An award-winning wine at a moderate price is always welcomed, and you can find it in a glass of 2007 Abbona Papa Celso Dolcetto di Dogliani.
Grown at high altitudes in Italy’s Piedmont hills, dolcetto, which means “little sweet one” is softer and fruiter on the palate than Piedmont’s other two famous red wine grapes, nebbiolo and barbera. Dolcetto is grown in various areas of Piedmont, but the best are labeled Dolcetto d’Alba and Dolcetto di Dogliani (pronounced doe-ye-anee).
In the last decade, dolcetto has developed two personalities. Traditional Dolcetto has a cherry shade, light to medium body, noticeable acidity, and a red berry flavor. It is enjoyed without reflection; and some in the wine world refer to it as the Italian Beaujolais- a reference, I should note, that is not appreciated by dolcetto producers.
Modern dolcetto could never be associated with Beaujolais. It is darker, more purplish than red; fuller and riper fruit flavors coat the mouth and glide across the palate. It retains the tannins and acidity of its Piedmont birthplace, but both are tamed by harvesting at greater ripeness and winemaking techniques that are familiar to California wines. Abbona’s dolcetto is thoroughly modern.
A few weeks ago, I tasted Abbona’s wines, including its white wine, 2008 Viognier Cinerino, plus its single-vineyard Barolos, Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo d’Alba, and the 2007 Papa Celso Dolcetto di Dogliani with winemaker Chiara Abbona.
Located in the Dogliani area, the Abbona estate was founded in the 1920s by Celso Abbona. A half-century later, his son, Marziano Abbona, began bottling the wines under the family name. Today, his two daughters oversee the winemaking and administration of the business, along with the continued assistance of their parents.
The 2007 Papa Celso Dolcetto is from mature vines grown on hillside vineyards at more than 1,200 feet. Chiara Abbona and her father employed viticulture and winemaking techniques that yielded a dark red wine with black cherry and black liquorice aromas and flavors. The wine is plush on the palate; its velvety texture and ripe fruit flavors will be immediately appealing to anyone who likes the fruit-forward style of New World wines.
But is it dolcetto? Tha’s the question I asked Chiara Abbona. We engaged in a lively discussion of this modern style sweeping through dolcetto and barbera wines.
Abbona’s Papa Celso Dolcetto di Dogliani is consistently awarded Three Glasses, the highest accolade from Gambero Rosso, arguably Italy’s top wine publication. But over the last decade, Gambero Rosso has shown a clear bias for this wine style.
Whichever side of the debate you are on, what is certain is that the price is fair; and as warm weather approaches, the 2007 Abbona Papa Celso Dolcetto di Dogligani will pair better than a traditional dolcetto with grilled steaks, lamb chops, and pasta puttanesca or bolognese. Save the Beaujolais for another day.
The 2007 Abbona Papa Celso Dolcetto di Dogliani retails for approximately $24.