FROM GRAPES TO WINE
Notoriously considered one of the most difficult grapes vinify , Dolcetto requires great attention and experience. The grape is already a challenge in itself due to the presence of highly developed seeds (three per berry) which contain tannins that have more difficulty in ripening and in its complexion with oxygen compared to other wines known as being highly tannic. Its delicate aromas are also often at risk. Choosing the right fermentation temperature, executing prompt and timely racking, allowing for a correct oxygenation of the must, and paying close attention to the integrity of the skins are all crucial factors when it comes to the conservation and enhancing of the grapes’ aromas. As the wine ages, attention towards reduction and sulphureted odours, and the use of wood or stainless steel, pose even more challenges to the producer who is facing a wine that not too long ago was relegated to being almost exclusively interpreted as a young, fruity wine. Today, new perspectives and new forms of expression are emerging, yet they always remain firmly founded on tradition.
TANNINS FROM THE SEEDS
The tannins concentrated within the seeds of Dolcetto seem to complex with more difficulty. They have considerable weight in the berry and do not ripen with ease. This means that extra care must be taken during vinification in order to control the amount of tannins that are extracted as the alcoholic content and, therefore, the solvent effect of the alcohol, increase. Not even with Nebbiolo, one of the most tannic wines, are these tannins, also known as reactive flavonols, so difficult to subdue.
THE CONCENTRATION OF POLYPHENOLS
The high concentration of polyphenolic elements must also be considered. This means that the wine has an unquestionable need for oxygen and if this is lacking, significant reduction becomes an issue. It is therefore necessary to aerate the wine by means of pumping-over and racking, both during and immediately following vinification. Dolcetto can reach levels of 3.5 grams of total polyphenols per litre, levels normally found in grape varieties notoriously characterized by a particularly high content, like Sagrantino or Carignano. Dolcetto’s tannic load is also higher than that of Nebbiolo’s.
Dolcetto is a grape that manifests itself as extremely delicate and sensitive right from the start, in the vineyard. This sensitivity is also expressed in aromas whose spectrum and potency can be influenced by choices made during the vinification process, especially in regards to temperature control. Temperatures that are too high, in fact, can compromise the fruitiness of the wine.