Wine Ink column: Antinoris’ new house is the world’s most prestigious winery
September 1, 2016
If one were inclined to debate who the first family of wine is, the discussion would likely begin and end with the Antinoris of Tuscany.
So it was, a little more than a decade ago, that the current generation of the family embarked on a journey to conceive and construct a space, a place of passion, if you will, to celebrate the history of the dynasty and provide a home for the future growth of the company. The result, which opened just more than three years ago, is a stunning and grand palace for wine that revels in beauty and efficiency and is the embodiment of the words written by this generation's patriarch, Piero Antinori: "a winery is a solemn place, a temple devoted to the ancient rites of the grape."
Temple to wine
In 1995, Piero and his three daughters, Albiera, Allegra and Alessia, who today oversee the Antinori dynasty, purchased 186 acres of prime and pristine land south of Montalcino, between the historic cities of Florence and Siena, in the heart of the Chianti Classico wine region. The property was little more than a stone's throw from the vineyards that are the home of the iconic Tignanello, where Piero changed Italian wines forever when he boldly chose a path of art over wine law by blending the regional sangiovese with cabernet.
Now the family's vision was to produce a new icon — a property to make wine, welcome visitors, host world-class art and operate their business dealings under a single roof. And they wanted that roof to be under a vineyard in perfect harmony with the surroundings. Enlisting the talents of Italian architect Marco Casamonti and committing just more than $100 million, they set about creating their dream.
The road up to the winery winds gently through plantings of olive trees and does not prepare guests for the edifice that awaits. The structure, literally buried in the hillside, is nearly imperceptible until actually reached. But once there, it reveals itself as a powerful and imposing part of the landscape.
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The arrival area and parking garage are encased in an immense earthen concrete structure, whose hue and color mimics that of the surrounding soils. Elongated shafts of bright Tuscan sunlight pour through slits in the ceiling, sliding with the movement of the sun and illuminating the depths of the building. In the center is an enormous, signature curved and rusted steel walkway that takes guests up, up, up to their eventual arrival on a terrace looking out over the vineyards and vistas. It is a "wow" moment for all first-time visitors.
Entering the large, glass-walled reception area, a dichotomy emerges. On the one hand, elegance and grandeur envelop visitors, as the space feels a bit like that of a contemporary museum. But the minimalist materials, concrete, glass and steel combine with the clean lines of the obviously Italian design to provide a simpler feel. One that welcomes and beckons.
Taking a tour
A tour takes guests through the winery itself, which is clean and pristine with stainless-steel fermentation tanks lined up side by side under the concrete walls. Designed with utmost efficiency for the production of fine wine, the facility uses a gravity-flow system where the grapes arrive at the winery on the top floor, are hand sorted and de-stemmed, and the juice flows into the tanks below. All can be observed during harvest by guests.
Perhaps the most impressive location in the three-story building is the barrel room. Here, the beauty of the wood, where the Antinori wines lie aging, awaiting the day they will be bottled and sent to the world, contrasts with the graceful and gentle curves of the concrete walls. In the center are cantilevered glass-box rooms that jut into the barrel room and host guests for tastings. The experience is awe-inspiring, as it combines all of the elements, the materials, the design and, most importantly, the wines, into a single moment.
In addition to the tasting room and vinification facilities, the Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellars house an exceptional restaurant, Rinuccio 1180, which pairs the vast collection of Antinori wines with the hearty and distinct cuisine of the region, a curated art collection of contemporary works and a museum that showcases the history of the family and Italian wine. Oh, and it also hosts the offices of the family business.
At the Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellars, this first family of wine has created a structure that is not only useful and innovative and inspiring, it is a monument to the earth itself.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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