Podere Salicutti is gem of an estate located in the southeastern part of Montalcino. The winery has long been one of the leading figures in the burgeoning “Natural Wine” movement in the Brunello appellation. Until 2016 it was run meticulously by Francesco Leanza who left his career as a chemical engineer in Rome to dedicate himself full-time to Podere Salicutti in 1995. Leanza originally purchased the property in 1990 and immediately began reviving the olive grove and renovating the building on the estate. A few years later, he set out to revive the vineyards, which he began replanting in 1994. In 2016, Felix and Sabine Eichbauer purchased the estate from Francesco and with that purchase, Francesco agreed to continue to run the winery for a few years.
The entire Salicutti estate comprises 11 acres: just over four of which are planted to vine, one and half planted to olive tree, and the balance being the yard and forest. There are two main soil types at Salicutti, to the east where the Piaggione, Piaggione Alto and Teatro vineyards are located is mainly sedimentary rock - a soil called Albarese. To the west, where the Sorgente vineyard is located, is calcareous clay rock. Starting with the 2015 vintage, Salicutti makes one Rosso di Montalcino which is sourced from younger vines in the Sorgente vineyard (Sorgente Nuova vineyard).
Historically the winery made a Brunello from the Piaggione vineyard and Rosso di Montalcino from the Sorgente vineyard. Beginning with the 2015 vintage, the Eichbauers have decided to make three Brunello: one each from Piaggione, Sorgente and Teatro. They plan to continue to make a Rosso through the 2018 vintage but after that they plan on making only Brunello and no Rosso di Montalcin. Of course, with the particularities of any vintage, they might adjust this idea but it is the general plan.
Piaggione, the vineyard just below the winery, was originally planted in 1994. Later part of it was replanted in 2012. Piaggione Alto is an extended part of the Piaggione hill that was planted in 2007 with guyot training. Sorgente is the vineyard above the winery. Half of Sorgente was planted in 1994 (Sorgente) and half in 2001 (called Sorgente Nuova). The soil here is a mix of old and new soil: some stratified schist as well as some deep ocean deposit. Sorgente has more clay in it than does Piaggione or Piaggione Alto. Finally, the Teatro vineyard, which is a 0.7 hectare parcel further up the hill from the other two, was planted with massale selection Sangiovese in 1994. The winery was the first in Montalcino to convert to organic viticulture (in 1996) and was certified by ICEA in 2004. The Eichbauer’s have, since their purchase, begun conversion to biodynamic farming.
At harvest, all the grapes are harvested by hand, and carefully sorted before being brought into the winery for fermentation which occurs in open top stainless steel and, of course, with indigenous yeast using a pied de cuvee. Macerations last for around three weeks. His Rosso di Montalcino is aged in 10HL tonneaux – 20% of which is new – it then goes into the bottle for at least six months before release. His Brunello is aged 3 years in wood. It starts in 500L and 1000L tonneaux - and then is transferred into 20HL to 40HL casks. All of the oak at the winery is neutral French oak aside from their largest 40HL botte which is Slavonian.
Each year the winery produces a scant 2,500 cases of wine. Given the tiny production, Salicutti’s wines are sought after, and for good reason, they have the stuffing to develop with age in the cellar, though they have an elegance that makes them tempting to drink on release!