Comfort Food: Dolcetto di Dogliani and Risotto

The weather and the sad news from Montalcino has made me somewhat dour. I have decided to combat this melancholy with an age old remedy: food and wine. Recently I have been thinking about some of the important experiences that I have had with Italian wines. One was a chance meeting with a Dolcetto di Dogliani from the Poderi Einaudi winery.

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The family is one of Italy’s most illustrious in a number of fields. In addition to Italian wine, I have been fascinated with Italian politics and history for many years. During my studies at SAIS in Bologna, I took a fabulous class on Italian politics with Gianfranco Pasquino. He spoke of the first President of Italy, a statesman and economist – Luigi Einaudi 1948-1955 – a number of times. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was sitting at dinner with a member of the Einaudi family in Washington – Giorgio Einaudi – a physicist and Science attache at the Italian Embassy. We spoke about the family winery and he told me the family also counts among its members a very well known symphonic composer, Ludovico Einaudi.

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I immediately went right out and bought a bottle of the Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore which I had first tasted in 1997. I was thrilled to see that my memory of the wine was correct. It was wonderful. I bought a Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore Vigna Tecc 2006 DOCG which comes from very old vines and is a true expression of Dolcetto from this area, a perfect example of a terroir driven wine. Supposedly, the dolcetto grape originated in the vineyard areas that the Einaudi family owns in Dogliani in Piedmont. The winery was founded in 1897 and began making Dolcetto in 1905. Both the Einaudi website and their importer Empson give extension explanations of the Einaudi wines and vineyards. They have three different Dolcettos to try. “I Filari” is the second DOCG Dolcetto, like Vigna Tecc, it comes from the best vineyard sites. They also have a Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC which comes from a blend of grapes from all of their vineyards. The winery has 43 hectares under vine and is equally well known for its Barolo, Langhe Nebbiolo and Barolo Chinato wines. In 1997, they came out with a Langhe Rosso DOC “Luigi Einaudi” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the winery.

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Dolcetto di Dogliani was given DOCG status as of the 2005 vintage. The wine was as I remembered it, a cut above all other Dolcettos that I have tasted. It was a deep ruby color, with small red fruit aromas, earthy notes and a hint of sage and bramble on the nose and palate. It was intense, persistent with fine tannins and a nice almond note on the finish. I love when a wine is as you remember it and as you want it to be, very memorable.

On a whim, I have also decided to put friend’s recipes on my website once a week. Before I left Italy, I asked everyone I knew and some that I didn’t to send me an easy recipe to make once I was back stateside. This is my friend Cristina Jonghi’s recipe for Risotto with mushrooms and sausage. Incredibly Milanese, I can only see Cristina drinking a wine from the North with this dish.

RISOTTO AI FUNGHI E SALSICCIA

Serves four people
30 grams of dried porcini mushrooms
3 sausages
1 knorr boullion cube
Arborio rice
Red Wine (Dolcetto)

A couple of hours before using the funghi, put them in hot water. Once they have expanded, drain the water and put them in a pan. Saute the mushrooms in oil with the sausage which has been cut into small cubes. After a few minutes, put in half a glass of wine, the boullion cube and a bit of the water from the mushrooms into the pan and cook slowly for 15 minutes, until the sauce is a little more concentrated. In the meantime, cook the rice and drain it when it is cooked “al dente.” Put the rice into the pan where you have cooked the mushrooms and sausage, add some grated grana padana and a touch of pepper. The rice is ready when all of the ingredients are blended and the rice is still crisp.

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