Dolcetto & Food Pairings

The Piedmont region of Italy is most famous for both Barolo and Barbaresco. And it’s no wonder as these are two powerful (and expensive) wines. However, Piedmont is all about balance, and the region has created two wonderful counterparts, being Barbera and Dolcetto.

What Food Goes with Dolcetto

Dolcetto is a straightforward, juicy and light (to medium) weight red that has a bit of tannin (at least more tannin than Barbera, but far less than Barolo or Barbaresco). When I think of Dolcetto, I think of an upbeat red that has a splash of blackberry. It’s a versatile red, as it’s vibrant with acidity and sweet tannin. Furthermore, it has a wonderful deep purple colour!

lasagna close up

Image by Angelo Rosa from Pixabay

With that tannin dryness and splash of acidity, Dolcetto makes a good pair with Spaghetti and Meatballs. The tannin is smoothed out by the meat, whilst the acidity complements the tomato sauce. Lasagna, Pasta Bolognese, Antipasto, Veal Marsala, and chicken also make for lovely pairings. Dolcetto is not a heavyweight red, so you want to pair it with something middle of the road. Salad is much too light for this red, but a vegetable stew or vegetarian lasagna will pair quite nicely.

Dolcetto and Zoodles Pairing

A recent trend is spiralizing Zucchini (zoodles) to use instead of pasta. Dolcetto’s high acidity goes well with tomato-based sauce along with the zucchini. Zucchini is rather mellow in flavour, and Dolcetto low tannin and high acidity ensures these subtle flavours are amplified.

The light, low alcohol content, and fun fruity flavour of Dolcetto also ensures you’ll feel alert and alive after this pairing, rather then seeking out a couch to nap on.

Pasta Bolognese and Docletto

For this pairing to work, the Bolognese Sauce must contain a significant amount of tomato-sauce. Bolognese sauces that contain a heavier proportion or meat or cream might be more worthy of a higher tannin red like Barolo or Chianti.

Te frisky fruit flavours of Dolcetto blend well with the beef used in the sauce. Meanwhile, there’s a subtle touch of licorice and coffee in Dolcetto that adds a touch of rustic charm to this classic Italian dish.

Roasted Chicken and Dolcetto

If you pair a heavier red with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot with Chicken, the astringent tannin found in these wines will crush the delicate chicken flavours. Dolcetto, on the other hand, is light, and bursting with zippy acidity. It’s this acidity that makes the perfect dance partner to the crispy and delicious roasted chicken skin, along with any herbs you may have tossed into the mix.

With its fresh fruit flavours of cherry, cranberry and blackberry, Dolcetto is the perfect solution to any chicken dish that might be too dry. The acidity and fun flavours of Dolcetto will instantly perk up the dry chicken, making it taste juicy.

Dolcetto is also fabulous with Chicken Wings, Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Jambalaya, Chicken Kiev, and Butter Chicken.

Lasagna and Dolcetto Red Wine Pairing

Dolcetto makes an excellent companion to a red-sauce based Lasagna, whether it contain meat, or it’s strictly a vegetarian Lasagna. Again, it’s Dolcetto’s acidity that is the true star here. Working with the tomato sauce, the fruity flavours of Dolcetto weave their way in and out of this baked pasta dish, electrifying the flavours of any vegetables, herbs or meat you have added.

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with portion control when it comes to baked Lasagna. I just can not resist seconds, as reheated Lasagna is just never as delicious. It also doesn’t help that I wipe up my plate with a butter slathered dinner roll to snag any extra tomato sauce left on the plate. The benefit of Dolcetto is that it is not a heavy or high in alcohol wine. When paired with a second helping of Lasagna, this means I feel way less bloated and zombie like after the meal.

French Onion Soup and Dolcetto Pairing

The last thing you want to pair a full-bodied French Onion Soup with is full-bodied and high alcohol red wine. This combination will make your mouth burn, and not in a good way. Instead, you want a zippy and fruity Dolcetto that is low in alcohol.

Dolcetto is a beautiful contrast to French Onion Soup in that it won’t interfere with the soup’s regale caramalized flavours. However, the wine still offers a touch of violet, licorice and coffee on the finish that merges spectacularly with the sweet earthiness of French Onion Soup.

Dolcetto and Consistency

Dolcetto is often fruity, but it can, and often, has a rustic charm, meaning it’s not a smooth red at times. If you want something mainstream and crowd-pleasing, this probably isn’t the red you’re looking for. Which isn’t to say it is a bad red, it’s just perhaps best to sample before having it at a dinner party. Dolcetto isn’t consistent, some bottles may be utterly charming like a Beaujolais, and some could end up being bitter or flavourless. When purchasing a Dolcetto, it’s best to ask your wine agent for their recommendation.

Dolcetto (the grape which means ‘little one’) is grown in different regions which also shakes up the consistency of this red as each will have their own climate and soil profile, as well as differences in winemaking. The regions overlap with several others, so when you See Dolcetta D’Alba, it doesn’t mean Dolcetta is the only grape grown there, it probably shares space with other grapes such as Barbera.

Dolcetto D’Acqui DOC

Uses 100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1 year min for Superiore.

Dolcetto D’Alba DOC

Uses 100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1-year min for Superiore. Generally, it is more floral than its Dolcetto counterparts and not quite as bold as the Dogliani Dolcettos.
Taste wise, think of bitter black cherry fruit flavours, with sweet spices and a bitter almond finish.

Dolcetto D’Asti DOC

100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1-year min for Superiore classification. A little lighter than Dolcetto D’Alba.

Dolcetto Delle Langhe Monregalesi DOC

Uses 100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1 year min for Superiore.

Dolcetto Di Siano D’Alba/Diano D’Alba DOC

Uses 100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1 year min for Superiore.

Dolcetto Di Dogliani DOC

Uses 100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1-year min for Superiore. Tends to be a bolder Dolcetto.

Dolcetto Di Ovada DOC

Uses 100% Dolcetto grapes and is aged for 1 year min for Superiore.

You’ll see that bottles need to be aged for 1 year, and that’s due to market demand for wines that can be drunk young. Dolcetto, due to its tannin, has the ability to be aged in oak barrels, and some winemakers are experimenting with that. You’ll also find Dolcetto blended with other red wines, but it won’t be classified as Dolcetto. For example There is a blend called Bricco del Drago made by Colla that is 85% Dolcetto and 15% Nebbiolo. It’s a wine worth sampling as it showcases the roundness of Dolcetto and contrasts that with the focus of Nebbiolo.
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