Giacomo Grimaldi Dolcetto d'Alba 2005
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Giacomo Grimaldi Dolcetto d'Alba 2005 Tasting Notes

Dolcetto—“little sweet one”—reaches our market at a significant public relations disadvantage; it hails from Italy's Piemonte region. In addition to wines made from the Barbera grape, Piemonte brings us the Nebbiolo wines Barolo and Barbaresco, some truly serious red wine competition. Dolcetto's strength, however, is that it ripens up to a month earlier than Nebbiolo, a quality that allows growers to produce Dolcetto as an insurance crop on lands not optimally suited for the big grape. The resulting wine matures, and hence drinks, much earlier than Nebbiolo.

But why compare Dolcetto to Barolo and Barbaresco, just because it also comes from Piemonte? Taken on its own, Dolcetto is often a lovely wine. For the price of one bottle of Barbaresco, your wine store might give you four bottles of Dolcetto. While most Dolcettos are “drink it now or very soon” wines, those from Alba are often age-worthy. The $13 Giacomo Grimaldi is indeed one of these; my second bottle is now in my cellar with a tag reading “2010.” The extra two or three years are just what this wine needs. When the time does come to open the second bottle, I will combine the experience with fond memories of the first.

Winemaker Ferruccio Grimaldi produces both Barolo and Barbera, and evidently accords his Dolcetto the same high level of respect and care. The Grimaldi Dolcetto is sourced from 30-year-old vines, vinified and aged ten months in stainless steel. Dolcetto is said to sometimes suffer from too much tannin and too little acidity, but this wine meets all standards in both these regards. The wine gives aromas of cherry, blackberry, mushroom, mountain herb, a range of floral notes, and some peppery spice. On the palate berries and cherries form the core of the fruit, but these are swathed in earth, bark, dried leaves, and cocoa along with a back note of prune.

While this Dolcetto is well balanced and gives an excellent finish already, it can and should age in bottle a few years. The present wine has a forceful fruitiness that will still be there after the short wait. The Barolos from the same vintage, of course, will be just getting started, so it will be nice to have something interesting to drink in the interim.


Verdict: A fine value
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Dolcetto is a perfect example of the astonishing variety of Italian wines.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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