The red grape variety comes from Italy. The name means "little sweets" and refers to the sweet, slightly low acid grapes. Synonyms are Acqui, Bathiolin, Crete de Coq, Dolcetta Nera, Dolcetto a Raspo Rosso, Dolcetto a Raspe Verde, Dolcetto Crni, Dolcetto Nero, Dolcetto Piemontese, Dolchetto, Dolcino Nero, Gros Plant, Nibièu, Nibiò, Ocanette, Ormeasco, Picot Rouge, Plant de Montmélian, Ravanellino, Red-stemmed Dolcedo, Uva d'Acqui, Uva del Monferrato, Uva di Ovada and Uva di Roccagrimalda. Legend has it that in 1303 the Marchese di Clavesana issued an edict from his castle which prohibited, under threat of death penalty, the planting of anything other than Dolcetto in his dominion. The first sure mention of this old, traditional variety was in Dogliani in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont in 1593. A municipal decree prohibited the harvesting of the Dozzeti variety before Matthew's Day (21 September). It was described by a Conte Nuvolone in 1798 under the name Dosset.
It must not be confused with the Charbono, Douce Noire (Bathiolin) or Nebbiolo varieties, despite the fact that it appears to have synonyms or morphological similarities. DNA analyses carried out in 2008 disproved that Dolcetto is identical with the Charbono or Douce Noire (Pierre Galet) varieties and that there is a connection with the Zinfandel variety. Similarly, there is no relationship to the white variety Dolcetto Bianco. Dolcetto was a crossing partner of the new varieties Passau, San Martino (1) and Valentino Nero. The early ripening vine is susceptible to fungal diseases. It produces fruity, colour-intensive red wines with soft tannins and diverse aromas of liquorice, black cherries, plums and slightly bitter almonds.
It used to be widespread in Piedmont, but the Barbera variety is increasingly being given preference. It is permitted in the DOC/DOCG wines Colli Tortonesi, Dolcetto d'Acqui, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti, Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba, Dolcetto di Ovada, Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore, Dogliani, Langhe and Valsusa. In smaller quantities it is cultivated in Liguria as Ormaesco and in Umbria as Nibièu or Nibiò. In 2010, a total of 6,128 hectares of vineyards were registered in Italy.
There is a tiny amount in France near Montpellier in the Languedoc at the Mas de Daumas-Gassac winery. There are small areas under cultivation in the US states of California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, as well as in Australia (154 ha) and New Zealand (2 ha). A variety of Dolcetto is also cultivated in Argentina, but its identity is unclear. The variety occupied a total of 6,333 hectares of vineyards in 2010. Compared to 1990, when there were 7,191 hectares, this was a reduction of 12%. It occupies 98th place in the worldwide grape variety ranking.
Spring: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)