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Teobaldo Rivella’s Dolcetto combines elegance, quaffability and easy appeal

by Claudio Celio

Teobaldo Rivella is a grapegrower whose understatement is a way of life. Measured and unhurried, he tells us of his work. Measured and unhurried, he cultivates 2 hectares under vine in one of the noblest Barbaresco crus: Montestefano. The vineyards surround his home and Teobaldo tends them as his grandfather did; no frills, all earnestness. They yield a little over 8,500 bottles of Barbaresco and some 3,000 bottles of Dolcetto d’Alba.

Just two wines for this small Piedmontese winery, where the Montestefano Barbaresco obviously takes pride of place with its well deserved success and ample recognition.

The Dolcetto, though, can hold its own: no Dolcetto aficionado fails to mention Rivella’s elegant version when discussing the varietal.

The secret is briefly told by Teobaldo Rivella himself: “Dolcetto, just like any wine, needs the proper soil. In my case, the variety’s planted smack in the middle of the very same vineyard as my Montestefano cru Barbaresco, on top of the hill – since, like my father used to say, Dolcetto prefers well ventilated locations.”

No more than a few Dolcetto vine rows whose venerable age (54 years old) no doubt comes into the equation, yielding 2,500/3,000 bottles per annum that sell like hotcakes.

Teobaldo’s Dolcetto manages to combine elegance and quaffability as is rarely the case; also thanks to the Montestefano vineyard which, thanks to its geological and climatic characteristics, endows even the Barbaresco with these same traits: finesse and easy appeal.

“I make the Dolcetto – says Teobaldo Rivella – mostly because it’s a wine I enjoy and find gratifying, so it is no sacrifice to produce a few bottles less of Barbaresco from the vineyard.”

The 2015 vintage, the grower continues, produced a very typical Dolcetto. “It was a hot year, so a good one for this variety: in my experience, extreme temperature shifts put Dolcetto under a lot of stress, particularly at the final stage of maturation.”

Vinification is traditional and as natural and unforced as possible, without wood contact, so as to maintain the characteristics of a grape that is very sensitive in the vineyard and very delicate in the winery.

The result is an incredibly elegant wine that also manages to be scrumptiously, almost compulsively quaffable. The bouquet’s focus is on red fruit, cherry in particular; on the palate, the wine is round, full and graceful at the same time, with Dolcetto’s characteristic, slightly almondy-bitterish taste on the very pleasing finish. A perfect all-around food wine and an ideal match with pasta with meat sauce or stuffed pasta, as well as meat dishes, particularly stews.