Antinori and the History of Wine in Tuscany

di Fabrizio Magnanini


Piero Antinori just wrote his autobiograpphy and he called it “the fragrance of Chianti” (il profumo del Chianti). The book is very interesting even for people who are not expert about italian wine: it’s his personal story and the story of his wine through over 40 years.

Piero Antinori comes from a family of winemakers (they say 600 years of winemaking!) and he took over in 1966. His father told him it was time (Piero was about 30 years old) that he would take his responsabilities on leading the winery. Antinori is credited with the invention of the “Supertuscans”, wine made in Tuscany that broke with the tradition; the story is so interesting that we can’t skip the details. His uncle started making a new wine near Livorno, he decided to import plants of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and to make it grow in Bolgheri (near Livorno); the result was Sassicaia, one of the best (and most expensive) wines in Italy! Obviously Piero Antinori was impressed with that wine and he decided to creat his own Supertuscan, after years of trying he decided to launch in the market Tignanello (blend of Sangiovese [85%], Cabernet Sauvignon [10%] and Cabernet Franc [5%]); do we have to add that the reviews were excellent about it?

Every chapter has a name of a bottle created by Antinori, and the sory goes on, full of anecdotes about work and wine in general. One nice anecdote is about Canada. At the beginnig of sixties (before Piero A. was effectively in charge) his father Niccolò told him to go for a promotional tour the USA. He was glad to go and at the last minute his father told him to go to Canada, to know the man who was exporting their wine in Canada. The guy was a polish man, a very well connected man, dealing with other italian brands. The polish man asked Antinori to go with him though Canada, to see agencies of each provinces (in Italy there was no monopoly of selling alcohol). Antinori didn’t have much money (his money were waiting for him in NYC) and aksed his father an advice, his fahter told him he could borrow money from the polish man and Antinori started the trip. The journey started but Antinori soon realized that the polish man was spending so much money on hotels, food, champagne, etc... At the end of the expensive trip, Antinori was expecting the bill from the guy ... but surpisingly the guy had already left the hotel, and he had already paid everything. After some time, Antinori asked the italian embassy to contact that guy and, at last, they told him what happened: the guy went beyond the Iron Curtain. The guy was posing like an importer of wine but he was a KGB spy.

One turning point for Antinori was on 2000 when the magazine Wine Spectator declared Solaia 1997 (Solaia is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc) the best wine of the world.

After so many years in the wine industry, Antinori wrote the book as a gift to his 3 daughters: it’s time to hand them the job and all of them (Albiera, Allegra and Alessia) are ready to lead the winery for the twentyseventh generation.