10 Things to know about Antinori

10 Things to know about Antinori

It is not only the oldest, but also the most famous wine dynasty in Italy. We are talking, of course, about the Marchesi Antinori, who have been shaping the vinophile face of the country since the 14th century. But where does the noble wine family actually come from? What was the reason for their success? Why is the name Marchesi Antinori inextricably linked with the legendary Super Tuscans? Where does the family have wineries everywhere? And who actually runs the wine empire? All these and many more questions we will now address here.

 

1. Where do the Marchesi Antinori actually come from?

The romantic village of Bargino is located about 30 kilometers south of Florence in Tuscany. This is the home of the Marchesi Antinori, who were first mentioned in documents there in 1179. And even though Bargino is now home to a magnificent winery that forms the family headquarters, so to speak, not everything began for the Marchesi Antinori with viticulture. The Marquises were first and foremost landowners, merchants and bankers. From Florence, they traded in silk and wool and conducted banking business.

Wine was added to the list in 1385, thanks to Giovanni di Piero Antinori. He founded the first family winery in the Chianti Classico area of Tuscany. He thus laid the foundation for a vinophile success story. It must be admitted, however, that the Antinoris first took it easy when it came to wine. For a long time, the other businesses were in the foreground. Wine was made more or less as a sideline. And yet, over the centuries, the family was able to establish a very good standing among the Tuscan wineries. At that time, the heart of the production was above all the Chianti Classico. At least until the end of the 1960s. Then Piero Antinori, the 26th generation to head the family dynasty, revolutionized the Italian wine world with a big bang.

 

2. Why is Piero Antinori such a wine legend?

To understand how revolutionary Piero Antinori really was as a winemaker, one must first look at the rigid regulations in Tuscany in general and in the Chianti Classico area in particular. For there were strict rules. At that time, a Chianti Classico had to contain at least 70 percent Sangiovese as the red grape variety (today, by the way, it is 80 percent). International grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc were strictly prohibited. And aging in barrique was also not permitted.

Piero Antinori was annoyed by these rigid statutes. Especially because the reputation of Chianti Classico was as good as ruined at that time. The wines were simply too flat, too arbitrary, too plain. In short: too bad. And nothing could be done about it because of the corset of laws. So Antinori blew the whistle on the regulations. Together with his oenologist Giacomo Tachis, he cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the Chianti Classico upland valley of Val di Pesa. The first harvest took place in 1971, and the first wine was launched on the market in 1974. The Tignanello. A cuvée of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. A wine that violated all regulations, especially since it was also aged in barrique. A scandal! This simple table wine - as it had to be called due to the violations of the rules - quickly caused a sensation. To this day, it is considered the second Super Tuscan (after Sassicaia) and is one of the world's great wine icons.

 

3. What makes Tignanello so special?

We have already told you the exciting story of how this Super Tuscan wine came into being. Breaking the rules may attract attention, but it does not make a wine such an icon. So let's take a closer look at this very special growth.

The Super Tuscan is named after the vineyard where the vines for this growth thrive on calcareous Alberese and Galestro rock: Tignanello. Because of the ideal altitude, there is a great drop in temperature at night, especially in the summer. As a result, the grapes ripen very slowly and thus develop a particularly intense aroma. Strict selection ensures quality, and aging in barrique ensures impressive longevity. All this makes the Tignanello the Italian answer to a Bordelais Grand Vin. With its profound complexity, it can easily compete with many Bordeaux giants. It is precisely this outstanding quality that is the reason for the triumph of Tignanello around the world.

 

4. Is Solaia also a Super Tuscan?

Well, and how! In fact, the vines (again, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese) grow within sight of Tignanello. Solaia is also named after its vineyard. The wine is considered the big brother of Tignanello. Because the microclimate in the Solaia vineyard is again a little better, the grape quality a little higher - and the quantity a little more limited. The vineyard covers only 20 hectares of vines. With the Tignanello vineyard it's 50 hectares.

Solaia was first launched on the market in 1978 - and, like its little brother, immediately caused a sensation. No wonder! The grape shines with a powerful elegance that is as noble as it is fruity and seductive. A real head of character, destined for a little eternity. Sassicaia (from Tenuta San Guido) Tignanello and Solaia started the hype for Super Tuscans, which remain among the best wines Tuscany produces.

