Corks+Forks: Dolcetto and Lamb Bolognese

The hills are alive with the sound of Dolcetto.

There’s a lot of pressure put on the grape Dolcetto. It’s two siblings are practically gods in the wine appellation of Piedmont in northwestern Italy; Nebbiolo reigns in the Barolo and Barbaresco regions, while Barbera holds court in the towns of Asti and Alba.

Roughly translating to “little sweet one,” Dolcetto is a hauntingly black grape that flourishes in Piedmont. The varietal’s nickname is does not refer to sugar levels, but the name of the hills where it was originally cultivated. In fact, the wine is typically anything but sweet. Loaded with black cherry, licorice and dark fruits, Dolcettos have simple acidity and tend to finish with a bitter tannic bite.

That ornery tannin, or dryness, comes from the skin of the Dolcetto grapes, which are very high in a color pigment called anthocyanin. During the phase of maceration, a grape skin’s contact with the juice affects the level of tannin — and in the case of Dolcetto, not much time is needed to create the ideal level of tannin to match the fruitiness of the wine. The anthocyanin pigment also allows very little time for skins to color the juice. Essentially, that’s how red wine becomes red and gets its bitter taste.

The Restaurant: Eva Restaurant — Chef Amy McCray and her husband, wine guru James Hondros, opened Eva in the Tangletown neighborhood of Greenlake. The dim-lit, relaxed atmosphere of this fine dining venue focuses on local produce, natural meats and regionally-specific, handcrafted wines.

The Dish: Braised Lamb Shank Bolognese with Housemade Tagliatelle. The long, flat pasta ribbons (similar to fettucine) are built to soak up the meat and tomato-based bolognese. The ancient sauce gets a modern twist with lamb shank, equally rich and hearty in its own right and highlighted by a tomato flavor.

The Grape Variety: Dolcetto d’Alba.

Why It Works: Dolcetto goes hand-in-hand with red sauce and meat. Its lower acidity won’t rival the high tartness of tomatoes and its dark fruit complements the earthy gaminess of lamb.

The Recommended Match: Podere Ruggeri Corsini 2009 Dolcetto d’Alba — Found in the middle of Eva’s glass pour list, this Dolcetto has a deep ruby color and sports a bouquet of ripe cherries, blackberries and violets with a supple, matching palate that is accented by spice, earth and mocha tones.

Get sweet with your sweet at Eva during Seattle Restaurant Week and test out Hondros’ wine selection with McCray’s seasonal cuisine — and if you order lamb bolognese, you now know which wine to pair with it.

Eva Restaurant | 2227 N. 56th St., Seattle | (206) 633-3538