As if the stars were aligning, we hosted a winemaker from Barolo last weekend. Just imagine a charming, dapper young Italian man with endless stories of village life among the vines. With him he brought several varieties of his Barolo, all of which blew me away, but what really stuck with with me was his family's Dolcetto.
In Italian, Dolcetto means "the little sweet one." If you were constantly standing in contrast to Nebbiolo you'd be called "the little sweet one" too. I asked the young wine-maker what he drank every day: Dolcetto was his response. I can see why. Honestly, many of the best wines I've ever had have been Barolo (made from Nebbiolo), but that may say more about my exposure than anything else. Most of us, however, don't have a 20 year-old Barolo waiting around to enjoy every day. But that nice Italian wine-maker does... and he still reaches for Dolcetto for his go-to wine with dinner.
I ordered a case of Giuseppe Vaira's Dolcetto, but it won't be state-side until May. In the meantime I have three amazing Dolcetto's at affordable every-day drinking prices. I can't say I have a favorite, they are all so good and so different. They also each bare a resemblance to their Nebbiolo big brothers. In France they call that terroir, but there's plenty to go around in Barolo as well.
Bottom line: Dolcetto will fit in on any occasion you require a red wine, and these three particular ones are complex enough to satisfy even the most experience wine-drinker. Cork, pour and enjoy even without food. They're that good.