A SENSITIVE GRAPE
The Dolcetto variety is known for its extreme delicacy and fragility. This translates into a difficult grape that is highly sensitive to soil composition, cultivation methods, and climatic variations, and that requires great commitment and dedication on behalf of anyone choosing to grow it.
Let’s examine the effects of these elements, one by one.
Agronomic sensitivity to the soil: in cold, damp, and packed-down ground the grapes tend to suffer from early-drop, falling off the plant just as they are about to ripen, whereas in sandy soils they suffer from water stress and thermal dispersion.
Organoleptic sensitivity to the soil composition: the gustatory and olfactory characteristics of Dolcetto vary widely according to differences in the soil where it is grown and, in turn, the wines can be edgy and mineral or, in other instances, round and fruity. However, given a choice, this grape thrives in marly-calcareous soil with a medium to high percentage of active lime and with a sufficient depth of usually at least 70 centimetres in terms of the layer that can be explored by the roots. Sufficient and constant moisture retention is also critical.
SENSITIVITY TO FERTILIZERS
Sensitivity to fertilizers: the excessive use of fertilizers, especially organic, may eventually lead to withering of the rachis due to the altered metabolization of calcium and magnesium, as well as early-drop, enlarged berries, and a subsequent incomplete ripening of the tannins. Extreme caution is therefore necessary in the choice, dosage, and application of fertilizers.
SENSITIVITY TOWARDS TEMPERATURES
Sensitivity to sudden temperature changes: both excessive heat and cold can slow down the ripening process. Dolcetto is also particularly sensitive to an early return of colder temperatures at the end of the summer as pre-harvest early-drop can ensue. Hot air currents from the African continent may cause pre-harvest shrivelling on the vine by accelerating vegetative development and shortening the ripening process, resulting in a sharp rise in sugars and tannins that may not manage to fully ripen.