Bolgheri, bordering the coast of south-west Tuscany, is one of Italy’s most prestigious vineyard areas. The climate is generally mild due to the maritime influence and summers warm often with higher temperatures than other parts of Tuscany. Sometimes referred to as the Bordeaux of Italy, this fascinating region was at the forefront of the avant-garde “Super Tuscan” wine revolution of the 1970s.
Historically, production of Chianti wine was governed by strict regulation on which grape varieties were permitted and in what percentages (maximum 70% Sangiovese and minimum 10% local white wine grapes). Otherwise, the wines would not qualify for DOC status, could not be labelled "Chianti" and would have to be classified as "vino da tavola", i.e. table wine. This hampered development and reduced quality levels, which affected sales of Chianti. Therefore, many Tuscan wine producers felt that they could produce better wine outside of the DOC regulations. This led to a movement to produce top-quality non-DOC wines made from blends of other grape varieties, often based on a Bordeaux style. These wines were branded “Super Tuscans” and were eventually labelled as IGT (Indication of Geographical Type), a new category allowing for a broader variation of wine than the more restrictive DOC and DOCG classifications.
Sassicaia by Tenuta San Guido, considered the first of the Super Tuscans and Tignanello by Antinori are among the most famous and reputable of these wines, but many more like Ornellaia and Masseto have continued to receive global acclaim. Le Macchiole is undoubtedly among the top Super Tuscan estates and, in this article, I will be reviewing one of their star wines – Paleo Rosso 2008.
Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso is a wine with an interesting past and one which reflects the unique terroir of the region where high temperatures can reduce acidity levels in wine. Originally a blend, in 2001 Paleo Rosso became the first 100% Cabernet Franc wine in Bolgheri. Previously, the grape was used in order to add freshness and acidity to the wine, maintaining quality from year to year. However, the management made the brave decision to produce a stand-alone wine exclusively from this grape, dramatically changing the wine’s character.
James Suckling, one of the world’s most influential reviewers of Italian wine, described Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2008 as “The best pure Cabernet Franc on earth”. Indeed, this is a wine to savour, a truly excellent product of visionary winemaking skills and its potential to improve over time makes it even more appealing. If this wine is not the best pure Cabernet Franc on the planet, then I have yet to taste better. So if you can treat yourself to a bottle of top-class wine this Christmas, then look no further than Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2008. You won’t be disappointed.