As with many aspects of this blog, I’m sure I like the maps much more than anyone else who has ever visited. I like seeing where a particular wine is from, I like going to the Where I’m Drinking page to see the big picture, but I especially like the small map on the right hand side of the homepage that just shows the last ten or so. It serves as an indicator if I have been recently ignoring part of the world, and looking at it now it’s been three weeks since I wrote about a European wine. To get back on track, here’s the Sordo Giovanni Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2007.
The last few weeks have been pretty slack, I must admit. I wrote about some favourites, and the vast majority of wines were from regions I’ve physically visited, and in most cases I’d been to the actual cellar doors of the producers. Today though it’s all new territory for me, with an unfamiliar grape, region and producer.
The grape is of course Dolcetto, a red variety most commonly associated with the northwest of Italy. It ripens early, and while it can be prone to dropping bunches and is vulnerable to some fungal diseases, it’s not difficult in the vineyard. It can tolerate both cold and altitude, which are both common where it is grown in Piedmont. In the winery though it’s another story. It tends to be low in acidity (a possible reason for the name “little sweet one”), but somewhat high in tannins. Various techniques are employed to prevent overextraction, such as short fermentations, and as a varietal wine it typically only has light to medium tannins. While it’s most commonly found in Italy, there are also plantings in the USA and Australia.
In Italy, it can be found as a varietal wine in a DOCG and seven DOCs, all of which conveniently have the word Dolcetto in their name. It also features as a required majority grape in a number of other regional wines. However, within northwest Italy it is often overshadowed by Nebbiolo and Barbera. As those can command high prices, Dolcetto is often relegated to less favourable sites. Also, as Nebbiolo and Barbera can have extensive ageing requirements, Dolcetto is generally made in a drink now style and sent to market without extensive maturation in barrel or bottle which helps ease cash flow problems associated with producing a wine that cannot be sold until years later.
Dolcetto d’Alba is the name of the DOC from which this wine originates, in Piedmont, and it extends to the east and south from the town of Alba, known not only for wine but also white truffles. The region is known for hot summers, cold winters, with fog in between. The terrain of Piedmont is varied, with the Alps to the north, the hills of Langhe to the south (where Alba itself is located), and river plains in between. The soils are clay marls, with Dolcetto performing best on the white variety while not doing living up to its potential in heavier soils.
Sordo Giovanni is a traditional producer, based near Garbelletto, to the southwest of Alba. Established in the early 20th century, they are currently on the third generation of the family, with Giorgio Sordo and his wife Emanuela at the helm. They make a wide range of regional wines, including Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, several Barolos, Moscato, Prosecco, a traditional method sparkler, an Arneis, and several types of grappa.
This wine is from vineyards in the Serralunga and Castiglione Falletto areas, grown on south-facing hillsides, on bluish-grey calcareous marl with mineral salts. Grapes are picked at full ripeness, undergo a week-long fermentation, are stored in stainless steel tanks and then given six months in bottle before they are released.
In the glass, this wine is medium ruby red, with a few thin quick legs. On the nose it’s clean with a developing character and medium plus intensity. There are notes of deep black cherry, forest floor, red licorice candy and a little bit of tar. The palate is dry, with medium plus acidity, medium minus body, medium alcohol, medium flavour intensity, and medium minus tannins, which are green if they’re there at all. I picked up notes of sour cherry, liquorice, pencil shavings, and black pepper with further sour cherry on the finish.
This is a very good wine, fresh and flavourful. I was almost surprised that it’s five years old, as it’s keeping so well. It has more complexity than I would have expected, given what I’ve read of Dolcetto. It does live up to the easy drinking reputation, but offers a bit more depth and variety of flavour that puts it a step up from just being good.