Harvest festival in Ovada

More "little wines"

Share

As a Piemontese friend says, if it's not Barolo or Barbaresco, it's a "little wine". It turns out that the little wines (if well made) can age very well indeed, and the old bottles are fascinating and often delicious and vivid. Of course you don't need to take an old bottle - part of the charm of the little wines is that they offer a great glass early in the game; we've included several favorites at the end of the list of wines below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Note About Dolcetto, and Ovada

If you ask Barolo or Barbaresco producers about what they drink day-to-day, Dolcetto is always the first wine mentioned. As recently as the 1970s, Dolcetto was so popular that it sometimes sold for a higher price than Nebbiolo. Nowadays demand for Dolcetto takes a distant third place behind the vastly more popular Nebbiolo and Barbera. While we do taste many Dolcettos that are trying too hard to be important wines, there are some exceptional examples (by Chionetti, Principiano, Elio Sandri, and San Fereolo, for instance), and we lose out if we pass them by. We're most familiar with Dolcetto from the Langhe (Dolcetto d'Alba, Diano, Dogliani) and Asti, but historically the town of Ovada (which is on the road to Genoa, east of Alba) was the place for Dolcetto. I recently pontificated about the over-use of “legendary” to describe a wine (or just about anything else being marketed), but it might apply to Giuseppe “Pino” Ratto, who made long-lived wines of great character, and who was considered one of the greatest producers of Dolcetto (from Ovada, or anywhere else). I met him once about 12 years ago (he died in 2014) and was knocked out by the wild (and elegant) character of his wine, which I don’t think was ever exported to the US. We hope to have a chance to taste his Dolcetto (and some other wines from Ovada) with you later this year, but in the meantime we have a few of Pino Ratto’s very rare - legendary, even - Dolcettos to offer.     Jamie Wolff

 

 

  • red
  • 1 in stock
  • $249.99

Barale 2017 Dolcetto d'Alba Le Rose

Barale's Dolcetto d'Alba is a very charming wine, with pretty violet floral tones and soft red/black fruit (plum, wild raspberry, redcurrants). The vines grow on calcareous marl soils in Monforte d'Alba at 450 meters above sea level, and while this wine is very easy-drinking, it is by no means simple, with great acidity and medium, very well integrated tannins giving it a pleasing structure. This would be a perfect addition to any summer barbecue or cookout. Oskar Kostecki

  • red
  • 8 in stock
  • $19.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Clerico, Francesco 2015 Barbera d'Alba

All of Francesco Clerico’s wines (Barbera, Barolo, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo) could be used in a class as textbook examples of traditional Langhe wine. Clerico’s certified-organic vines are in Bussia di Monforte (mostly in the Colonello sub-zone of Bussia Soprana, and also in Bussia Dardi), an easy walk from his cantina in Borgata Bussia Soprana - like the wines, a hamlet that feels as though time has passed by. 2015 was a good year for Barbera in general; Clerico’s is cool, deep, and lifted, with lovely balance between bright plummy fruit and earthy, savory and forest-y notes. It makes perfect sense for Thanksgiving, as it should work well with all of the varied components of the meal, even the cranberry. Jamie Wolff

  • red
  • 37 in stock
  • $19.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Principiano, Ferdinando NV Dosset (Dolcetto)

Cowabunga! A Piemontese wine at only 10.5% abv. I would say that's unheard of, yet here it is. Principiano's incredibly charming and utterly delicious Dosset (the name for Dolcetto in the regional dialect) is a beauty: light, fruit-forward and energetic on the palate, with soft tannins and lively acidity. The Dosset shows vibrant fruit notes of cherry, forest berries, red current and red plum, with beautiful floral tones of rose and violet. Very light when first opened, with some air it fleshes out a bit, and a purple plummy note creeps in, along with a hint of spice. Great with a slight chill, this wine is perfect with a summer barbecue. Oskar Kostecki

  • red
  • 31 in stock
  • $19.99

Sandri, Elio (Cascina Disa) 2017 Barbera d'Alba

Sandri’s 2017 Barbera is a beauty.  I might as well say tell you now: it has 15° alcohol. This is becoming quite common in Piedmont; some winemakers / some wines can handle it, and Sandri seems to have it figured out – at any rate the wine isn’t hot or overblown. It’s a Monforte wine – structured, savory, with lovely balanced black fruit, somewhat restrained; it’s a big wine, but has grace and energy. This is a Barbera that will benefit from a little time in the cellar to unwind and show it’s best, although you can promote the same result if you give it a couple of hours in a decanter. At the moment I’m writing (July), it strikes me as a perfect barbeque wine! Jamie Wolff

  • red
  • 13 in stock
  • $24.99

Sandri, Elio (Cascina Disa) 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba

Last May we tried a ton of Dolcetto in the company of two distinguished tasters who kept saying they didn’t like Dolcetto, which tends to put a damper on the experience. Sandri’s, however, made them sit up and take notice, so I give them credit for staying alert and flexible enough to change their minds. It’s bracingly juicy with wild brambly fruit that’s balanced with savoury herbs and chalky stone. Medium-bodied, very lively and lifted, it’s long and complete. I happen to like Dolcetto, but if they were all half as good as this one I might say I love it. Jamie Wolff


Since the Fall cooking around my house is Piemonte-centric, I would be remiss for not including Cascina Disa's wines in my top choices for autumnal wines. Elio Sandri makes fabulous reds in Monforte d’Alba (Perno), which offer sophistication (though not flashiness) and also express terroir and Langhe soul beautifully. The 2015 Dolcetto is dark-fruited with ripe aromas of violets, blackberry, black cherry, plum, and pencil lead. The supple, but racy palate offers more dark fruit flavors over well-knit tannins and a succulent, buoyant finish. Fabulous with salumi, smashing with a cheese plate after dinner. This has a fine ratio of generous fruit to structure to terroir detail without any of the heat or excess that sometimes characterizes the vintage. I’m regularly impressed by the wines from Elio Sandri and can say without hesitation that he is a grower to watch. John McIlwain

  • red
  • 44 in stock
  • $24.99

  • Organic
Sorry, the Following have Already Sold
  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $64.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $64.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $89.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $69.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $34.99

Drago 1979 Freisa si San Rocco Seno di Elvio

This is from the estate that the Colla family purchased when they sold Prunotto to Antinori in the early 1990s; it's a splendid property that had a reputation for producing high quality fruit - it's easy to see why someone as discerning as Beppe Colla was drawn to the place. Freisa is a close relative of Nebbiolo, and while my experience of older examples has been limited, those I've tasted have shown me that it can age very well. I'm going to buy a bottle of this for myself... Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $37.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $119.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $34.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $39.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $39.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $49.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $249.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

Rovero 2016 Grignolino d'Asti

We mostly taste Grignolinos that are dark, heavy, very tannic, lacking the freshness and charm that “correct” Grignolino shows. I think Rovero’s is textbook: light colored, aromatic of flowers, tart red fruit, with light tannins, and crisp acidity – all of this adding-up to a wine that I’d call charming for it’s easy drinkability, but underpinned by enough structure to keep it interesting. This, btw, is a red wine that is delicious a bit chilled, and it’s very versatile at the table. Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

  • Organic