Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2001-2020

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2001-2020

It is surprising to realize how quickly a region as famous as Bolgheri has developed, from being an area best known for fruit and vegetables to having 65 producers making wines as part of Bolgheri DOC, plus Sassicaia with its own DOC. Le Macchiole is a dream realized. A success story which has been an intrinsic part of the success of Bolgheri and they now produce some of the most sought-after wines in the region.

Dream Catcher

Le Macchiole was one of the first wineries to be established in Bolgheri. It was founded in 1983 by Eugenio Campolmi and his wife, Cinzia Merli, at a time when few wineries existed there, with the notable exception of Tenuta San Guido, who had released their 1968 vintage Sassicaia in 1971, and Ornellaia, which Lodovico Antinori had established in 1981. Campolmi, 21 years of age and proud of being a local boy, had a powerful dream of making wine, so together with his wife he bought a few hectares of vineyard in Bolgheri. “I still remember the first time that I visited the property,” says Merli, who runs the winery today along with her two sons, Elia and Mattia. “It was an amazing expanse of grain fields and olive trees. There were just a few vineyards at the time, just as there were few wineries.”

"I still remember the first time that I visited the property."

Since Campolmi had no background in viticulture or experience in making wine, he was keen to learn by experimentation, planting the same grape variety in different soils and locations and at varying high densities, to understand more deeply the effect of terroir on both the grapes and the wine. In the early 1990s, he enlisted the help of his friend, the young Luca D’Attoma, who was just beginning his career as a consultant oenologist and who continued to work with Le Macchiole until 2011. Campolmi chose to work with international grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah with a view to make single varietal wines, which was, at that time, says Merli, “unusual and a little revolutionary.”

Le Macchiole was the first producer in Bolgheri to make a 100% Cabernet Franc with their 2001 vintage Paleo and its quality encouraged other producers to make wines with Cabernet Franc. For me, this is the most exciting variety to come out of the region, capable of producing world-class wines, and it has become Bolgheri’s jewel in the crown.

Aside from Paleo, Le Macchiole makes two other highly prized wines: Messorio, a 100% Merlot, and Scrio, made from Campolmi’s favorite variety, Syrah. These three wines make up about 25% of production. The rest, 140,000 bottles, is made up of Bolgheri Rosso, a blend of the four red varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and a small amount of Paleo Bianco, an attractive wine made from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. 

Sadly, Campolmi died in 2002 of lung cancer. His death left his wife with two young boys and a business to run. Until that point, she had not been directly involved in the business, being very happy to be a wife and mother. But suddenly, she had to take over. “It was very difficult at first,” she explains, “but little by little, things went well.” Her brother Massimo Merli had already joined the company in 1998 as vineyard manager, and in 2008 Luca Rettondini joined as production manager, where he continues today. In time, the two sons also became part of the company, Elia working with his uncle in the vineyard and Mattia in the marketing and sales department. Gradually, Merli has built a strong team around her.

Since 2002 Le Macchiole has used organic methods for growing grapes, and they plan to be certified organic in 2023. In 2010, they started to adopt some biodynamic methods. They now own 64 acres of vineyard and have nine different plots of land on which they continue their experiments with the same single varieties, considering, in every vintage, what the grapes from these different locations can contribute to the wines. For example, in 2001, Paleo was made from a blend of Cabernet Franc grapes from two different vineyards: Contessine and Puntone; by 2005, the grapes were sourced from Contessine, Puntone, Casa Nuova, and Vignone; in 2019 it was Casa Nuova, Vignone plus the new addition to their palette, Ulivino. 

Honoring the memory of Eugenio Campolmi and his vision, his methods are still at the heart of what they do, still experimenting to understand the specific terroir of each vineyard. With all the incredible things Le Macchiole has achieved, one can only imagine how proud Campolmi would be to see his powerful dream realized. 

Article & Reviews by Susan Hulme MW
Photos by Svante Örnberg

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