Monday, September 9, 2013

The new Antinori Winery in Chianti

Twenty-six Generations under One Roof

Past and present: the timeless beauty of Badia Passignano from a model at the Antinori Chianti museum

Present and future: the grand plan for the streamlined winery to outdo all wineries
You have to admire the audacity of the Antinori family: to plan, construct and complete a project of this size and ambition in a territory where modernity is often anathema.

The building of, as seen in the winery auditorium

This bird's eye view gives an idea of the size of the site; the village of Bargino is to the left; showcase vineyards are being planted where the earth is now

It took seven years to complete, an enormous and ever-growing sum of money, and required that an entire hill be excavated and then put back again around the construction, but the Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery was finally opened recently and is inaugurating its first complete wine-making cycle this month, although its steel vats are already storing the wine from last year.

from winery museum: the family has displayed a number of paintings, most by well-known artists, in their little museum

In their own words, the winery is seen as a homage to the Chianti Classico territory and to the family's historical links to this land. The Antinori family has been producing wine since 1385, over twenty-six generations.

the Antinori family tree, as depicted in the 16th-17th century
A salient feature of the whole concept is that Antinori wanted the winery to make use of natural conditions and materials as much as possible, so: terracotta, wood, glass, corten (a steel and copper alloy with a rusted look which, deceptively, renders the metal more durable); underground cellars and gravity-flow grape delivery, natural light for internal illumination and hand selection of the grapes. They also determined to make use of local (Florentine) architects and locally-produced materials where possible.

strips of untreated oak line many walls inside the winery: one might almost be inside a wine barrel!
Yet it is the architecture which strikes one most. As you approach from the main road the impression is of overpowering immensity and cyclopic proportions. Reddish-coloured concrete blocks line the entrance which curves up towards the parking area. 

These light wells are so large that, when we flew south recently and gazed over Chianti, they pinpointed the winery for us, from at least 10,000 feet.

What you first see of the structure is a cavernous underground parking area. Industrial-sized cylindrical red-steel tubes let in light. Then there is the staircase. A huge, narrowing helix of corten, it is probably the showpiece of the winery's design.

staircase from below

and from the first floor
 A little awkward too, as the steps are uneven and it has to be used (at least for now) to access the restaurant and top floor which means something of a trek through the newly-planted vineyard under sun or rain. But splendid to look at nevertheless. Rather like those attractive designer jugs which don't pour well.

entrance to reception on first floor
A sleek, long, narrow gash in the hill is all you see of the winery from the highway: this is in fact the entrance area to the reception, the museum, shop and the start of the guided tour.

the grape selection area, quite small in comparison to the rest, for reasons of quality control
one of the barrel cellars; the three cellars resemble giant folds in the earth

gelosie, typical terracotta fretwork found on old barns here, fills the walls at either end of the cellars

this photo does not render the size: the far wall must be about 100m away and the first vats are at least 5m tall

the vin santo preparation and aging area under the roof, as per tradition; the barrels are oak

Antinori produces a (relatively) small amount of organic olive oil from its Peppoli estate. Varieties used: 80% Frantoio, 10% Moraiolo and 10% Leccino; these historic terracotta jars are only here for decoration: the steel vats behind are where the oil is stored
Our guide, proficient in English and very 'simpatica' and informative, took us through the whole wine-making process as well as describing the building of the winery. She was born nearby at Mercatale, had grown up helping in local vineyards at harvest time and was full of passion about and attachment to local traditions. 

At the wine tasting three wines were offered, one white and two reds: the best was decidedly the Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva

At the end of the tour she pointed out the museum, enoteca, shop and auditorium as well as the restaurant on the roof, named in honour of the family's founding father, Rinuccio degli Antinori. We ate there: it was good, simple Tuscan fare, no frills, and quite reasonably priced.

detail from restaurant: the small wine bottle on the right is an ingenious pepper mill: the name of one of the Antinori vineyards is Peppoli. The water glass is the bottom part of a wine bottle.


enoteca or wine shop; there is also a gift shop

The Antinori Chianti Classico winery, 
via Cassia per Siena 133 Loc. Bargino, San Casciano Val di Pesa,
  is reached on the Florence-Siena highway (called the Si-Fi) from either the Bargino or the Tavarnelle exit and is open from Monday to Saturday 1100 to 1800 and Sunday 1100 to 1400.  
Reservations on +39 055 2359700 or through site.
Restaurant open from 1200 to 1600
Wine bar from 1600 to 1900 
Reservations on +39 055 2359720 

1 comment:

  1. This is a remakably beautiful architectural venture and adventure. The design inside and out is breathtaking and is such an achievement which must merit many awards.
    It sums up the very best of Florentine art, history and vine.


Comments are welcome but will be checked before publishing.