Thursday, March 20, 2008

What to Do About Dolcetto

I remember well the first time I had a Dolcetto, the distinctive red grape grown in Piedmont. I was excited; I had never had a Dolcetto before. The wine store owner who recommended it was a man I respected. I loved the wine's regional brothers—Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera. How could I lose?

I poured out a glass. What a great color! Deep, rich, bright purple! Then I tasted it.

What the heck was this stuff? Spicy and acidic and slightly acrid, with a bitter finish. And what was that dominant taste? I hadn't experienced it in other wine. What fruit was that? Was it blueberry? Spicy blueberry?

Yes it was. Spicy blueberry. Some say it's prune or licorice. I say spicy blueberry. I've had several bottles of Dolcetto since that first unsettling experience, always with high hopes, and every time I've encountered that dominant, odd taste. I've never been able to warm to it, and I have no idea what sort of foods to pair it with.

The wife recently presented me with another bottle of Dolcetto d'Alba by the respectable vintner Massolino. The wine store had heartily recommended (of course). I saw it and my heart sunk. She was keen to try it, so I opened it. OK, so here we go again. The color was as beautiful as I remember. The nose was pleasantly complex and woodsy. And the palate? Well, you know. Them blueberries. Also black cherry and current, I suppose. Not as harsh as others I've tried. Admittedly well made, well integrated. But I still can't imagine why I would ever opt for this wine when there are so many other fine choices out there.

One thing I'll say for it. It's the kind of wine that I imagine is great when you drink it in its native land, where it's made. I have a suspicion that if I tasted Dolcetto in Alba, it would be a revelation, and go with absolutely everything I ate. But until that happy day...

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