Monday, May 14, 2007

Wine of the Week: 2005 Giacosa Dolcetto d'Alba Falletto

With all of the hyperbolic "vintage of the century" talk being lavished upon 2005 Burgundy, Bordeaux, and German Riesling, I think it imperative for the sane wine collector to take a step back from all the hype and examine some of the less discussed (and less dear) treasures from the world of wine. It is in this spirit that we feature Bruno Giacosa's 2005 Dolcetto d'Alba Falletto ($19) as this blog's inaugural "Wine of the Week." Dolcetto, from the Piedmont region of Italy, is a wine that usually retails for no more than $20 to $25 and, as Antonio Galloni has observed, has acquired the unfortunate reputation for being the "Beaujolais of Italy" -- an easy-drinking wine with soft, pleasing fruit, but by no means a serious effort. Yet Dolcetto is in fact the most common wine at the classic Piedmontese table, enjoyed throughout mealtime with a wide range of foods. At its best, Dolcetto offers refreshing notes of black and sour cherries, blueberries, and other dark fruits wrapped in a firm, but not overbearing structure of acid and tannin.

Bruno Giacosa (the granddaddy of traditional Piedmontese wine - pictured above) like most top winemakers in the region, produces a serious Dolcetto, and his Dolcetto d'Alba Falletto is made from fruit from his fabled vineyard in Serralunga. This wine offers dark, mesmerizing aromas of black cherry and a hint of spice with ripe, concentrated, and almost plush dark fruit flavors -- all balanced by a nervy acidity and soft tannins. It proved an excellent match for salami and risotto al Barolo, and even stood up remarkably well to Carbonada, the Piedmontese version of braised beef. (An attempted pairing with that other Italian speciality, grilled hamburger, was far less successful.) One would be hard-pressed to find a superior Dolcetto on the market today.

Returning to vintage talk for the moment, it must be said that 2005 was a superb vintage for Dolcetto, as the grapes were able to achieve an optimum level of ripeness and were picked before the onset of the September rains that forced an early Nebbiolo harvest in Piedmont. Even the wine we used for braising, a 2005 Dolcetto d'Alba from Salvano ($12), while far less bewitching than the Giacosa, was a well-balanced effort, offering pleasing (if less concentrated) dark fruits and decent structure. I'd certainly choose that over Beaujolais any day. Of course, the Dolcettos to look out for are the ones from the top producers and, in particular, their single-vineyard offerings. The 2005 Giacosa Dolcetto d'Alba Falletto is certainly worth a special search even if it is, in the grand scheme of things, as Michael Broadbent has written, "an important but minor red wine."

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