white wines, an Arneis and a Gavi di Gavi, in the study group we then sampled our first red wine – a Dolcetto d’Alba. This is not a “grid wine” for the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced exam but it is an important wine to know.
Dolcetto is a dark-skinned grape from the Monferrato hills of northwestern Italy. The Italian word dolcetto means “little sweet one” and there are several prevailing theories as to the origin of the name – the wine may have at one time been produced as a sweet wine, it may be named after some local hills where the grapes were cultivated, it has softer tannins than its neighboring Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes so it may be perceived as “sweeter” or the adjective may be a reference to its lucrative properties as this wine required less ageing prior to release, hence it was a source for quicker cash flow. The grape is also known as Nera Dolce and Ormeasco.
Dolcetto d’ Alba DOC
Dolcetto d'Alba is one of seven Dolcetto-focused DOC wines produced in Italy's north-western Piedmont region. It was granted its DOC status in 1974, the production zone encompasses the Langhe hills east of Tarano around Alba, including 25 communes in the province of Cuneo, as well as the commune of Coazzolo in the province of Asti. Some of the vineyards also overlap those of Barolo and Barbaresco. The vines are planted on slopes with sandy, calcareous and tufa-rich soils where the Dolcetto grape thrives.
The Sottimano winery was founded in 1974 by Maggiore Sottimano in the Cottá region in hilly land for winegrowing in the south-western Piedmont called Langhe, in the heart of Neive, which is well known for its Nebbiolo grapes. Rino Sottimano then expanded the estate by purchasing other prestigious vineyards: Currá, Fausoni, Pajoré and Basarin. The Sottimano family cultivates 18 hectares (44.5 acres) of vineyard which are divided into five “crus” of Barbaresco (Currá, Cotta, Fausoni, Basarin and Pajoré), one Dolcetto “Bric del Salto”, one Barbera “Pairolero” and one dry Brachetto called “Maté”. The average annual production is about 5,000 cases or 60,000 bottles of wine.
The “Bric del Salto” Dolcetto is blend of grapes from three vineyards of Dolcetto in Neive: Cotta, Basarin and Curra. The average age of the vines in these three sites is 35 years old which is extremely old for Dolcetto. Winemaker Andrea Sottimano is an avid sustainable/organic grower and only uses indigenous yeasts. The malolactic fermentation is completed in stainless steel, where the wine remains for approximately 8 months. No filtering or fining is done prior to bottling.
The 2012 Sottimano Bric Del Santo Dolcetto d’ Alba is a clear, ruby red at the core to pink at the rim with moderate concentration, medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of very ripe pomegranates, red plums, cranberry, ripe cherries, a hint of black pepper and spice. It is dry with medium tannins, medium acidity with simple red fruit and spice driving a moderate length finish. The wine retails for about $15 to $17 per bottle.