Chionetti is Dogliani's OG.
I’ll Drink to That listeners who caught Levi Dalton’s interview with Aldo Vaira may recall a delightful anecdote recounted by Vaira in which he accepts an offer of a ride from Aldo Conterno to accept an award in Torino back in 1986.
It turns out to be a bit of an ambush: when the car rolls up, its passengers include not just Conterno but Bartolo Mascarello and Conterno’s dearest friend Quinto Chionetti of Dogliani—all primed to spend the hour-long road trip interrogating Vaira in the car about his philosophy and plan for the winery before accepting him as a peer. “These were extremely brilliant minds… each of them had very smart eyes, and you guessed they could understand each other just by their eyes,” Vaira says, his voice full of emotion and respect. “I always looked up to them, and in the hardest moments I had the freedom to ask for suggestions.”
It may be surprising to hear a Barolo master speaking in such reverent tenor about a producer known for Dolcetto. Dogliani’s image, that of a bucolic but somewhat sleepy window on the bustling Barolo landscape next door, belies its importance to Piemonte—and in turn, Dolcetto’s image as a pleasant but rather less serious neighbor to Nebbiolo doesn’t really do justice to the grape’s power in the hands of a benchmark producer.
The truth is, not long ago, when Italian wine was almost solely consumed by Italians, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo weren’t part of a hierarchy but of equal importance in the region, simply two components of the rhythm of the weekly table: Barolo for Sundays and holidays, Dolcetto for everyday enjoyment. The contrast is a great example of the magic of Piemonte, a region capable of producing everything that Barolo and Barbaresco can be, and then turning around and producing something like Dolcetto, unique in a completely different way.
And there is no Dogliani producer more revered than Chionetti. Quinto Chionetti saw the potential in the San Luigi farmhouse his grandfather purchased in 1912. He guided the operation from selling their grapes off to local merchants into an estate project. The family has since expanded their holdings to 16 hectares, and Chionetti has become the ultimate reference point for terroir-driven Dolcetto, with the soulful farmer Quinto Chionetti seen as the pioneer of the style.
Today we have a beautifully aged 2014 as well as two 2021 releases for you from their Briccolero and San Luigi crus.
The 2021's are perfect studies of the unique grace and vivacity of this grape. Both are lively and so wonderfully complex on the nose, with the exquisite combination of spices, fresh-picked flowers, perfume and sensual dark cherry that great Dolcetto should deliver. On the palate the San Luigi is fleshy and crunchy, with a compelling fleck of bitterness like a garnish of roasted broccoli rabe on a perfectly balanced pizza. The Briccolero is rounder, but with a spring-loaded structure and more density, revving its engine impatiently for those first few moments in the glass before it begins to reveal more and more fruit and verve.
The 2014 Briccolero was a long term by the glass at the recently closed trattoria Maialino. Not all 2014 Piedmont was created equally. The vintage was cool and wet, but the Briccolero vineyard is so high up it didn't suffer in '14. The vines stayed dry and the fruit ripened slowly and evenly, coming in with gorgeous flavor, very fine acidity and an elegant tannic backbone. In Briccolero, the Chionetti family got a rare stroke of good 2014 luck.
But this is the secret of Dolcetto: the best of them can age beautifully. And Chionetti's are among the best, legendary among Piedmonts very most famous growers. Galloni reviewed the wine on release and said that the "rose petal, licorice, smoke and lavender" notes were "nicely delineated"; today those flavors are more integrated, harder to disentangle, but all, still, very much there. The wine has the freshness of the vintage, the fruit of the full ripening, and the complexity that only terroir and time can give.
Chionetti, Dogliani San Luigi, 2021 $29.99
“The 2021 Dogliani San Luigi is super-expressive right out of the gate. Succulent dark cherry, plum, spice, leather, tobacco and incense give this mid-weight, fleshy Dogliani notable depth. Creamy and layered, with fine balance, the San Luigi is a winner.” - Antonio Galloni
Chionetti, Dogliani Briccolero, 2021 $32.99
“The 2021 Dogliani Briccolero is fresh, vibrant and easy to drink. Freshly cut flowers, sweet red berries, mint, cinnamon and rose petal all open in this mid-weight, fragrant Dogliani. Drink it over the next handful of years.” - Antonio Galloni
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