Those who embrace character will love these wines, says Michaela Morris, who tastes through recent vintages with long-time estate custodian Francesco Leanza.
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Podere Salicutti: How it all began
Francesco Leanza is a chemical engineer by profession, an artist in the soul and an accidental winemaker.
Originally from Catania in Sicily, his career led him to the chaos of Rome. He spent weekends seeking tranquility in the hills around Montalcino in Tuscany. In 1990, he retired, sold his 70 square metre apartment in Rome and purchased 11 hectares in the south-east of the Montalcino territory.
‘I bought Salicutti because I liked this little oasis, unspoiled by time,’ recalls Leanza.
He also saw the economic potential. At the time, the value of land was ten times less than in Chianti Classico. Now it’s worth substantially more.
He has farmed organically from day one and was the first in Montalcino to be certified
Over time, Leanza planted four hectares of vineyards. He has farmed organically from day one and was the first in Montalcino to be certified.
The mainstay of his production is the ‘Piaggione’ Brunello which is actually a blend of fruit from his Piaggione and Teatro plots.
Despite working with a handful of different consultants over the years, Leanza has always made the final decisions himself. His approach has changed very little.
‘There is no oenology in my wines. Nothing is added, taken away or corrected. They are a natural result,’ he says.
The wines of Salicutti aren’t for those looking for technical perfection.
Some earlier vintages have elevated volatile acidity and the occasional trace of brettanomyces. Nevertheless, drinkers who embrace character, will find personality in spades.
I thoroughly appreciated Leanza’s willingness to share a range of vintages, not all necessarily the most highly rated.
This vertical is a precious slice of vinous history.
Leanza sold Salicutti last year. With no children to inherit the estate, the sale was a necessity. Buyers Felix and Sabine Eichbauer from Tantris restaurant in Munich were longtime clients of Salicutti.
One of the sale stipulations was that Leanza would stay on for three years. He is not sure exactly when he’ll be handing over the reins and future direction remains uncertain.
Although a crane looms over the property, Leanza claims no big changes have been planned. The current expansion of the barrel and storage facility was his idea prior to the sale. The new ownership has simply helped finance it.
See the Salicutti wines:
Click on the wines to see the full tasting notes and stockist details for US and UK, where available.
This is the same combination of the Piaggione and Teatro plots as in other years. It demonstrates evolved and savoury nuances of soy and worn leather with smoked black tea, exotic spice and tamarind. While tannins have mellowed somewhat, they are still powerfully present providing a firm backbone and dusty…
The first vintage labeled as 'Piaggione', 2001 opens with balsamic and fennel notes followed by crushed dried flowers, sweet tobacco and powdery cocoa on the palate. It shows more youthfully than the 1999 with plenty of stamina as it sits in the glass. This elegant and linear Brunello is endowed…
The challenges of a hot ripening season are evident here. Besides slightly baked plum and cherry fruit there is a smoky undertone. Vaguely gamey and cured leather aromas are suggestive of brettanomyces. While the rich, ripe fruit and soft mature tannin are pleasing, the wine lacks the tension and grace…
Leanza calls 2005 a complicated year saying that the fruit was difficult to ripen. At this point in its evolution, it almost has the weight and structure of a Rosso. Nonetheless, 2005 is an honest expression with lifted scents of basil, mint and pepper. The medium-bodied, slightly skinny palate offers…
1.4ha, SE-facing, 420m, sandyclay, SE of Montalcino.Real intensity, elegance, wildness, levity and digestibility. Constantly changes in the glass to keep you guessing. A jewel.
As yields in Piaggione and Teatro were down by 30% in 2009, Leanza supplement these with the best fruit from the Sorgente parcel, which is typically used exclusively for his Rosso. Thus the name, Tre Vigne. Still youthful with intense wild cherry and spice giving way to subtle cedar underneath,…
2011 was another year Leanza considered exceptional enough to make a Riserva. This regular bottling is a thrilling harbinger, allying impressive power with beautiful elegance. Expressive and energetic, it bursts with perfumed thyme blossom, pepper, aromatic herbs and red plum. A plush, ripe fruit core is held together by supple…
Salicutti's Riserva is a true single vineyard bottling of Piaggione with the initials SV distinguishing it from the regular Brunello. Like the latter, the Riserva is aged for three years in wood but sees an addition year in bottle - a total of two. Still very much in its infancy,…
This wine seems to be in an awkward phase, which isn't surprising given its youth. However, the vintage could also be at play. The nose is compelling, offering intriguing earthy aromas, rose, anise and mineral underneath. Yet on the palate, the tannins are ever so slightly dry and the alcohol…