Dolcetto is one of the area’s most typical indigenous vines and is cultivated just about everywhere. It grows best in calcareous marly terrains on hillsides from between 250 m and 600 m above sea level, but can ripen successfully even above 700m in altitude. Its ideal terroir is found in the Langa and, in fact, for centuries this vine has accompanied the people of the region through good times and bad. Despite not being particularly vigorous nor possessing special resistance to vine diseases, Dolcetto’s popularity has persisted owing to its versatility: the grapes are good to eat raw or can be cooked to obtain a kind of jam, called ‘cognà’ which is eaten with local cheeses. And, of course, Dolcetto wine is a simple but delicious product of the local hills. Historically, it was the wine used for bartering with the peoples of the Ligurian seaboard, in exchange for olive oil, salt and anchovies – which formed the ingredients of one of South Piedmont’s most famous dishes, ‘bagna caoda’. Dolcetto wine was also taken to the plains of Cuneo and bartered for veal calves which were then raised in Langa hill farms to ensure a plentiful supply of meat.
Dolcetto had its heyday during the 1970s and ‘80s, when vineyards were extended owing to increased demand for the wine in factory canteens. These days, consumption of Dolcetto has somewhat decreased, although it still remains a staple among local people, who wouldn’t dream of including any other wine on their dinner tables.
The vine’s name derives from the exceptional sweetness of the grape but is misleading as far as the wine is concerned, as this is definitely dry, moderately acidic and possesses a pleasant bitterish after taste. The vine can give rise to both fresh, light wines capable of adaptation to any meal, or fullerbodied and well-structured ones that tolerate up to seven years of ageing – all according to the area of cultivation and to how they are developed in the winery.
During the 1920s and ‘30s, Dolcetto grapes were used as a health cure – the so-called ‘grape therapy’ -when grapes were consumed for their health-giving properties. Dolcetto was popular because of its low acidity and tannins and sweet flavour and was supposed to have a “diuretic, laxative, decongestant and purifying effect on the liver.”
* If vineyard and geographical name are included on the label, yield is reduced to 7200 Kg/hectare (grapes) or 5040 litres/hectare (wine) and the minimum natural alcohol content is increased by 0.5%.
** If vineyard and geographical name are included on the label, yield is reduced to 6300 Kg/hectare (grapes) or 4284 litres/hectare (wine)and minimum alcohol content is increased by 0.5%.