The pink hue of Salcheto’s Obvius Rosato catches the afternoon sunlight as olive oil is poured across a white plate. An overflowing basket of fresh ciabatta waits to be pressed into the sea salt dusted oil. Sips of the slightly chilled wine reveal the first taste of estate-grown Sangiovese grapes, a flavor that could easily be described as the perfect summer afternoon in Tuscany.
Within minutes, one end of the long, reclaimed wood table is covered with plates and bowls of every size. Fiore di Melanzane e Ricotta (thinly sliced eggplant topped with creamy ricotta cheese), Panzanella (chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, with onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar) and Pappa al Pomodoro (a typical Tuscan dish prepared with fresh tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic, and basil) are the first to arrive. The rich, fresh flavors of homegrown vegetables shine in the simplicity of each dish. A sip of water from the upcycled glasses made from old wine bottles makes way for a taste of the classic Nobile di Montepulciano as raw honey from the winery's honeybees is dripped from a small spoon on top of Italian cheeses. Just past a gently sloping vineyard of Sangiovese grapes, the picturesque medieval hill town of Montepulciano lies in view. With each bite, paired perfectly with each sip, it’s clear that the food and wine is created with attention, care and appreciation, all of which are pillars of Salcheto Winery’s operation.
A passionate environmentalist and keen businessman, Salcheto's owner and head winemaker since 1997, Michele Manelli, stops by. Armed with inspiration from travels to wineries around the world, Manelli completely rebuilt Salcheto’s cellar in 2011 using the most innovative sustainable technology on the market. Since then, the Montepulciano winery has been producing award-winning organic and sustainable wine that is distributed worldwide. Although the words “organic” and “sustainable” haven’t always been synonymous with “quality” in the wine industry, Salcheto is changing those perceptions. With inventive processes that remove the need for sulfites in its wines, Salcheto is making wine that best resembles the great vintages of centuries past. As the company continues to grow, Manelli emphasizes its ongoing commitment to both sustainability and producing a quality product.
When Manelli rebuilt the winery’s sustainable wine cellar, he left no stone unturned. Eighteen inch clear bubbles dot the stone floor of the winery’s terrace, which overlooks the surrounding vineyards and breathtaking Montepulciano hills. The terrace is watered (using recycled water from the property) once each hour for five minutes, keeping the cellar below cool without the need for air conditioning. While the terrace cools from above, the west facing wall cools from the side, using a natural insulation that is actually “alive,” covered with indigenous plants that absorb the heat from the sun. Both processes keep enough heat out of the cellar to maintain ideal wine producing temperatures.
Upon closer inspection, the “bubbles” also have a greater purpose. They’re connected to long aluminum tubes and angled mirrors, which flood the 18 meter-deep cellar below with natural light, reducing the need for any powered light underground. The mirrors can also be easily lifted out, allowing the aluminum tubes to be used as a “shoot” during harvest to send the already softly pressed grapes into the massive stainless steel tanks below. Once the grapes reach the tanks, another innovative technique ensues. Partnering with a company called Lasi, Salcheto-designed tanks utilize naturally produced CO2 to gently and sustainably mix juice with grape skins during fermentation. They’re the first to use this technology, which removes the need for electrical pumps and helps prevent oxygenation, therefore making sulfites completely unnecessary.
The innovation doesn't stop with wine production. Every detail has been considered when it comes to environmental sustainability. Wine barrels are made from wood sourced from certified forests and the winery only uses “Toscanella” wine bottles, the lightest, and therefore least environmentally impactful, bottle on the market. Around the winery, re-purposed wood and palettes are crafted into everything from benches to planter boxes to wine boxes. Salcheto also recycles its water, makes its own honey, and grows nearly all of the produce used in its restaurant.
This commitment to sustainability is not only incredible, it’s effective. As the first company in the world to measure the certified carbon footprint of each wine bottle, Salcheto actively tracks and shares its environmental impact. Each bottle includes a QR code on the label that tracks the carbon footprint from production to distribution, whether the wine is being shipped to neighboring Switzerland or across the ocean to the United States. The innovative tracking system is the product of a partnership with nearby Siena University and a game changer within the wine industry. Just another example of Salcheto’s holistic approach to high quality, responsibly produced products.
With the history of viticulture in Tuscany dating all the way back to the 8th century BC, this is a natural place for the wine industry to get back to its organic roots. Before modern processes created massive wineries and globalization made international wines easily accessible, varietals like Sangiovese were the product of local artisans made with incredible care. Salcheto is uncovering these roots through inspiring practices. It’s the new standard for 21st century winemaking. A lesson in forward thinking, blending innovative techniques with age old traditions. Now it’s up to the rest of the industry to follow suit.
- For more information on Salcheto's ground breaking sustainability initiatives, visit http://www.salcheto.it/en/
- If you're in the Montepulciano area, swing by for a tasting and a delicious homegrown and locally-sourced lunch. Visits are available daily from 10am - 6pm. Email email@example.com or call 0578799031 ex. 1
- Look for Salcheto wine in specialty wine shops (it's incredible)