I have noticed a growing number of Texas wineries offering Dolcetto wines, and my curiosity led me to dig a bit deeper into the Dolcetto grape. While the origin of Dolcetto is still up for debate between south-eastern France and north-western Italy, it is most prevalently grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy.
Piedmont is a relatively cool growing region located in the foothills south of the cold Alps and north of the warm Mediterranean Sea. This unique geographical location provides a strong diurnal shift, the temperature difference between daytime highs and nightly lows. This climate characteristic gives grapes a good opportunity to ripen properly while maintaining their acidity, giving us nicely balanced wines. This is particularly important for grapes like Dolcetto that are on the lower end of the acidity spectrum.
Piedmont is most well-known for Nebbiolo and Barbera, but Dolcetto is still a very important grape to this region and is the tenth most grown red grape variety in Italy. While it only accounts for 1.2% of the area under vine in Italy, that amounts to more than 15,000 acres! We have a little bit of catching up to do in Texas. According to the 2019 USDA Texas grape production report, there are about 50 acres of Dolcetto planted in Texas across thirteen vineyards. It is still impressive that we are seeing Dolcetto wines from a wide number of Texas wineries from this limited number of acres. We’ve recently seen members of the Texas Wine Lover Website Facebook group enjoying Dolcetto wines from Bingham Family Vineyards, Triple D Winery, Hye Meadow Winery, Perissos Vineyard and Winery, and Arché Wines.
So how does a Texas Dolcetto compare to a Dolcetto from Italy? Let’s start with our Italian wine, a 2017 Casa E. di Mirafiore Dolcetto D’Alba DOC. Casa E. di Mirafiore was originally founded back in 1878, was knocked into dormancy by the Great Depression and phylloxera, and then was reborn in 2008. The wine is 100% Dolcetto from a vineyard planted in clay and calcareous marl at about 1,000 feet above sea-level in the Village of Serralunga d’Alba. The wine was aged in medium and large oak barrels for two months, then aged six months in bottle. The Mirafiore Dolcetto D’Alba is a deep ruby in the glass. It has a pronounced nose with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and violets. On the palate it is dry with notable acidity, medium tannins, and medium-plus body. It shows flavors of blackberry, an herbal eucalyptus/menthol note, with cocoa powder through a long finish. 14.5% ABV
Next up we have our Texas wine, the 2016 Hye Meadow Winery Dolcetto. It is 100% Dolcetto grown at the La Pradera Vineyard in the Texas High Pains. It spent 20 months in barrel; 75% neutral Hungarian oak and 25% neutral French oak. The Hye Meadow Dolcetto is a medium garnet in the glass. It has a pronounced nose with aromas of plum, black cherry, black currant, and warm spice. On the palate it has mild acidity, medium tannin, and medium body. The plum and cherry flavors carry onto the palate accompanied by cocoa powder and lots of dark dried fruit through the finish. 12.5% ABV
The comparison here turned out to be classic Old World verses New World. The Mirafiore Dolcetto had more savory notes and acidity that comes along with Old World style in a cooler climate. The Hye Meadow Dolcetto was more fruit-forward while showing all of the classic Dolcetto characteristics. Going into this tasting I wanted to stay objective and not pick a favorite, and I did find them both to be well-made and enjoyable wines. Although, I did find myself going back to the glass of Hye Meadow Dolcetto more often. I picked up this bottle of the 2016 Hye Meadow Dolcetto on a visit earlier this year. The 2017 Dolcetto is now available on their website.