Cinzia Merli, single mother, singular winemaker of Le Macchiole

Above: Cinzia Merli, owner Le Macchiole, with her enologist, former rugby player Luca D’Attoma, September 14, 2010.

There are few winemakers I know who possess the moral fortitude and spiritual clarity of Cinzia Merli, owner of Le Macchiole (Bolgheri), whom I met for the first time a few years ago when I was asked to interpret for her at a series of wine events.

And there are few human beings on this earth who possess such genuine and pure humanity. And she’s just a lot of fun to be around.

Above: Seafood in Bolgheri (in the upper Maremma) is fresh and plentiful. Cinzia and I had lunch at Nonna Isola (literally, Grandma Island) in Castiglioncello, a wonderful small seaside community, deliciously forgotten in the 1960s.

You certainly don’t need me to tell you about her famous wines, the astronomic scores they’ve garnered, and the regal prices they command. Ubi major minor cessat: Tom Hyland has written perhaps most amply on this winery and it wines. (Check out this post but also see this thread and the many tasting notes.)

Above: I was captivated by the sight of this 60s-era cinémathèque in Castiglioncello. Just imagine all the stories that have played out on and off the screen there!

There are many before me who have told the incredible story of Cinzia’s family: how she and her dynamic husband Eugenio transformed a small family vineyard, jug wines, and a tavola fredda (cold table) restaurant/café into one of the most coveted and collected labels in the world and how he then suddenly, unexpectedly, and tragically left this world for another.

The story not often retold is how the community around her expected her to sell or to fail after the loss nearly ten years ago. In the chauvinist world of Italian wine, few imagined that she would succeed as she has, raising her brand to the highest levels of American and Asian connossieurship and collectability.

Above: Cinzia often calls her wines her “children.” I got to taste through her current vintages and I am convinced that 2006 was a great vintage for Cinzia and her family. The Paleo (100% Cabernet Franc) was stunning in this vintage. I was impressed also by the acidity and (what seemed to me a) greater amount of Cabernet Franc in the 08 Bolgheri DOC and I wonder if she’s reclassified some of her 08 Paleo (not an easy vintage in Tuscany). This wine might represent the greatest value in a world of wines that I simply cannot afford. Tuscan Syrah is not what I personally or typically reach for but I know collectors will be rewarded by the unusually bright acidity and generous fruit in her sure-to-be-show-stopping 06 Scrio.

The story rarely retold is that Cinzia has achieved indisputable greatness in the world of wine while raising two boys on her own. The loss of her husband left her not only with their wines to look after but also two preteen youngsters, who have both now grown into happy, healthy, handsome young men (the elder has decided to pursue a career in wine).

The gorgeous fall day we had lunch (following a tremendous downpour the previous evening, not a good sign for 2010), Cinzia excused herself from the table to take a phone call. “It would seem that I need to get NASA involved,” said Cinzia, complaining about how long it was taking to fix a broken water heater in her home where she lives with her boys.

If only l’acqua calda (as the Italians like to say) was as easy to obtain as James Suckling’s 100-point score for her 2004 Messorio (100% Merlot).

In other news…

On the subject of Tuscan Syrah, be sure to taste Alfonso’s recent reflections on Tuscany.

And be sure to leaf through his Prosciutto Porn (where have I heard that before?), if only for the interview.

One Response to Cinzia Merli, single mother, singular winemaker of Le Macchiole

  1. One of my favorite memories of living in Italy was a summer afternoon spent snorkeling for crustaceans in the ocean off of Castiglioncello before going back to a friend’s place to make some pasta frutti del mare. I love that area of the Tuscan coast. Thanks for jogging the memory, Jeremy.

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