MADE IN WINELAND
THE ANCIENT GREEKS GAVE TUSCANY THAT NAME, AND IT LIVES UP TO THAT REPUTATION STILL.
The beautiful and rolling green hills of Tuscany have been a source of revered wines for thousands of years, with ancient Greek invaders labelling the area Enotris – Wineland. More than 2000 years ago the local wines were already being exported across the seas in large clay amphorae to France and beyond.
With such a history it comes as no surprise that many families making wine in Tuscany today have a long and proud history with the grapevine. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Antinoris, who first crafted Italian wine in 1385, and have been doing so in Tuscany for over 300 years.
For centuries the family’s business efforts were chiefly directed into silk, wool and banking. It was only during challenging times in the 1800s that the trading and production of wine became their main focus. And during those times, as with many in what has for a long time been a craft and an industry ruled by history and tradition, it was the family’s patriarch who managed the family’s legacy.
Piero Antinori, the last to take the reins in 1965, has done much to consolidate the position of Marchesi Antinori among Italy’s finest vintners, by retaining the traditions of his forefathers but adding a liberal dose of innovation. The Antinori wine business had for a long time involved buying large volumes of fruit and wines to create generic local styles. But Piero was more interested in the pursuit of quality and identifying the best vineyards to create great and long-lived wines. To this end he bought more prime estates in Tuscany to craft high-quality regional wines. Piero then looked farther afield, buying more estates across Italy in regions such as Piedmont, Umbria and Puglia before investing in California’s Napa Valley and beyond.
No doubt the greatest innovation came with the launch of Tignanello, a wine named after its singleorigin vineyard in the heart of Chianti Classico. Before the advent of the more international Tuscan style, or “Super Tuscan”, strict laws governed all parts of local winemaking practices, including the limiting of grapes to traditional, local varieties. While not the first Super Tuscan, Tignanello was made from a blend of the local Sangiovese combined with international stalwarts cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon aged in small French oak barrels.
Initially highly controversial, Tignanello did much to redefine Italian wine and bring a new generation to the venerable wines of Tuscany.
But in later years Piero Antinori had a problem. It was time to hand over responsibility for the family firm to the next generation, with the tradition being, in this male-dominated industry, that a man from the family would be bestowed with this honour. Blessed with three daughters, Piero ignored the patriarchal traditions and chose his oldest daughter Albiera as the company’s new vice president, while giving her sisters Alessia and Allegra prominent positions in the company, managing some of the wine businesses outside of Tuscany plus the growing number of Cantinetta Antinori restaurants across Europe.
While at the helm of Antinori, Piero had spent much of his time breaking boundaries while expanding the family empire throughout Tuscany and around the world – establishing the blueprint for a more global enterprise. Albiera and her sisters have a slightly different vision for the imprint of the 26th generation of Antinoris involved in the wine trade.
Rather than significantly grow their range of vineyards Albiera is keen to consolidate her father’s work by taking the time and effort to understand each of the various vineyards from where they source fruit.
“These places are all very different, they are all unique,” she says. “This makes it very complicated – each plot of land has its own independence.”
But the family’s innovative streak is never far from the surface, with constant experimentation in the current vineyards continuing in search of new synergies and opportunities as father Piero had done almost 50 years ago with Tignanello. While the Antinori wines from Tuscany remain the current picks from the family stable there is little doubt that over time Albiera and her sisters will only serve to bring greater fame to the Antinori name through higher quality wines from their various estates.