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Salicutti Brunello vertical: The past, present and future

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.

The approach

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. 

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