 

5. And what about Guado Al Tasso?

You might have guessed it. Guado Al Tasso is also a genuine Super Tuscan from the Marchesi Antinori. However, here the conditions are different. The vineyards are not located in the Chianti Classico region, but in the Bolgheri sub-region of Tuscany. Here, the vineyards nestle in an amphitheater on a range of hills that open to the sea. As a result, the sea has a cooling influence. Then there are the temperature differences between day and night. All this makes for an intense grape aroma.

Speaking of grapes, in Guado Al Tasso you won't find any Sangiovese. The cuvée of this wine consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In some years, a small amount of Petit Verdot is also added. The vines are deeply rooted in alluvial clay-sand and clay-silt soils, which significantly shape the firm yet elegant structure of this complex growth. Guado Al Tasso was first released in 1990.

 

6. Does Antinori only make red wines?

Even if the icons of the Marchesi Antinori are all red, the Florentine family also knows how to make white wines. With the Cervaro della Sala, for example, they created one of the most successful white wines in Italy. Here, the international grape variety Chardonnay is the big star - complemented by a small proportion of the native Grechetto grape.

The wine was launched in 1985. And here, too, Piero Antinori remained true to his credo "Good wine needs an idea and a lot of passion". Because the Cervaro della Sala was one of the first Italian white wines in which a biological acid reduction took place after fermentation - and which matured in barrique. This is precisely why the wine shines not only with an outrageously seductive creaminess, but also with a noble complexity that was simply not known before in Italian white wines.

7. Do the Marchesi Antinori grow their vines exclusively in Tuscany?

With Chianti Classico and the expansion to Bolgheri, Tuscany is without question the vinophile home of Marchesi Antinori. In Tuscany, they also own vineyards in Maremma and Montepulciano. However, in the course of the last five decades, the terroirs of other Italian wine regions have also been developed. For example, the Cervaro della Sala just described comes from Umbria and in Franciacorta, the family has now also specialized in sparkling wines. Not to mention that in Apulia, too, two wineries now belong to the Antinori empire. Which brings us directly to the next question.

 

8. How many wineries does the Marchesi Antinori own in Italy?

In Italy alone, the family has nine wineries that it founded or inherited itself and seven that it bought or took over. In addition, there are shares in countless other wineries that produce wine. Villa Antinori in Chianti Classico is the centerpiece. Tenuta Tignanello and Tenuta Guado al Tasso (which have been in the family since 1830) are among the two prestigious Marchesi Antinori estates.

 

9. Are the Antinoris also active outside Italy?

Definitly! In 1993, the family bought the Antica winery in California's Napa Valley. The landscape with its rolling hills reminded the Marchesi Antinori directly of Tuscany. They immediately recognized the potential of the 220 hectares of vineyards. Before even a single wine was created, they personally devoted themselves to extensive terroir studies. It was not until 2006 that the first wine was released, Antica.

A few years later, the family also acquired Haras de Pirque, a vineyard in the central region of Chile. Here, viticulture takes place on the slopes of the Andes. However, the real highlight of the family clan was as late as in May 2023, when it became known that the Marchesi Antinori are now the sole owners of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars - the big cult winery in California's Napa Valley. The family had already owned 15 percent of the winery since 2007. Now they also acquired the remaining 85 percent. A great triumph!

 

10. Who currently runs the family empire?

Piero Antinori was the great patron of the family for an impressive five decades. He can be thanked for the breathtaking growth and impressive reputation of the family's wines. It was Piero Antinori who ultimately proved to the world that quantity and quality are truly not mutually exclusive. In total, the 2,200 hectares of vineyards produce no less than 20 million bottles of wine. From simple Chianti to legends such as Tignanello, Solaia and Guado Al Tasso, the range is astonishingly wide.

In 2017, Marchese Piero Antinori officially retired and handed over the business to his daughter Albiera Antinori, who now guides the fortunes of the family dynasty with the support of her two sisters, Alessia and Allegra. But Piero Antinori can't quite let go of the business. Even at soon to be 85 years of age, he still stands by his daughters in an advisory capacity. What an impressive man!

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