Just a stone’s throw from Montepulciano, one of Italy’s most beautiful hilltop towns, is a winery that blends excellence with responsibility. Salcheto’s mission was to become the most sustainable winery in Italy, if not the world. Five years ago when Salcheto needed an upgrade, the company committed close to half a million Euros to make the new operation the ultimate in energy efficient wine-making.It reopened just last fall and you can see the fruits of their efforts everywhere you look.
We arrived during the Vendemmia or harvest, and several workers were hand sorting the grapes over one of the transparent bubbles dotting the surface of an outdoor terrace.
The bubbles open up to a funnel which sends the grapes directly into the vats to ferment.The same bubbles, when not being used for the harvest, provide natural light in the cellars.
Instead of using mechanical pumps to stir the juice and skins, Salcheto came up with a system using CO2 captured during the fermentation process to rotate them naturally. They also found this process increases extractions by 5-10%.
Sand, instead of cement, covers the terrace to keep the cellars cool naturally.
The walls are surrounded by a vertical garden which also helps maintain the right temperature inside.
There is so much more. Nothing is wasted. The old bottles are cut and converted into glasses. Old wood from its previous facility is used to build cupboards in its wine shop.Solar panels power the computer in the office. And the commitment doesn’t change on the road.
At a recent wine fair in Verona, Salcheto powered its booth by bicycle. Anyone who wanted to taste its wine had to spin for one minute. Talk about the benefits of exercise!!
Every single emission of CO2 used to create one bottle of wine, for production or distribution, is calculated. The result: Salcheto has reduced its emissions by 54%! And they expect to recover their investment within six years.
OK, so what’s the wine like? Magnificent.
Following the tour our most excellent guide Ettore Carfora, took us to a room surrounded by windows, furnished with three spectacular wood tables that seat a dozen people each. We were served a simply delicious meal of pasta e fagioli along with a plate of Tuscan cold cuts and cheeses.
Ettore introduced three wines: the Rosso Di Montepulciano 2011, a simple uncomplicated red that is fruity and fresh, the Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano which was our favourite, perfectlybalanced, incredibly smooth – I will look for this at the LCBO!
The last was the signature wine. Salco 2006 – aged two years in oak, four years in the bottle – it is a remarkable wine that keeps on giving. The initial attack of the tannins, turned velvety smooth.
Each year Salcheto introduces a new label for its higher end Salco. The first year we visited, the labels featured black and white landscapes.
The second year they were dedicated to drummers from Meg White to Keith Moon. Last year, it took on an environmental theme, boxed in a crate with a biodegradable diaper (not quite sure why) and package of rosemary seeds to plant in the crate when the wine was long gone. This year, an artist’s rendition of a QR code, that looked remarkably like the black and white drawings my brother created during the psychedelic sixties.
The good news: Salcheto’s Rosso, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano and the Salco have all been available at LCBO Vintages over the past three years at price points varying from $15.95 for the Rosso – $45 for the Salco. So keep an eye out for them.
I can’t say the wine tastes better than it did before all the changes. I can say it feels good to buy wine from an establishment that puts its mission first.
Thanks to Ettore, the afternoon felt more like being welcomed by family, than an official tour. A family very proud of their achievements. Rightly so. And it is that kind of personal touch, that keeps people coming back for more.