Being part of a family-owned wine estate that treasures history and heritage, our visit earlier this week to one of Italy’s oldest, biggest and best known wine companies, Marchesi Antinori, was really something special.
Records show that Rinuccio di Antinoro made wine at the Castello di Combiate near the Tuscan town of Calenzano in 1180 already! When the castello was destroyed in 1202, the family moved to Florence where they were involved in the silk weaving and banking industries. In 1385 however, Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Guild of Winemakers of Florence or the “Arte Fiorentina” and this is seen as the official start of this family’s rich wine heritage.
Today, 27 generations later, the family is still going strong and in their own words, they have a spirit of “innovative decisions but always maintaining, unaltered, a fundamental respect for tradition and for the territory in which they have operated.”
Also involved wider than the wine industry, in 1861 already, Niccolò Antinori acquired the title of Marchese for his efforts in the unification of Italy. Today with wineries not only in Italy, but also California, the Columbia Valley, Hungary, Malta, Romania and Chile, they are still passionate about the Tuscan terroir and the family is passionately involved in cultivatig a love for the Tuscan soil and art. The result of their efforts is the Accademia Antinori. Through the academy, events, exhibitions and shows are organised to celebrate the Tuscan countryside and to facilitate the research and restoration of works of art.
In the wine industry for over six hundred years, the respect the Antinori family has for tradition and land can also be experienced in their offering of food and wine and they offer a food and wine experiences in their Cantinetta Antinori, with branches in Florence, Zürich, Moscow and Vienna.
I get very excited by the way experiences can be created around wine and the Antinori family is definitely making the most of it, while staying true to their principles and their passion for the Tuscan land. Of course I am always very interested in the wine as well. As a member of the Primum Familiae Vini and one of the wineries leading the way in the “Super-Tuscan” revolution of the 1970’s, I could not wait to get to the Antinori cellar.
Innovative at heart, it was Niccolò Antinori who first (in 1924) scandalised Tuscany by adding Bordeaux grape varieties to his Chianti. Experimenting with blends, barrels and bottle maturation, he inspired his son Piero who was even more daring and investigated early harvesting of white grapes, different types of barrique, stainless steel vats and malolactic fermentation of red wines.
While Sassicaia is acknowledged as being the first ‘Super Tuscan’, the Tignanello launched by Antinori in 1971 did shook up the Italian wine industry, resulting in new rules and more importantly new attitudes.
More recently, a state-of-the-art facility, the Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellar was introduced. Now for the first time in the family’s illustrious history guests can visit and experience their winemaking process first-hand, learning about their history while they will have the opportunity to view their prized, centuries-old art collection. Located in the Chianti Classico region outside of Florence, it attracts about 1 million tourist per year. The cellar was designed by leading Italian architect, Marco Casamonti, and is set between olive groves, vineyards and oak trees, preserving the Tuscan landscape.
During our visit, I was privileged to meet with Renzo Cotarella, chief executive officer of Antinori Wines and chief enologist for the Antinori family, to discuss the 2014 harvest.
What an inspirational family!