Monday, September 24, 2007

Dolcetto d'Alba "Dei Grassi," Elio Grasso 2006

Dolcetto seems to be one of those varieties, much like Cabernet Franc, that gives wines that people either love or hate. I’ve yet to find many if any folks who are simply lukewarm about either. In both cases, I think the negative end of the response scale stems from the challenging aspects of the wines. Intense, occasionally weedy aromatic nature along with a sometimes prickly or lean texture can make the wines so “different” that some just can’t embrace them. For me, the love comes from the fact that both, when produced without a lot of fiddling around, give very characterful, food-friendly wines.

The typicities of Dolcetto, exemplified by soft tannins, low acid and aromas of cherry and tobacco, can make it easy to spot in blind tastings. I’m not sure I’d have easily picked the new vintage of Elio Grasso’s Dolcetto d’Alba “Dei Grassi,” though. It’s particularly dark garnet, almost purple, in the glass. While cherry is present on the nose and palate, it’s a much blacker, sweeter tone than I usually expect, reminding me a bit of Häagen-Dazs’ classic cherry vanilla ice cream. Same, too, of the tobacco: less dried smoking tobacco, more sweet cherry chewing or pipe tobacco. Suffice it to say this is ripe wine.

I opened it on day one to go with simple pasta with tomatoes and basil – a combo I often like with Dolcetto d’Alba for the interplay between the sauce’s high acidity and the wine’s low acidity. Explosive fruit and large mouthfeel made “Dei Grassi” a bit domineering though, while the brightness of the sauce brought out a tinge of heat in the wine. Two days later, the Dolcetto had rounded to a creamier texture with softer tannins. Sweet, black cherry fruit persisted, with hints of ripe blackberry and slightly raisined notes showing through. It paired much more happily with buffalo burgers and roasted sweet potato fries; the protein and richer flavors of the dish helped to balance the wine’s vigor and dissipate its heat.

This is absolutely tasty if somewhat atypical Dolcetto. There are more tannic examples out there but few with this level of richness. It would be a good choice for those with tastes for boisterous flavors looking to explore a wine usually known for a more delicate, medium-bodied delivery. In addition to burgers, it should pair well with carne cruda, sausages, grilled white meats and rich mushroom dishes.

$17. 14.5% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Imported by Petit Pois, Martin Scott and others.


Brooklynguy said...

Hey David - just want to say nicely done on the Burgundy Report link! I have always felt that the combination of the high quality of your writing and the depth of information you offer makes your blog one of the best. Keep it comin'!!

David McDuff said...

Damn, BG, you're making me blush. Seriously, thanks for the kind words. I have every intention of keepin' it comin'!

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