A standard step in the ageing of red wines and also necessary with Dolcetto, is malolactic fermentation. It generally proceeds without problems, given the moderate acidic content of the must. Much of the reduction and other defects of the Dolcetto wine produced in the past, before this fermentation was understood and controlled, were due to early bottling, often in spring, with the malolactic still in progress, which often caused a second fermentation inside the bottle.
AGEING – WOOD OR STAINLESS STEEL?
Ageing in wood or in stainless steel? This is still an open debate, along with many others, with a wine whose complexity we are only beginning to discover. If it is true that Dolcetto has difficulty in managing new wood of small dimensions, “barriques”, it is also true, and proven, that medium-sized casks have a positive effect on the wine’s evolution, its relationship with oxygenation, and in counteracting its tendency to go into reduction.
Stainless steel however, remains as reliable as ever. It is able to preserve the fragrance of the fruit, and conserve it intact for a period of time even after bottling yet not for long ageing.
Currently, some producers are re-evaluating the use of concrete cement, both for the fermentation and for a short ageing. Concrete is an inert material but behaves differently from steel, allowing for greater thermal stability and for the wine to breathe thanks to the micro-porosity of the material.
BOTTLING AND BOTTLE AGEING
Traditionally, a part of the harvested Dolcetto would be bottled in the spring. This practice is still common for those wines that emphasize the seductive fruitiness of this variety. However, in the past few years, many winemakers have decided to bottle their most important wines after the summer that follows the harvest. The Superiore, now replaced by the new DOCG, are bottled even later. Whichever decision is taken, Dolcetto has demonstrated that it can benefit from ageing in the bottle and, after two or three years in the cellar, it begins to reveal itself as a very different wine from the one we grew up with.