Most people think first of Tuscany when it comes to Italian wines. Here in the shadows of medieval towns of Florence, Siena and maybe Montalcino, sangiovese is used to make a wide variety of wines. However, a revolution in red winemaking is occurring in a relatively unknown wine growing subsection of Tuscany known as Bolgheri.
Hard against the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast of Italy, this region is producing some of the most highly sought after and expensive wines in all of Italy. No less than notable wine making giants Angelo Gaja and the Antinori family are producing super tuscan wines in this region.
Sassicaia, a red wine from Bolgheri, crafted from Bordeaux varietals, started a revolution in the 1970s when its wine made from Bordeaux varietals placed highly in international wine tasting competitions. Up until then the Bolgheri region was only known for producing mediocre wines from indigenous grapes.
Granted DOC status in 1994, Bolgheri is now a recognized and sought-after source of mostly red wines that command serious prices. Ninety percent of Bolgheri’s wine production is exported to other countries.
Eugenio Campolmi founded Le Macchiole in the late 1980s when he planted 20 different grape varieties to ascertain the best match for Bolgheri’s terroir. Settling on the classic Bordeaux red varietals as well as syrah, he crafted his wines from single varietals as opposed to his neighbors’ blends of Bordeaux varieties. He ages his red wines for one year longer than required by the DOC regulations.
Eugenio died in 2002 and his surviving wife Cinzia Merli took over along with her brother Massimo tending the vines.
We recently met with Gianluca Putzolu, director of Le Macchiole, to taste three of their wines.
The Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso Bolgheri DOC 2017 ($36) is a great entry point to experience this new appellation. Unusual for Le Macchiole, this entry-level wine is their only blend: 40 percent merlot, 30 percent cabernet franc, and 15 percent each of cabernet sauvignon and syrah, all sourced from Le Macchiole’s estate vineyards. Cherry elements dominate along with soft tannins to make a very attractive, fairly priced package.
We also enjoyed the Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso Bolgheri Rosso DOC 2015 ($120). This highly acclaimed red wine is 100 percent cabernet franc. Paleo is a delightful expression of cabernet franc with ripe plum and cherry elements as well as a hint of herbs and olive.
The Le Macchiole Messorio IGT Toscano Rosso 2015 ($240) is the pinnacle of Le Macchiole’s portfolio. Made entirely from merlot grapes, this wine is still a baby that should develop well over 10-20 years. Dense fruit with dried cherries and ripe plum evident in a balanced oak package.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, an annual occasion when children need to pay tribute to the women who have made their lives special. Hopefully, she has the day off from cooking and tending to family needs. It might be a good time to let her relax with a glass of wine.
Here are some recommendations:
Rosé. There are lots of rosés from which to choose, but we like Peyrassol Cuvee de la Commanderies Rosé 2018 ($20) from Provence. A layered, fresh blend of cinsault, grenache, syrah, rolle, mourvedre, cabernet sauvignon and carignan, it has red fruit and citrus flavors. But her some roses to go with her rosé!
- There’s nothing like French bubbles to spoil a woman. And Moet & Chandon’s 2012 Grand Vintage Rose ($85) adds color to the effervescence. Silky and delicious.
- Pinot noir. Often described as seductive and sexy, a luxurious pinot noir is bound to please. We love the 2016 Sea Smoke “Ten” Pinot Noir ($82) for its complexity and layers of fruit. Does complex, sexy and luxurious sound like her?
- Pinot grigio. Italy put this grape variety on the map, but we recently discovered an American version: Swanson Vineyards San Benito Pinot Grigio 2018 ($21). Lots of stone fruit flavors.
- There are a ton of chardonnays on the market. Avoid those clever ones with “mother” in the title and reach for something better. We like the reasonably priced 2017 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay ($25). This Sonoma County wine shows off apple and citrus flavors in a smooth, full body.
- Sauvignon Blanc. We like a little semillon in our sauvignon blanc to tame those mouth-puckering grapefruit flavors. That’s what we get in the 2018 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc ($25) from Napa Valley. Fermented in French oak, concrete eggs and stainless steel, it has more complexity than your average sauvignon blanc. Fresh citrus flavors and a rich texture.
Le Volte Dell ‘Ornellaia Toscana IGT 2015 ($32). The little brother of Frescobaldi’s uber-expensive super Tuscan Ornellaia, this offering gives your taste buds a hint of greatness. Made up of 67 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 13 percent sangiovese, this wine features ripe fruit scents and flavors of cherry and plum in a rich, round ready to drink wine.
- Cusumano Nero D’Avola Sicily 2017 ($12). This all stainless steel aged red wine is a great value for everyday drinking. Fresh berry notes dominate this refreshing wine.
- Cedar + Salmon Red Wine Blend Walla Walla 2016 ($25). Merlot and petit verdot is blended with cabernet sauvignon to produce a medium body, rich wine with jammy blackberry flavors and a hint of vanilla.
- Sosie Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard 2015 ($43). Intense strawberry aromas with red fruit and plum flavors, earth and a dash of spice.