Synonym: Biena, Bignola, Bignona, Bignonina, Cassolo, Dolcetta Nera, Dolcetto Piemontese, Nibiò, Ormesco, Uva d’Aqui, Uva di Ovada, Uva di Roccagrimalda; Douce Noire and Charbonneau (France); Charbono (California, USA).
Commonly mistaken for: Nebbiolo, Nebbioline, Corbeau, Cortese Nero, Dolcetto di Cumiana, Dolciame, Dolcino delle Marche, Dolcignola, Refosco, Piedirosso.
Origin: The first reference to the cultivation of this variety dates back the end of the 18th century (Nuvolone, 1798; Gallesio, 1839) in the Piedmont, north-west Italy. It originated around the zone of the Monteferrato; in Liguria it was also common in the zone of Alps and Apennines. According to Molon (1906) this vine was one of the most cultivated in Italy before the arrival of phylloxera (1879 in the Piedmont region). The name “dolcetto” refers to the sweetness of the berry, in fact the Italian word “dolce” means “sweet”.
Agronomic and environmental aspects: It’s a very rustic vine, but it is not adaptable to every type of environment and climate. In soil with a high percentage of clay this variety can show irregular maturation and inconsistent vintages, also before harvesting some ripe berries can fall on the ground. With its medium vigour it prefers the VSP training system and spur pruning, leaving 3-4 buds per spur.
Diseases, pests and disorders: Sensitive to downy and powdery mildew, good resistance to the spring frosts and the winter colds. A few clones can show “dropping off” and “hen and chicken”.
Growing Tip: fully open, cottony, of green colour with reddish edges.
Leaf: Medium size of blade, pentagonal shape, 5-lobed. Has an open V-shaped petiolar sinus, lateral superior sinuses are deep, shaped like a semi-closed lyre, while inferior are not so deep and open. The profile is flat with revolute edges, hairless, but with a few tufted hairs on the lower surface.
Bunch: Medium, long, of pyramidal form, winged, with loose berries.
Berry: of medium dimensions, but rarely uniform, round; thin skin of blue colour, covered by high bloom.
- MAT 1: The vine has low vigour, with short internodes. The bunch is characterized by a long-conical form and loose density of berries; medium-large size of clusters. The berry has small dimension and round shape. Good resistance to powdery mildew.
- MAT 2:Medium and constant yield. Vines of medium to low vigour, characterised by bunches of medium dimension, winged, of long and pyramidal form and with a medium density of berries. The berry has small size and ovate.
- MAT 3:Vines of medium-high vigour, with a medium and constant productivity. The bunch is medium-large; the berry is medium-small, round, of a blue-violet colour, with a thin skin covered by a good quantity of bloom.
- MAT 4:The vine has low vigour, with an irregular production. The bunch, of long pyramidal form, has medium-small size, with one wing and a medium density of berries. The berry has medium dimension, blue to black colour, with a good quantity of bloom.
- MAT 5:Vines of medium vigour, with a low and irregular yield. The bunch has small size, with medium density of berries, of cylindrical form and with short wings. The berry has small dimension, round or ovate, blue to black, with a good quantity of bloom.
- MAT 7:The vine has low vigour, with a low and irregular yield. The bunch has medium size, of pyramidal or conical form, low density of berries; the berry has small dimension, with a thin skin good resistance to powdery mildew.
Principal Viticultural and Physiological Characteristics:
(1): The vigour of these clones can be classified between medium and high, but inside this category can be noted some differences: + (more vigorous); - (less vigorous).
(2): The fertility is expressed in number of clusters per shoot.
(3): The bud burst in this variety is medium-early, approximately 5 days after Chardonnay, but inside this group of clones there are some differences: + (later); - (earlier).
(4): The ripening in this variety is medium-early, approximately 2 weeks before Cabernet Sauvignon, but inside this group of clones there are some differences: + (later); - (earlier).
The wine in no way resembles the succulent and very sweet grapes from which it is produced except the name: Dolcetto. The wine made from the grapes of this variety is generally of red ruby colour with violet hue, which sometimes is very intense; from the characteristic delicate vinous perfume, fruity, with a medium body and low acidity. The wine can be also tannic because of the richness in anthocyanins of the berries, so the resulting wines with characteristic flavours of liquorice and bitter almond. It becomes mature with a short ageing, so it can be sold in few weeks after the vinifiacation. Dolcetto is important for several DOC of the Piedmont, the Liguria and the Val D’Aosta region; bottled as alone: Dolcetto d’Aqui, Dolcetto d’Alba, Dolcetto di Dogliani, Dolcetto di Ovada, Langhe, Monferrato, Pinerolese, Riviera ligure di Ponente, etc; or blended: Barbera d’Asti, Vallèe d’Aoste, Barbera del Monferrato, Valsusa, Golfo di Tigullio etc.