San Fereolo, Dogliani DOCG
San Fereolo, Dogliani DOCG

San Fereolo, Dogliani DOCG

Piedmont, Italy 2016 (750mL)
Regular price$43.00
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San Fereolo, Dogliani DOCG

What you have in front of you is one of the most profound red wines produced in Piedmont—and it’s not a Nebbiolo. It’s a Dolcetto, historically one of the second-banana varieties in this exalted Italian wine region, but in Nicoletta Bocca’s expert hands, a cultivar capable of real profundity. Over in Barolo, they save their best-exposed vineyard plots for Nebbiolo, whereas Dolcetto and Barbera—which ripen earlier and are generally hardier—fill in the “lesser” sites. But in Bocca’s home region of Dogliani, it’s Dolcetto on center stage, and Bocca is the undisputed master. These wines take the variety to another level; they are incredibly unique, brimming with energy and soul, and they’re aged for extended periods in barrel and bottle before release. The value-for-dollar is unreal. Superlatives are exhausted every time we taste one. If you don’t have some of this now-iconic red in your cellar, you are missing out.

Dolcetto has historically been viewed as the fruity, easy-drinking Italian answer to Beaujolais (the kind of red you drank while waiting for your Barolo to age), but in fact, the variety can exhibit serious depth and structure if given the chance. Despite its name, which translates to “little sweet one,” Dolcetto is not especially “little” (it has some serious tannic structure) or “sweet” (there’s lots of tarry minerality to complement its dark purple/black fruit). Nicoletta Bocca, working in the Dolcetto-centric Dogliani DOCG, has proved this unequivocally at San Fereolo. 

Dogliani is the namesake village of an appellation located just south of the Barolo DOCG in Piedmont. It is a touch cooler than Barolo, and the vineyards are perched a little higher in altitude, as they climb toward the Apennine Mountains that separate Piedmont from Liguria. Among the numerous region-specific appellations for the Dolcetto grape, Dogliani produces the most intense, age-worthy expressions of the variety. The soils contain a mix of limestone/clay marl and sandstone, resembling what’s found in nearby Barolo.

Bocca is one of Piedmont’s pioneering female winery proprietors who, in 1992, assembled the San Fereolo property from a collection of ancient vineyards whose owners were too old to farm any longer (the parcels that supply this wine were planted in 1936 and even the estate’s “young vines” are four decades old). She has earned a reputation as one of the most brilliant and consistent organic/biodynamic practitioners in the world. She is also known for exceptionally lengthy cellar-aging regimens for all her red wines before release.

For this wine, biodynamically farmed Dolcetto grapes are de-stemmed, crushed, and then fermented in large neutral Slavonian oak vats. There is no temperature control, the old wood imparts very little in the way of oaky aroma or flavor, and no commercial yeasts are added—the wine is largely left untouched. The final, and perhaps most important step in the process is time. San Fereolo has a cavernous aging cellar in which this wine spent at least three years in barrel and over four in bottle before leaving the estate (this 2016 is indeed the “current” release).

In the glass, you’ll uncover black cherry, cassis, violet, and plum smeared across black rock, as well as pencil lead, cedar, and dried herbs. The palate is medium-plus bodied and a touch rustic, although softened tannins and lifted acidity keep the core of dark fruit juicy and buoyant. It’s ready to enjoy now but capable of at least a decade of further aging. Use this in place of a Barolo one night alongside a hearty pot roast, wild mushroom risotto, or duck confit: Decant about 30 minutes before serving (watching for sediment), serve at 60-65 degrees in Burgundy stems, and enjoy the show. This may be the most under-the-radar collectible in all of Italy, but if we have anything to say about it, that’s likely to change. Enjoy!

San Fereolo, Dogliani DOCG
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