2020 Elio Sandri, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Elio Sandri Barolo has a cult like following here in the states and especially with the Sommelier crowd, so you hardly see them, but lucky for us their beautiful Barbera and Dolcetto wines are somewhat are overlooked and under the radar and this 2020 Dolcetto d’Alba is especially rewarding with beautifully structured dark fruits and subtle rusticity. I am quite fond of Dolcetto as a grape with its tannic frame and black fruit profile making it joyous with hearty cuisine, in fact the very first case of wine I ever bought was a 12 bottle box of early eighties Dolcetto d’Alba, after being first introduced to this varietal with a meal at a family Italian restaurant. The Sandri version, grown on Barolo terroir and is hillside fruit, is light years ahead of my first experiences with this grape and their organic farming and extra care in the cellar take this from an old school peasant wine to a level that will impress even the most snobbish of wine lovers and this 2020 vintage is definitely a year to look for. The medium weighted and firm palate of the Elio Sandri Dolcetto delivers a cascade of blackberry, plum, earthy currant and cherry fruits along with lilacs, wild mint, anise, all spice and stony mineral notes, finishing with a nice generous vinous feel, though remaining dusty dry and cleanly taut that sparks your appetite into gear.

Elio Sandri, based in Monforte, very close to the famed Serralunga zone of Barolo, is a traditionalist producer and makes his wines with minimal intervention and employs holistic, organic certified, methods in the vines focusing on the natural elements and purity of place. Giovanni Sandri, Elio’s father, founded the winery in the early sixties when he purchased Cascina Disa, where the modern Elio Sandri winery resides, it’s a property that sits up among some of the region’s highest hills, from where Elio crafts just 5 different bottlings. Sandri does two Barolo offerings, a normale and a Riserva, a Langhe Nebbiolo, a Barbera and this tasty little Dolcetto, all from estate grown vines in the Barolo appellation set on classic Marne (limestone) soils. Elio Sandri’s cooler east facing, ultra steep parcels, gets all hand tending, as the tractor can’t operate here, and the grapes see an extended hang time that allows full ripening, heightened aromatics and concentration, but with core of vibrant acidity for balanced and elegant efforts. The Dolcetto at Sandri is 100% de-stemmed and stainless steel tank fermented, after which it is aged in old Slovenian barrels to mature. Interestingly, Sandri uses whole cluster on his Barolo, which makes for a very gripping wine that needs plenty of bottle age to bring out its best, while the Dolcetto, and the Barbera, can be much more enjoyed in their youthful form, as this 2020 proves.
($21 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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