Given Italy’s traditions and centuries old history of producing some of the world’s best wines, it may seem unlikely that the country would be among the first to lead the way for more modern, sustainable innovations in viticulture. But that’s just what Salcheto Winery in Tuscany did, beginning the process 30 years ago. Today that hard work is a model for environmental efficiency and sustainable practices for winemaking around the world.
Built into the side of a hill in Tuscany’s iconic Val d’Orcia in Montepulciano, evidence of innovation and efforts to reduce their carbon footprint are everywhere. As you approach the winery down a gravel lane, twisting and winding your way around a small hill never losing sight of the medieval town above, the bold organic design makes a statement.
An enormous bowed retaining wall outside is completely covered with live vines to mitigate interior temperature against the hot Tuscan sun. A spacious patio leading to the entrance seems perfect for outdoor wine events and contains a dozen or more clear round bubbles about two feet in diameter that stick up from the ground like mushrooms. The winery is built down into the ground making for perfect temperatures for wine storage below. The lucite bubbles we saw on our way in are light tubes that magnify and allow light in from the outside down to the lowest levels of the winery below.
Salcheto is an organic and biodynamic viticulture company, rooted in the home of Nobile wine in the southeast of Siena, Tuscany. Their mission is to produce territorial wines, using strictly organic ingredients produced in a completely “off-grid” winery model for environmental efficiency and technological innovation.
Every step along the production process demonstrates their commitment to that efficiency and sustainability: their responsible and restrained use of water, completely organic method of composting for fertilizer, soil maintenance through biodynamics, their energy independent cellar system, and wooden materials like their corks sourced from the responsibly managed forest. Even their labels use recycled paper.
So how are their wines? In a word, incredible. Some of the younger wines here are aged four months in stainless steel before heading to the bottle, while others are aged for much longer in Slovenia Oak and French Oak casks. Salco, their best wines, are produced from their most mature vines (35 years old), aged two years in wood barrels then another four in the bottle. And after all the time, care, and innovation devoted to producing organic grapes and a sustainable business, the result is some of the most elegant wines I tasted in all of Tuscany.
Salcheto’s Enoteca is open daily and serves brunch with tastings, or lunch ordered al a carte with tastings. The lunches are traditional and healthy favorites like cheese and charcuterie platters, Tuscan bread soup and other Tuscan inspired dishes prepared by local producers equally as committed to sustainable and organic production. Salcheto also has several suites on site housed in a 13th-century farmhouse in the heart of the estate, with 9 rooms with a lounge and kitchen.