- Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
"....the Holy Grail of Sangiovese purity...” —Monica Larner, The Wine Advocate
Salicutti is located in the southeastern corridor of Montalcino, home to some of the denomination’s most historic, respected, and classic-leaning wineries. It was Montalcino’s first certified organic estate, with certification happening in 1996. The high-altitude site, which has never seen synthetic chemicals, is comprised of 11 hectares (4.5ha of vines and the rest woods and olives). The vineyards are all contiguous to the farmhouse, which is perched on a ridge with stunning views, including of Monte Amiata, Tuscany’s largest extinct volcano.
Today, Salicutti is in the capable hands of Sabine and Felix Eichbauer. Sabine is an architect and Felix and his family own Tantris Maison Culinaire, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Munich. They fell in love with Salicutti--the place and its wines--as long- time clients of the estate, and in 2016 purchased it from Francesco Leanza. With no heirs, Leanza preferred to “walk out of the winery, not be carried out.” He stayed on for three years to guide the Eichbauers. Along with producers Stella di Campalto and Pian dell’Orino, he left the Brunello consorzio, forming a trio affectionately known as SpA (“Sangiovese per Amico”), which was committed to studying Montalcino’s varying terroirs. The work of the SpA has left its mark; there are the rumblings that Montalcino producers are considering naming official sub-zones. The Eichbauers may return to the consorzio, to push for change from within.
“When you assume responsibility for something already so amazing, what room is there to grow and improve?” It’s a question that looms large for the Eichbauers as they continue to cultivate Salicutti’s evolution. They’ve discontinued the Rosso di Montalcino, preferring to make three single-vineyard Brunello di Montalcino wines. They have phased out any small barrels (Leanza used to started aging in tonneaux before moving the wine to large cask). With the assistance of the esteemd biodynamics ‘guru,’ Adriano Zago, conversion began in 2017, with Demeter certification coming at some point in 2022. The land is increasingly self-sufficient, with hydro-powered electricity, in-house composting, a rich forest, beehives, pigs, chickens, and avegetable garden. A new, larger cellar has been completed, with Sabine’s architectural and design flourishes. In the future, we will see an anfora-aged IGT Sangiovese made only in magnum, a red vermouth (from Sangiovese, of course), and perhaps a Brunello ‘normale’ blended from the three crus. It seems the best is yet to come. In the meantime, the three Brunellos on offer today are striking in their mineral, red-fruited intensity, and their push and pull between power and grace. The winery produces about 10,000 bottles, depending on the vintage.