profile: MARCHESI ANTINORI
An Italian winery with a 600-year-old history has an HQ that complements the land while connecting to the future.
In light of the globally observed statistic that 12 per cent of family businesses survive beyond a second generation, the Tuscan-based Antinori family is not only anomalous, it is downright freakish. Counting 26 generations of wine producers, dating back to 1385 (just decades after Dante penned The Divine Comedy), they have for more than six centuries transformed the terroir of Tuscany into wines that push the parameters of taste. Indeed, Marquis Piero Antinori, the honorary president of Marchesi Antinori — who has presided over 11 estates, mainly in Tuscany, for the last five decades — ignited the so-called “Super Tuscan” revolution nearly 40 years ago with his aromatic Tignanello — the milestone Chianti made with no white grapes. It outraged the purists, turned the company into a global powerhouse and recently prompted Wine Spectator, the US bible on all things vino, to rate the 2013 vintage of “this iconic super Tuscan” in its top 10 world-best 100 wines for 2016. It marked a moment for the Marquis to pass the president’s baton to his eldest daughter Albieria, who, supported by her sisters Allegra and Alessia, is turning the long-term patrimony of production into a 21st-century sorority. This break with tradition tells in the Antinori Chianti Classico winery, the new Marchesi Antinori headquarters and cellars in the hamlet of Bargino (half an hour by car from Florence), where, after 600 years of closed-to-the-public production, the family has laid open its processes in award-wining architecture. “We needed a new winery in the Chianti Classico area because the old one in San Casciano town was squeezed in,” says Albiera, who steered the commission for a new complex that would consolidate the company’s administrative offices and interface with the wine consumer. “We said, ‘Let’s try and do something that is a sign of the future for today.’” Meeting with Marco Casamonti, founding partner of Florence-based firm, Archea Associati, Albiera briefed for a subtle insertion into the “very delicate and historical” countryside — a working winery that was pleasant to be in and projected the “essence” of the Antinoris. “We are Florentine with a long history and we are used to beautiful things, but things that are very simple,” she says, illustrating the point with Palazzo Antinori, the Renaissance stunner (in Florence’s fashionable Via de’ Tornabuoni) that was bought by Niccolò Antinori in 1506. “There are very simple straight lines and the building is very efficient for what it has to do; every space has a purpose.” Casamonti accordingly decanted the Antinoris’ deep connection to land and their profound regional legacy into a production facility that buries its bulk into the Bargino hillside. Lower-level terracottalined vaults (housing production and storage) connect with upper-level administration and public areas that present as Fontana-like slashes of glass façade from the road. The ubiquitous use of Corten steel, rusted to the tint of the terroir, dissolves all structure into vineyard slope, resulting in a subtle red that packs inner surprise. Arch Daily named it ‘Building of the Year’ in 2013; we call it a single vintage spectacular that must be slowly enjoyed.
“We are Florentine with a long history and we are used to beautiful things, but things that are very simple”
The circular voids in the winery building allow light into the lower levels.
left: The spiral staircase at Marchesi Antinori links the lower-level car park to the reception area and restaurant above.