Podere Salicutti is gem of an estate located in Montalcino and one of the leading figures in the tiny, yet burgeoning “Natural Wine” movement in Brunello appellation. It is 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 had begun replanting in 1994.
The entire Salicutti estate comprises 11 acres –just over four of which are planted to vine. Piaggione, the vineyard just below the winery, was originally planted in 1994 though part of it was replanted in 2012. It is used for Brunello – its soil is predominantly limestone and sand. Piaggione Alto is an extended part of the Piaggione hill that was planted in 2007 with guyot training – also used for Brunello. Sorgente, the vineyard above the winery, is used for the Rosso di Montalcino. ½ of Sorgente was planted in 1994 and ½ in 2001. 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 .7 hectare parcel further up the hill from the other two – this was planted with massale selection Sangiovese in 1994. Organic viticulture is extremely important to Leanza, and all much of the vineyard work is done by hand with the use of machines kept to a minimum to preserve the life of the soils. Leanza was the first producer in Montalcino to be certified organic. He believes that a vineyard must be treated like a beloved garden and that a vineyard will give better fruit if it is loved and well cared for.
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 natural yeast. 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 smaller oak – a combo of barrique and tonneaux - and then is transferred progressively into larger oak over the three years, eventually ending in 40HL botte.
Leanza makes only about 7-9,000 bottles of Brunello each year. His style impeccably balances power and elegance, and the wines have almost a Burgundian sense of style and grace on the palate. He believes in showcasing the personality of each vintage in the wine, rather than over-working the vinifications to make more than nature gave. 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 as well.