I miss Italy. It’s my soul’s true home. I spent a glorious few weeks there, just before borders closed, and we all went to our respective homes for our long timeout. This review of Salcheto Riserva will kick off my next multi-part series. I’ll share some of my favorite wine experiences from that last grand Italian adventure.
Wine of the Week: 2015 Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
Let’s start with a pop quiz. You may have heard of Montepulciano. But, do you know which of these is true?
a. Montepulciano is a medieval town in Tuscany
b. Montepulciano is a dark-skinned grape from Abruzzo
c. The wines from the regions surrounding the town of Montepulciano are not made from the Montepulciano grape
d. All the above
To be honest, I didn’t know the answer to that question until I started studying Italian wines. (The answer is d. all the above.) Italian wine ways are like that… they may not always make sense, but they are always delicious. So, what grapes do they make Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from?
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines are made with Sangiovese. That familiar grape is known locally as Prugnolo Gentile. Vino Nobile must contain at least 70% Prugnolo Gentile and must age at least 24 months. Twelve of those months must be in oak barrels. Those wines labeled Riserva must age at least 36 months (still with at least 12 in barrel). These are often some of the most respected wines from Tuscany, and from Italy in general.
About the Salcheto Winery
I’m thrilled I was able to visit the Salcheto winery in person, and to taste all the current bottlings. Salcheto is located on a winding gravel road in the hills outside the town of Montepulciano. It’s named after the river that runs through the property. The Salcheto vineyard and winery are organic, biodynamic, and “off the grid” – independent of any public utility system.
Salcheto is a very young winery for this region. It was founded in 1997. Their commitment to the environment was part of the plan from the beginning, and I’ve not even scratched the surface of the methods they use. Their website even has a place that calculates the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine traveling from their vineyard to anywhere in the world.
My friends and I visited Salcheto and their Enoteca on a grey Monday afternoon. They have an onsite bar with a view where you can taste their wines and fabulous local snacks. We tasted the full array of their “natural style” wines (all made with indigenous yeasts). These ranged from whites to rosato, to a lighter bodied rosso that I loved. Then on to the big time: Vino Nobile, the Riserva, and two other special bottlings that were well worth traveling for.
My Review of Salcheto Riserva
The 2015 vintage of Salcheto Riserva is a blend of 95% Prugnolo Gentile with 5% Colorino. Yes, that’s a grape. An obscure grape. And, yes, its name says it all. Its purpose is to elevate tannins, and thus the color. But, back to this wine.
Salcheto Riserva is produced in an unusual way. Actually, ancient. The Governo Toscano method requires drying the grapes after harvest before pressing. This concentrates the sugars and other fruit elements, yielding a wine with rich body. The wine is aged in large and small barrels for 24 months, then in bottles for an additional 12 months. The 2015 vintage ended with a hot August. This softened the acidity of the fruit and intensified the meaty character.
I found aromas of dark cherry, roses, and spice. On the palate, candied red apple, more cherry, black tea, and licorice. There was an almost imperceptible sweetness from the 2.5 grams per liter of residual sugar. This wine has soft, close tannins and opens to a pleasing depth. The acidity was indeed quite soft, but still provided good structure. The finish had a faint breeze of eucalyptus.
I’d recommend visiting the winery just for the Tuscan bread and olive oil. They usually have a full menu going, but the chef was off when we visited. We did not suffer. The locally produced salumi and cheeses were beyond compare. And, of course, perfect accompaniments for the wines.
I brought a couple bottles home for further research. Though the scenery is missing, the memories are there. I recommend Salcheto Riserva with braised short ribs with black mission figs over creamy polenta. Or maybe something from the grill, like our easy rosemary and garlic lamb loin chops?
Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva is available at wine.com.
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