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La Dolcetto Vita

Three 'little sweet ones.'

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Dolcetto (the name translates as "little sweet one") is an early ripening Italian red found primarily in the northwest region of Piemonte, an area better known for its big Barolos and Barberas. It's a soft, fruity, fragrant wine, typically low in acid and designed for early drinking—most are best between two and three years of age. As we segue into cooler fall weather, it makes a great transition red. Here are the panel's top picks:

2012 Marchesi di Barolo Madonna di Como Dolcetto, $20

This lovely wine offers a complex array of aromas including bright cherry, berry, red licorice, leather and black pepper. The flavors are round and ripe with dark plum and creamy cherry, balanced by racier acidity than you might expect from a Dolcetto. Soft tannins come through on the finish, blending with touches of cinnamon and tobacco.

2013 Pecchenino San Luigi Dogliani Dolcetto, $14

Red fruit aromas lead off, colored by intriguing touches of chalk, earth, leather, lavender, spice, tobacco and almond, while plush flavors caress the palate. You get ripe raspberry, blueberry and cherry fruit flavors. Ripe tannins and just the right hit of acidity come through on the finish. This is a fresh, fruity, oh-so-easy drinking Dolcetto.

2011 Vigne Regali l'Ardi Dolcetto d'Acqui, $13

Opens with supple dark fruit aromas mixed with layers of black tea, earth, hay, anise and dark cherry. In the mouth, it is silky smooth, combining dark berry fruit flavors with soft tannins and light acidity. Earthy oak colors the long finish. It's a great example of a nicely evolved, mature Dolcetto. Drink it now and over the next several months.

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