The name means "sweet" but the wines are usually dry
Dolcetto is an Italian red wine grape variety which is popular in the cooler northern regions of Italy, particularly in the Piedmont and Liguria regions.
Its early ripening makes it a feasible choice in areas where Barbera and Nebbiolo would struggle to ripen.
The variety is noted for producing relatively low acid wines. The strong dark colour of the grape is reflected in the deep colour of the wine. Low to moderate acidity and tannins mean that these wines are best consumed fairly young, and they are rarely great wines.
Brown Brothers blends Dolcetto with Shiraz, or Syrah as it says on the label to make a popular sweetish red. Unfortunately this wine has perpetuated the idea that Dolcetto wines are sweet.
Steve De Long, on his Wine Grape Varietal Table describes these wines as
Deep purple, intensely fruity, almonds, plums, blackberries...
The variety hasn't taken off in Australia like some of the other red Italian varieties, such as the increasingly popular Sangiovese. It seems that Australia is the only country outside Italy that has significant plantings of the variety. It is an early ripening variety and hence suitable for cooler regions. However there are some attractive Australian Dolcetto wines being made. They don't taste like Shiraz.
Ben Glaetzer of Heartland wines blends 30% of this variety with Lagrein for an interesting dry red.
These red wines are probably best consumed young, with some of your favourite tomato based Italian cuisine. They are often robust enough to be paired with antipasto where they will be consumed with sharp pickled foods, salted anchovies or savoury salamis all at once.
They are also suitable for Asian foods where their fruity flavours can compete with spicier flavours.
Next time you find a good Dolcetto why not try it with a chicken liver risotto, or perhaps a gnocchi with a cheese sauce.
In his book The Wine Lover Cooks Italian Brain St Pierre suggests that this is one red wine that goes well with white meats such as chicken or turkey.
Daring pairings has a whole chapter devoted to Dolcetto