When you first spy the new Antinori winery from the roadside leading from Florence into the heart of the Chianti Classico, you almost miss it. Then you do a double take, and your jaw drops open. It is built into the hillside in such a way that your gaze first passes over it; the building echoes the russet hues and elegant sloping of the land, and there are vines planted around and even on top of it!
When you realize that it’s an actual edifice, your first thought is that it must be a museum. And indeed, there is a museum inside, which traces the Antinori family’s winemaking history back to its origins in 1385. But a tour of the facility (with no less than Matia Barciulli, the Michelin-star chef of the family’s nearby Osteria di Passignano) reveals it to be an active winery where the wine is fermented, aged, bottled, and oft-times consumed!
The cantina was designed by the Archea architectural firm based on the ideas of the Marchese Piero Antinori and his three daughters (who now run the wine empire), Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia. The idea was to respect and honor the countryside that has been their home and their livelihood for some seven hundred years.
The winery’s design is not only elegant, but also functional. “We use the power of gravity,” explained Chef Matia in his soft-spoken Italian, explaining that instead of having to pump the grapes into the fermentation vats, they “fall from above,” as it were. Particularly stunning are the vaults housing the barriques, where the natural wood construction of the room itself echoes the round shape and feel of the wooden barrels. The temperature, Chef Matia explained, is naturally regulated, built as it is deep in the hillside, never varying by more than 2 degrees Celsius. The perfume of fermenting grapes and oak permeate the air, creating that scent so unique to wineries.
At around $30 per person, a tour and tasting at the cantina is not cheap, but is definitely worth the experience. Of course, the tour and tasting along with lunch are included on our Antintori’s Noble Tuscany cooking vacation. After the tasting of such legendary wines as Tignanello and Solaia, you end in Rinuncio 1180, Matia’s domain, which is perched on the top of the cantina, offering views of the surrounding vineyards and of course Tuscan fare rooted in tradition but elevated to the next level.
If you’re interested in discovering the Tuscany of the Antinori’s yourself, check out our 6-night itinerary in which you visit both the new winery and their winery at the Abbey of Passignano, take cooking classes with Chef Matia, and explore the delicious world of Tuscan wine and cuisine!
By Peg Kern
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