You hear about Sassicaia and Tignanello pretty often, the first and second productions, respectively, in the Super-Tuscan category (though some dispute that order). However, the aftermath’s spate of Super-Tuscan releases tends to obscure the producers who not only sustained the category’s momentum, but ensured that Bolgheri would continue to thrive through productions that became as eagerly sought-after, if not more so, than the originals. Eugenio Campolmi’s Le Macchiole estate was one of the first to make the burgeoning list, as well as one of the most significant successors.
In 1975, the late Campolmi founded Le Macchiole with the purchase of a vineyard in Bolgheri. Although he originally intended his efforts to be purely recreational, he soon grew desirous of engaging in serious wine production. Lacking any background in viticulture, he brought in oenologist Vittorio Fiore on a consulting basis in 1987 and also sought the expertise and advice of Pier Mario di Grattamacco (another of the early post-Sassicaia pioneers) and Michele Satta, with whom he forged a particularly strong relationship. As Fiore did not satisfy Campolmi’s efforts to develop an intimate and thorough understanding of the winemaking process, Campolmi turned to another consultant in 1991, effectively launching the estate’s transition into the upper echelon of Italian wine.
Ironically, the one he turned to—Luca d’Attoma—isn’t exactly the accommodating type. He likes things done a certain way, and he doesn’t take too well to not getting what he wants. As a result, he’s broken things off with many a winery and been relieved of his duties as well. At one point, he was the mind behind two of Italy and the world’s most prominent Merlots—Redigaffi and Messorio. Things didn’t quite work out with Tua Rita, the home of Redigaffi, but d’Attoma’s relationship with Le Macchiole has been long-term—a collaboration celebrated to greatest effect, perhaps, in Messorio, one of Italy’s most profound and prestigious Merlots. When Campolmi passed away in 2002, his wife, Cinzia Merli, assumed direction of the estate. Determined to retain the caliber of the wines and their reputation, Merli retained d’Attoma. Part of an unofficial, but nevertheless widely recognized clique that includes Redigaffi, Masseto, Galatrona, and Percarlo, Messorio provides a compelling testament to Toscana’s affinity for the varietal; these bottlings, in fact, often merit comparison to the wines of Bordeaux’s Pomerol region.
It’s not just Merlot, however, that distinguishes Le Macchiole. While many Bolgheri producers root their production in the Bordeaux paradigm, Le Macchiole has established a niche in the single-varietal genre. It’s also gone outside the latter’s primary sphere, choosing to showcase Cabernet Franc in its Paleo bottling. Paleo’s gone through a few phases—a Sangiovese–based blend when first produced, Cabernet soon came to dominate in Bordeaux-style fashion. Beginning with the ’01 vintage, however, Paleo departed from the blending regimen, delivering a formidable expression of the estate’s work with Cabernet Franc. Indeed, Cabernet Franc does quite well for itself in Bolgheri, as the warm climate enables it to sufficiently ripen, thereby avoiding the greenness that it tends to exhibit in cooler areas and enabling it to achieve complexity. That special something between Bolgheri and Cabernet Franc reaches particular heights at Le Macchiole, where it displays a graphite character and spicy pepper.
Le Macchiole goes further outside the mainstream in its single-vineyard Syrah—Scrio— one of Italy’s most accomplished monovarietal Syrahs. Inspired by the esteemed wines of the Northern Rhône—specifically those of Côte-Rôtie—this expression was a particular passion of Le Macchiole’s late founder, Eugenio Campolmi. Scrio represents minute yields from two vineyard sources and is known for capturing the essence of the Syrah varietal, particularly its classic notes of camphor, blackberry, licorice, and tar.
The house also produces two blends, Paleo Bianco (Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay) and Bolgheri Rosso, which was introduced in the 2004 vintage, taking the place of the estate’s eponymous bottling, Macchiole Rosso. The latter, which essentially constituted a “second” wine for the estate, was Sangiovese-based, with varying combinations of other Bordeaux grapes comprising the remainder. Merli instituted the replacement, desiring to offer a bottling that afforded greater accessibility. Merlot took the lead to effect this stylistic objective, accompanied by smaller percentages of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, and Syrah.