Salcheto, a grape-growing and winemaking estate at Montepulciano (Siena), was acquired in August 2003 by the Lavinia company. Michele Manelli, one of the previous owners, remained as general manager to assure commercial partners and consumers that the production philosophy would be respected and maintained and that the corporate values would continue to be centered on absolute quality.
"Salcheto took the path toward international acceptance several years ago,"Manelli explained"and it intends to grow further through various future projects. Some new and substantial investments in the vineyard are planned as well as a major technological renovation in the winery."
In addition to the commercial network, which will remain unchanged, the owners are counting on the support of the same technical team that has assisted Salcheto achieve its most recent successes. That team consists of Dr. Laura Bernini in the vineyards and Dr. Paolo Vagaggini in the winery.
Salcheto was founded in 1984 but the project of making wine came to fruition only in 1990 as the natural evolution of a passion for nature and the rhythms of life in the vineyard. From that passion and due to the intrinsic personality and quality of the wine itself, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Salcheto saw the light.
Two years later, in 1992, the estate began to produce Rosso di Montepulciano DOC from Sangiovese and Canaiolo, whilst in 1993, 1995 and 1997, all outstanding vintages, a premium selection, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, was added to the range of wines.
In 1997 Michele Manelli came onto the Salcheto scene and with him new plantings and investments were planned. At Chiusi, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Salcheto, the estate acquired a terrain totalling 11 hectares (eight of which were planted in vines). Known as Poggio Piglia, this property is characterized by gentle hills that are swept by breezes and drenched in sunlight. The soils are tufa, cool and well drained. Poggio Piglia produces Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG.
In the last few years, Salcheto, encouraged by the market as well as by the critics, has been devoting itself with increasing enthusiasm and determination to the production of wine. The main idea is to follow the concept of quality, both in the vineyard and the cellar with an unfailing respect for the character of both grapes and wines and with a careful and moderate use and monitoring in wood.
In 1999, a new label: the exceptional Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Salco. The wine was first presented to the market in 2003 and immediately garnered numerous recognitions. Between 2003 and 2004 the vineyards were strengthened by the entry into production of two new hectares.
Looking to the future, Salcheto's programme for development has two main objectives: the vineyards, whose growth is slow but relentless (3 further hectares are expected to be planted up in 2006) and a new interred cellar which, although still in the planning, will represent the estate's technological development.
Salcheto covers a total of 46 hectares, of which 30 hectares are vineyards, all situated at an average altitude that is among the highest in the area, 450 meters (1,476 feet). The estate's center, from the standpoint of geography as well as operations, is a classic farmhouse overlooking the vineyards and once occupied by Tuscan sharecroppers.
The tufa-clay composition of the soil is of Pliocene origin. Due to the exposition and orientation of the vineyards (facing south, southeast), the vines are exposed to sunlight throughout the day. The most extensively cultivated varieties are Prugnolo Gentile, as the clone of Sangiovese selected for the production of Vino Nobile is known at Montepulciano, Canaiolo and Mammolo. There is also a small plot of Merlot, planted in 1999 in a plot specifically and exclusively dedicated to this vine.
The vineyards are divided into two nuclei. The first original vineyard, covers a total of about 15 hectares, whilst the second, Poggio Piglia, is located at Chiusi and its eight hectares of vines provide grapes for the production of Chianti Colli Senesi. There is a further plot of around 7 hectares near Poggio Piglia added in 2005 and also used for Chianti.
The vineyards are between 4 and 26 years old. The Nobile vineyeards in the Montepulciano estate are, on average, between 7 and 9 years old whilst the planting of the clonal selection in the Salco vineyards was begun in the mid 1980s and 1992.
The other more recently planted vineyards are the result mainly of the selection of the best plants on the estate. The density varies from 2,500 to 4,500 vines per hectare. The training systems in use are cordon spur and Guyot.
Salcheto's program of renewal is oriented in two principal directions. The first involves the winery, which will be expanded in keeping with experimental models tested, in recent years, and the second concerns the vineyards whose potential is growing slowly but ceaselessly and to which a further three hectares have been added between 2004-2005.
The principal idea is to continue the enthusiasm and the spirit of craftsmanship that characterized Salcheto's early years by exploiting technology that in the next few vintages will represent an important added value in terms of quality and the maximization of previous experience. "That's technology understood in the widest sense," Manelli said "In fact the work of recent years may have demonstrated the predominant value of the quality of the raw materials in respect to technological approaches but critical aspects of the process of improving results have been identified so that the products' characteristics can be exalted. "
There have been no changes from the standpoint of production philosophy. Quality remains the primary objective and it is achieved through the interpretation of the terroir and the use of the native variety par excellence, Sangiovese, and of moderate and monitored use of wood .
The new winery (work for which will effectively begin in 2005) will be completely under ground and linked with the existing cellar. Laid out on four levels and exploiting the varied levels of the terrain, the cellar will permit vinification of Vino Nobile and del Salco in a room fitted out with wooden temperature-controlled vats in which the grapes collected in baskets and selected are placed. The Rosso and Chianti will continue to be vinified in stainless steel tanks but at a higher level in the winery to permit a soft racking and guarantee the quality of the first pressing. At a lower level, there are various types of barriques and tonneaux of French oak that are used for the Vino Nobile and Salco (whether in the post-fermentation stage or in the conclusion of the aging phase). There are also small barrels of American oak to round out the range of aromas of the Chianti Colli Senesi.
The offices, tasting room and historic cellars of the estate, where wines beginning with the 1990 vintage are laid down, will continue to occupy rooms in the original winery.
Care of the Salcheto vineyards aims at establishing balanced plants and, to achieve this, the technical team intervenes frequently during the year, "with consistent sensitivity and precision", comments Michele Manelli, "modifying its strategy year after year, plant after plant".
In February, the buds are chosen after pruning and are knowingly left double in order to protect them from frost and to select those better positioned later.
After a spring trimming of the canopy, a green harvest or crop trimming is made in July which, together with the naturally poor soil, contributes to controlling the production of grapes per hectare.
Furthermore, following principles of respect for both the environment and the fruit, a method of 'guided battle' is carried out as this permits a minimal use of anti-parasites and monitoring is carried out by a natural and highly efficient method using - bees!
The grapes are hand-picked with up to three selections of the rows and using 20kg baskets for the immediate transfer to the cellar.