Kristen’s Winery of the Month
In 1975, Eugenio Campolmi and Cinzia Merli started the great estate of Le Macchiole. He recognized the potential of his homeland long before is was fashionable. We are talking about the wonders of Bolgheri, the once sleepy swampland along the coastal region of Tuscany in the Lovorno province, which since has been regarded as the birthplace of the first so-called “Super Tuscan”, Sassacaia! Unlike the rest of Tuscany, where Sangiovese is the “King” of red wines, this maritime climate doesn’t suite it as well. While Sangiovese is still planted in Bolgheri, the International likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Verdot have become more of the mainstay! The terroir, before anything else is the number one importance of the region. The combination of the magical soil and these well-known varietals that thrive in Bolgheri, this area was awarded the DOC status for whites in 1984 and red wines in 1994. The DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) is the second most stringent in Italy’s wine classification system.
While the DOC status was a tremendous validation of the area with its unique soil composition (stony, clay and quartz) and the rare maritime climate (located 5 kilometers from the sea), Cinzia Merli wanted to accomplish more. Soon after she was widowed in 2002 she refocused the winery’s philosophy. While everyone around her was and still is following the trend of blending varietals much like Bordeaux, she decided with the help of oenologist Luca D’Attoma to showcase the purity of each of the individual varietals on their own. While Cinzia does produce a DOC red in her Bolgheri Rosso (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah) following the proper ageing requirements of 10 months and the permitted percentages of varietals, her true flagship wines remain in the single varietal packaging of Paleo (100% Cabernet Franc), Scrio (100% Syrah) and Messorio (100% Merlot).
Cinzia works meticulously in the vineyards day in and day out. She makes changes where she deems necessary. For instance, when I visited her estate about five years ago, she was just then starting to get rid of Cabernet Sauvignon entirely. When I asked why she said that it was a bit one-dimensional for her and that it was flabby and lacking acidity. This is definitely one of the highly reputable characteristics of Cinzia. Her determination and dedication to expressing the qualities of single varietals and the essence of where they come from is what sets her apart from the rest. While Cinzia produces serious wines with powerful, rounded structure and excellent ageing potential, you still get a sense of elegance from her feminine touch.
My recommendation is to try her Bolgheri Rosso ’09 here at Assaggio priced at $60 on our wine list. I would pair it with our Pappardelle Cinghiale. It is a typical dish of Bolgheri, where the boars are prominent. They are commonly hunted as the winemakers struggle to keep them out of their vineyards.
As for her flagship single varietal wines, these are gems for a special occasion or wine collectors. At a recent lunch at Assaggio I had the privilege of tasting through the rock star lineup of Paleo 07 and 08, Scrio 08 and Messorio 00 and 07. There truly is not a bad one in this bunch, but my overall pick is the Paleo ’08. I liked the readiness of the ’07, but saw crazy potential for the ’08 in my cellar. The wine was a little tight at first, but evolved immensely even over the course of a one hour lunch. It still had that great dark red fruit flavor profile with hints of graphite, white pepper and fresh herbs. The wine wasn’t nearly as ripe or concentrated as the ’07. The finish was very persistent and more focused than that of the ’07. Like I said I couldn’t knock any of them. In fact, I’d put them all on a podium. For my tastes, I just give the slight edge to Paleo.
We do have our retail license at Assaggio. If any of you wine connoisseurs out there are interested in any of these gems for your private collection, feel free to reach out to me and I would be more than happy to help put a few bottles in your cellar.
Here are the retail prices: Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso ’09 $27 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso ’07 or ’08 $106 Le Macchiole Scrio ’08 $128 Le Macchiole Messorio ’07 or ’08 $265
As I said, these wines are not for everyday consumption. Enjoy over a special occasion with that special somebody!
- Kristen Johnson