In the hands of many Piedmontese producers, Dolcetto is a soft, pretty 'little' wine that's easily quaffable. But at Aldo Vajra's place outside of Barolo, all the wines tend to be structured and somewhat old school. While his single vineyard Dolcetto D'Alba "Coste e Fossatti" is considered among the very best examples of the variety in the entire region, this regular bottling from the refined 2006 vintage shows not only the Dolcetto's sweet forward fruit qualities, but surprising structure and depth.
Over the last 20 years, producers in Piedmont adopted different production approaches, essentially creating two styles of Piedmontese wine -- traditional and modern. Modern wine producers shorten their fermentation, sometimes fermenting at high temperatures for short periods of time to extract color before alcoholic fermentation is completed, thus softening tannins in the finished wine. While these wines tend to be more approachable, softer, the shorter time on the skins reduces phenolic/aromatic complexity. Traditionalists like Vajra rely on their vineyard work to control tannins, pushing maturity in the vines so that only perfectly ripe grapes are harvested. The vinification is longer with more skin contact, accounting for the heightened aromatic complexity of the wines.
This 2006 Dolcetto is a perfect example of what Traditionalists can bring to the table in a fine vintage. Deep in color with layers of vinous red fruit aromas and flavors, this 'little' wine works well with salmon and tuna, but can stand up to grilled beef and lamb. Serve on the cool side at 60 degrees.