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What is a Rustic Wine?

einaudi dolcettoThe first word that popped into my mind when sampling this Dolcetto is “rustic”, which is a fairly common wine descriptor. What does it mean?

Many people seem to mean wine that is simple and unsophisticated. But there are lots of simple, unsophisticated wines on the bottom shelf of the supermarket that are not rustic, so “simple and unsophisticated” doesn’t really get to the heart of what
“rustic” means. The word “rustic” in any context means having qualities ascribed to country life. People growing up in the country are alleged to be sturdy, unpolished, and a little rough. These are  terms that better describe “rustic wine” and they more clearly distinguish rustic wines from  inexpensive supermarket wines, which lack the structure to be sturdy and are anything but rough since they are smooth and designed for easy drinking.

“Sturdy, unpolished and little rough” well describes this Dolcetto from the large Italian producer Einaudi.

Deep ruby with purple highlights. Very prominent dusty, baked earth and dried porcini mushrooms prevail on the medium-intensity nose supported by generic berry aromas with black pepper highlights. The medium-weight palate shows sour plum encased in a cloak of dry, sandy tannins animated by crisp acidity leading to a classic bitter herbal finish.

“Dolcetto” means little sweet one in Italian and indeed some Dolcettos are soft and fruity. But not this wine which has more stuffing that most. Less acidic than Barbera, but with considerably more tannin, Italians use both Dolcetto and Barbera as everyday wines to serve with dinner. This one cries out for a good Soppressata.

Dogliani is one of several regions that grow Dolcetto. D’Alba is more famous but Dogliani is reliable.

Rustic wines have their own kind of charm; they are often earthy and have a unique personality, a welcome relief from the endless parade of generic, overly-polished poodles on the supermarket shelf.

Score: 88

Price: $18

Alcohol: 13.5