Salton Winery – Started by Seven Brothers in Brazil with a Link to Scotland

(June 2018) Salton Winery is considered to be the oldest wineries in Brazil, and is also one of the largest. Established by seven brothers in 1910 in the city of Bento Gonçalves, Salton specializes in Brazilian sparkling wine production, but also produces still wines as well as tea. After my visit here at the end of June, where I met with Gregorio Salton, a member of the 4th generation of the family, I left truly impressed with all of the investments they have made in quality control, including ISO9000 and 14000 certifications for the winery.

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Entrance to Salton Winery in Southern Brazil

About Salton Winery

As is the case with many Brazilian wineries, Salton was established by emigrants from Northern Italy who came to the Serra Gaucha wine region. In this case it was the year 1878, when Antonio Domenico Salton, came to Brazil to seek his fortune. Like many emigrants, he planted grapes and made home wine, but established Salton Winery much earlier than others – in 1910, with the support of his seven sons.

Today Salton produces 25 million liters of wine and makes 60 to 70 different labels. They purchase 70% of their grapes from local grape growers, but also own 50 hectares of their own vines in Serra Gaucha and another 115 hectares further south in the Campanha region. They employ 500 workers and export their wine to 24 different countries.

The winery headquarters is just outside of town, and is a very large impressive white stucco building with mosaics inside and out. In the front is a small demonstration vineyard.  The winery offers daily tours and tastings for visitors.

Linkage to Scotland

When I asked Gregorio the origin of the name, Salton, he replied that it was a small town in the middle of Scotland. Definitely not an Italian name, he thought that perhaps his ancestors from Italy had married into a family from Salton.  Regardless the name Salton is great name for a winery, being that it is easy to spell, pronounce and remember. An intriguing question is – how many people in Scotland are buying Salton wine from Brazil?

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Salton Winery Visitor’s Center and Wine Shop

How to Make Sparkling Charmant in Brazil

Gregorio and Cesar, International Relations Manager (see photo below), took us on a tour of the very large and impressive cellars. We traversed a catwalk winding through a forest of massive stainless steel tanks where the majority of the sparkling wine is produced.  Gregorio explained how they produce their sparkling charmant, which is a different method from secondary fermentation in bottle (Method Champenoise), because the second fermentation takes place in a large tank.  This is a faster process, and the way that much Prosecco is produced (though some high-end Prosecco uses second fermentation in bottle).  In fact, Salton does produce a “Prosecco” made with the Glera grape, just as is still done in northern Italy. This is the process they use:

  1. Harvest the grapes early at lower brix so they are fresh.
  2. Destem and then press as whole cluster
  3. Transfer 60% of the pressed juice to stainless steel tank for a 1-2day cold stabilization.
  4. Transfer to new stainless steel tank, add selected yeast with a neutral character and ferment at 16 degrees Celsius for 7 to 10 days. No malolactic fermentation.
  5. Clarify the still wine with filters and centrifuge.
  6. Create blend – may use still wine from an older vintage (making NV) or can also produce vintage charmant.
  7. Transfer to new stainless steel tank; add yeast, sugar and nutrients for secondary fermentation in tank to create bubbles. Leave space at top of tank, and keep temperature at 10 – 12 C.
  8. Continued secondary fermentation for 1, 3, 6, or 12 months, depending on style and price point of the charmant being produced.
  9. Add dosage to tank and stir before bottling.
  10. Lower temperature to zero degrees for bottling.

Wine Tasting at Salton Winery

After the tour, we were escorted to a private tasting room where we tasted nine different Salton wines, beginning with three charmants and then six still wines.  Following are the highlights from the tasting:

  • Salton Natural Brut Sparkling Rose NV – Fresh and fruity with strawberry, watermelon and crisp lime notes (charmant method). 88 points
  • Salton Sparkling Reserva Ouro NV – A complex cuvee with creamy mouthfeel and citrus and nutty notes. Made from chardonnay, pinot noir and Riesling. Aged 12 month sur lie with battonage, but still made in charmant method. Quite impressive. 90 points.
  • Salton Marselan Intenso 2016 – oozing with blueberry and mocha; rich and satisfying – amazingly no oak! Delicious.  91 points

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Charcuterie & Charmant in a Magical Cave before Departure

At the end of the tasting, Cesar surprised us, by leading us down a staircase to a dark cellar with many tunnels leading in different directions. We wound through the tunnels, which were filled with Gregorian music of chanting monks and beautiful angel statues in different corners. It was quite enchanting, and Cesar said that tourists loved it.  So did I!

Eventually the tunnel opened into a stone room with a fireplace, and a large round table with an inlaid geometric design. It reminded me of the round table of the Knights of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Sitting on the table was a large platter of charcuterie, which we were invited to enjoy along with another glass of delicious sparkling Salton charmant.  As we raised our glasses in a toast, I thought it was a great way to conclude our magnificent tour of Salton Winery.

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