Photograph by Benjamin McMahon

Macea & Camiliano, Borgo a Mozzano

In 2013, Cipriano Barsanti leased 7 hectares of vines in the Capannori hills. He had run out of space at Macea, the vineyard he works with his brother Antonio on the other side of the Serchio valley. The initial idea was to absorb these new vines into his established label – with its reputation for world-class wines.  But Cipo saw quickly that he was working with paradoxical terroirs. To merge them would have been a betrayal of both vineyards. So he has set up two very different labels: where he is free to explore two very different identities. Macea and Camigliano.

Macea is, by the brothers’ account ‘un luogo speciale’: a special place – a hillside in the Serchio valley, between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines. Vines, a couple hundred olives, kaki, passionflower, and wild pear are planted around the 13th century watchtower where they were born. Over half a century the Barsanti family have become part of the terroir here and any act of interpretation is also undeniably about self-portraiture – something the Bianca Toscana label makes explicit. The wines have lost none of their essential privacy: a father and son, experimental project that has become world-class, but which is still calculated at the barely commercial output of 6,000 bottles a year.

The brothers have spent a whole lifetime thinking about their birthplace, and this shows in highly conceptualised wines. Macea is not typical Tuscan terroir and since 2001 – when they started making wine seriously – they’ve worked with a complex set of givens towards a label which is singular and surprising. They’ve been guided by the presence of their watchtower, and by a valley shaped by medieval ruins, towards wines that are less cultivated and more evanescent in spirit than the typical deeply extracted, fruit-forward Tuscan. They cannot grow indigenous Tuscan varietals at Macea, because the sun exposure is not strong enough. Instead, they’ve planted cool climate varietals more indicative of the north – Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc – which thrive in their mountain shade and wide thermal excursions and better cope with copious rainfall. They pick fresh, even green, and push that profile further with partial carbonic maceration. Biodynamic work in the vineyard is matched in the cellar with minimal intervention: no fining, no filtration and a minimal addition of sulphites on bottling.

Photograph by Benjamin McMahon

On the other side of the Serchio valley, Camigliano is another world: a different climate, geography and human element; same biodynamics. Here Cipo can grow the grapes that would fail at Macea – principally Sangiovese.With time, these additional 7 hectares will translate to an extra 20,000 bottles a year and give him the space to be aspirational.

In difference to Macea, there is no lifetime of material to draw on here and, although the vines are old, the Camigliano wines start necessarily from the beginning. These early vintages put their thinking process in the foregournd and the deep researches Cipo, and his business partner Samuele, are conducting both in the vineyard and the cellar, as they reach towards the identity of their wine. Each year, the techniques are different: skin contact vs. no skin contact; whole bunch fermentation vs. destemmed: Cipo reckons on 10 years of vintages before Camigliano will assume a defined shape. The early signs are there: Camigliano is more grand than rustic and Baroque rather than medieval; sun rather than shade; sea rather than mountain; clay rather than schist. On the other side of the valley, Cipo is discovering Macea’s other half.

Photograph by Benjamin McMahon