What is Dolcetto Wine?

Dolcetto is widely cultivated in Piedmont in northwest Italy. In this iconic wine region, it’s often regarded as the third grape after Nebbiolo and Barbera and boasts several prestigious DOC and DOCG appellations

By Lucie Robson
Dec 12, 2021

Dolcetto in 30 seconds


  • Dolcetto is an iconic black grape from the Piedmont in Italy that produces dry red wines with a deep purple color.
  • Dolcetto is an early budding and early ripening variety.
  • This grape has fruit aromas/ flavors of plum, red cherry, and blackberr.
  • It also boasts violet, cocoa, licorice, dried herbs, and black pepper notes.
  • It features low tannins and low to medium acidity.
  • Dolcetto wines are medium to full bodied with medium alcohol. 
  • This wine can be early-drinking or matured.
  • Notable wines include Dolcetto di Dogliani and Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba.


Learn about Dolcetto


Dolcetto is widely cultivated in Piedmont in northwest Italy. In this iconic wine region, it’s often regarded as the third grape after Nebbiolo and Barbera and boasts several prestigious DOC and DOCG appellations. While most of Dolcetto’s production is in the Piedmont, this grape also appears in other regions of Italy under DOC and IGT designations, and in Australia and the US.


Dolcetto Flavors

Dolcetto boasts the types of flavors and features that make it suitable for enjoying no longer than three or four years after harvest. It displays bright black fruit, with spicy notes, and tones of almond and walnut. Tannins are medium and soft while acidity is on the low side.

Dolcetto lends itself well to light, fruity, early-drinking wines and, similar to Beaujolais Noveau in France, some Italian appellations allow for a Novello version. At the other end of the spectrum, the finest examples can age for several years.


Dolcetto Wine Styles

Dolcetto is made in a range of dry, still wine styles under DOC, DOCG, and Superiore classifications.




The DOC categories produce Dolcetto with stricter viticultural and vinification methods than IGT level wines. Only certain grapes within set boundaries and strict vinification methods are permitted resulting in wines that reflect a particular region.



This means the wine requires specific vineyard and winery methods as well as a government tasting. This prestigious classification of wines also has to be bottled in the area of production.



This term means the wine has a higher volume of alcohol than required by the appellation.



Dolcetto Food Pairing

Dolcetto is a food-friendly wine that pair well with a range of dishes. The key to successful food pairing is to keep in mind its black fruit profile plus its dry and medium acidity character.



  • Herby roast chicken.

  • Lasagna.

  • Game dishes.

  • Sausages.

  • Pasta Bolognese.

  • Chicken parmesan.

  • Veal with creamy sauce.

Vegetarian/ Vegetables


  • Fontina.

  • Manchego.

  • Mild cheddar.

  • Brie.

  • Camembert.

  • Gouda.




Dolcetto type 

Dolcetto wines combine power with gentle fruitiness and have good body and weight. This grape is famed for its fresh, early-drinking wines as well as styles that have the structure and alcohol for years of aging. Alba in Piedmont is one of the leading spots for fine Dolcetto with Dogliani following closely behind. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known examples of Alba DOC and DOCG and Dogliani Superiore Dolcetto styles.


Dolcetto d'Alba DOC

Dolcetto d'Alba DOC

This is a very popular and highly-reputable dry style of Dolcetto DOC. Most Alba producers of Barolo and Barbaresco also make a Dolcetto. The hilly terrain and superior terroir of this north-eastern patch of Cuneo make it an ideal area for viticulture. Dolcetto and many other grape varieties thrive here. 

  • This Dolcetto is concentrated and fruity.

  • It has cocoa-like notes and almond undertones. 

Dolcetto d’Alba is best drunk within three years of release.


Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba DOCG 

Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba DOCG can only come from one of 75 approved crus in Diano close to Serralunga. 

  • This wine has a minimum alcohol content of 12%. 

  • It displays, red and black fruity notes.

  • It also has oaky hints and an almond undertone. 

Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba DOCG is regarded as being among the finest wines of Piedmont. It is best enjoyed within four years of release.

Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore DOCG 

Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore DOCG is one of the top DOCGs for this grape. Legend even says that this variety was first appeared in Piedmont when it was planted in this area in the 1500s. The Dogliani vineyard area comprises 21 different municipalities in Cuneo province, including the town of Dogliani itself.

  • This deep, ruby red wine boasts concentrated black fruit. 

  • It has almond undertones.

  • It must age for a minimum of one year before release. 

  • Its alcohol level is 13%.

Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore DOCG can age for up to five years in bottle.



Where are Dolcetto grown?

Dolcetto is mostly grown in Cuneo and Alessandria in the northwestern Piedmont region in Italy. It’s grown in Dolcetto d'Acqui DOC, Dolcetto d'Alba DOC, Dolcetto d'Asti DOC, Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi DOC, Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba DOCG, Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba Superiore DOCG, Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC, Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore DOCG, Dolcetto di Ovada DOC, and Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore DOCG.


This dry, moderate climate has long, cold winters and often experiences thunderstorms, hail, and fog in summertime. A region noted for its hilly terrain, Dolcetto is often planted at higher altitudes because it ripens early and can withstand the cool climes. Altitude promotes what little natural acidity Dolcetto has, aiding in the production of balanced wines. 


Dolcetto grows in other Italian regions for use in various DOC and IGT wines, notably Liguria just south of Piedmont. It’s also grown in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and France. However, 98% of its plantings are in Italy with the lion’s share in Piedmont.


How is Dolcetto made?

Vintners produce Dolcetto through standard red winemaking processes although more care is taken with certain steps than with other grapes. Notably, Dolcetto has very tannic and bitter seeds, so fruit has to undergo gentle pressing to prevent these components from being released and ruining the wine. Additionally, maceration at any stage of the winemaking process tends to be short to avoid too much tannic extraction. 


Young and fruity DOC and GT varietal and blend styles of Dolcetto are often vinified in stainless steel rather than oak to preserve the purity of the aromas and flavors.



Bigger, bolder DOCG and Superiore styles of Dolcetto boasting higher alcohol may see oak aging to add tannic structure. Sometimes old, neutral barrels are used to avoid oak flavors interfering with the fruit.


The best Dolcetto made from top crus has a sensitively-timed harvest and careful extraction and oak treatment for complex wines with excellent ageability.

What kind of wine is similar to Dolcetto?


Youthful DOC/ IGT Dolcetto

  • Schiava.

  • Beaujolais (Nouveau, Villages, and Cru).

  • Young Pinot Noir.

  • Rioja Joven.


Mature DOCG/ Superiore Dolcetto

  • Barbaresco.

Fun facts

Short list of fun facts

  • Dolcettos name means “little sweet one”, an ironic reference considering that it’s far from sweet!

  • Its name actually refers to the beauty of its hilly vineyards rather than in flavor profile.

  • Dolcetto has nearly 100 synonyms.

  • Dolcetto is one of a trio of leading Piedmont grapes and gaining ground in terms of popularity.

  • 98% of the world’s Dolcetto grows in Italy.


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