When visiting Chianti Classico, what could be the most well-known wine-producing region of Tuscany, it is easy to be captivated by the rolling terraced-hills filled with fields of sunflowers or by its carefully manicured vineyards that lay heavy with grapes. The setting, unique in its sense of time and place, basks in the legendary Tuscan sun that casts an exceptional glow over the entire landscape. A winemaking area since the age of the Etruscans and ancient Rome, it wasn’t until the medieval period when tracts of land in Chianti were cleared specifically for the cultivation of wines and olive oil. In the 19th century, Chianti established itself as a solid wine producer with the Sangiovese grape being the main component of its wine.
In Bargino, one of Chianti’s smaller towns where the sun shines just as bright and the scenery equally stunning, lies an “invisible” winery concealed inside an unassuming hill. This state-of-the-art facility, Cantina Antinori, was opened in 2013 after seven years of construction. It was designed by Archea Associati, a Florence-based architectural studio, for renowned winery Marchesi Antinori. Owned by the Antinori family who has been producing wines for the past six centuries straight through 26 generations—the enterprise is currently led by Marquis Piero Antinori, who represents the 25th generation of the family, assisted by his three daughters, Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia. The sisters are the first women in the family’s history to work at Marchesi Antinori and will eventually be the very first women to head the company when their father retires.
The Antinori family: Albiera, Piero, Allegra, and Allesia Antinori
The marchese, as he referred to by his employees, has been working with the family business for the past 50 years and is responsible for the production of some of the most legendary wines of the last century, including the breakthrough Super Tuscan wine, Tignanello. Debuting in 1971 with a follow-up vintage in 1975, Tignanello was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques and blended with international varietals like cabernet sauvignon. They were also the first Chianti reds not to be blended with white grapes. The success of Tignanello gave rise to his second expression, Solaia, made from grapes grown in the sunnier part of the Tignanello estate. A third came later through the acquisition of the Guado al Tasso estate, the Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore, made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and petitverdot. With an annual production of 26 million bottles from its nine Tuscan and Umbrian estates alone, Antinori holdings now include wine-growing estates all over Italy, each with its own particular soil and microclimate. Over the past two decades, it has also extended its wine ventures to the United States, maintaining a significant presence in California’s Napa Valley and Washington State through its alliance with Château Ste. Michelle. Together, the powerhouse partnership owns Col Solare, a vineyard that they inaugurated together with a 1995 vintage, and the beloved Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, purchased in 2007. Antinori also has winemaking interests in Chile, Hungary, and Romania.
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Until 2013, Marchesi Antinori headquarters were in Florence. Located in the Chianti Classico region, Cantina Antinori, designed by Archea Associati, now houses the company’s main winery, cellars, and executive offices featuring Italian furnishings by Moroso.
The winery represents a first for both Italian winemakers and for visitors who are eager to learn more about winemaking while discovering the Antinori family’s illustrious history and their centuries-old art collection. “The winery is an ambivalent space. A sacred, solemn place, a temple devoted to the ancient rites of the grape, but at the same time it is a wine production premise that must meet certain quality requirements,” says Piero Antinori in the short film, The Perfume of Chianti, the Story of a Family of Vintners. “Today, more than ever, these spaces should be rural edifices surrounded by and in perfect harmony with nature.”
On this project, Archea’s designers worked closely with engineers from Hydea, a Florentine engineering company, to make its 50,000 square-meter architectural masterpiece blend into a hill and merge into the landscape seamlessly. Beginning with the marchese’s fundamental idea of balancing “harmony with nature,” the winery and cellars were designed so that the physical and intellectual would coexist in a structure that reflects its ties to the earth, with minimal impact on the environment. It also concurrently allows for a substantial savings in energy by taking advantage of natural materials such as terracotta, wood, glass, and corten, a steel and copper alloy, and by the natural energy produced by the earth to cool and insulate the cellars, so that they are ideal for producing and aging wine.
The road to Cantina Antinori in Bargino, Italy.
Visitors enter from below and ascend the building through a corkscrew-inspired staircase made of rust-colored steel that winds upward from the bottom parking lot all the way to the top floor, where the restaurant Rinuccio 1180 serves its guests traditional Tuscan fare. From the top deck, visitors can enjoy the amazing panorama of the planted vineyards that surround the winery. Throughout the central vineyards are classic Sangiovese grapes from Chianti Classico. To the left of these plots are international varietals: Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot; while to the right are a few historical grapes significant to the Chianti Classico area: Canaiolo, ciliegiolo, colorino, malvasia nera, and mammolo. On the middle floors are the touring areas that take visitors through the vinification process—from de-stemming the fruit through to the barrel cellars and fermentation tanks. Also located within the winery are the company’s executive offices, cellars, museum, wine tasting area, library, retail shop, and a 200-seat auditorium.
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The dining room at the top level of the winery, Rinuccio 1180.
The large auditorium is used for movies, cultural shows, and talks, and features custom seats designed by Italian design studio Moroso.
Beyond the art and architecture, however, visitors still come to Cantina Antinori to sample and learn about the wine. In addition to those produced under the Marchesi Antinori label, as well as the abovementioned Super Tuscans, there is a full range of Antinori-owned Italian labels that are available for tasting, including the much-touted brunello, Piana della Vigne. Also available are the prized Vinsanto from Tenute Marchese (made in the traditional method and not exported outside of Italy due to high local demand), a grappa from Tignanello, as well as some of the region’s finest olive oils produced by Antinori, Laudemio, and Peppoli.
Bottles of Tignanello, Solaia, Pian delle Vigne, and Marchesi Antinori
Throughout the modern landmark, the spaces reveal both the history of tradition and the Antinori family’s commitment to innovation, offering a complete overview of the world of wine with the family’s viticulture roots as its starting point. But perhaps more importantly, what echo through its walls are the passion and intuition that have led the family on its journey since 1385, the driving factors that they hope will carry them through the next 600 years. Antinori wines are carried exclusively in Manila at Bacchus Epicerie, Ground Floor, Power Plant Mall, 896.5648; antinorichianticlassico.it.