Le Macchiole was one of the first wineries established in the viticultural zone of Bolgheri located approximately 100 kilometers southwest of Florence along the Etruscan Coast in Tuscany. Leading down the middle of this zone is the strada San Guido, which is flanked left and right with majestic cypress trees celebrated by Giosuè Carducci in his poem Davanti San Guido, and then finishes into a tiny medieval village, situated on the base of the foothills.
Today, Bolgheri is among Italy’s famed wine producing regions, but this seemed far from a possibility in 1983, the year Le Macchiole was founded and a time when the area was known simply for a close proximity to the sea and having abundant fruit and grain agriculture. Yet, two native Bolgheresi, Eugenio Campolmi and Cinzia Merli, were devoted to the idea of vine growing in their home even when it was not considered a viable way to start a living. “My husband Eugenio and I started off with very limited, if almost no, resources,” Cinzia recalls. “We gave up working his parents’ retail and restaurant business and bought a few hectares of land planted to wheat. We decided to plant vineyards starting with many varieties - sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and vermentino - so that we might see what grew best on our little property. That is how our life project began and, for me, our learning is still in progress. I believe that Bolgheri is in the early stage of development. It has just become aware of its potential and understanding of which grape varieties give their best to each part of the different soils; much is still yet to be accomplished here.”
While Cinzia’s perspective is undeniable, Bolgheri is moving through infancy by comparison to other renowned places for wine production in the world, great results have been realized for a number of wineries. Much of the initial attention and subsequent development should be attributed to the efforts of Tenuta San Guido. The Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta planted the first vineyards, produced the first commercial wine from the area and in its earliest years proved to the world market exceptional quality was possible from Bolgheri.
As they cultivated and learned the possibilities for their land, the Le Macchiole strategy became single-variety wines beginning with the 1994 vintage. This was an unusual, perhaps daring, plan for a winery of the region to commit to at the time; much of the well-known, well-expressed wine from Bolgheri was a result of the strong belief in blending varieties. The idea took shape gradually over years of tireless experimentation by Eugenio, Cinzia and with the help of Luca D’Attoma, the winery’s’ long time consulting enologist, who began working with Le Macchiole in 1991. Ultimately, vinifying separate varieties has been extremely successful for the winery, allowing the wines of Le Macchiole to demonstrate the potential of terroir in Bolgheri differently.
Massimo Merli, Cinzia’s’ brother, manages the agricultural work with meticulous and careful planning. The winery’s planting density is between 5,000 and 10,000 plants per hectare and vine growing is rooted in organic farming practices “first and foremost, out of respect for the people who work here”, says Cinzia. Manual harvesting is followed by the sorting of bunches and then berries on a double sorting table.
At Le Macchiole, the signature grape varieties are Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc and work is always conducted with the priority being ‘the expression of the land.’ The winery continues to evolve in both the vineyards and in the cellar to allow the soil characteristics from this estate property to be the defining identity in the wines.