One would never know that she had only just arrived in town, conducted two lunch tastings, and is now about to host a winemaker dinner with 30 people. Alessia Antinori is as fresh and confident as they come, affectionately personable, passionate and engaging.
For Antinori, 26th generation and vice president of one of the largest Italian winemaking families, Marchesi Antinori, this is a typical day. The face of the historic company represents its wines in the U.S. market and tonight, she leads a dinner in Carbone at Aria Las Vegas and begins with how it all started in 1385.
“My ancestors started selling the wines that the priests in the countryside used to make and we sold the wine in the city through these little windows called finestrelle (buchetta del vino),” she said. “When you are at the center of Florence, look for these small windows in the palazzos. We have one in Palazzo Antinori, which is a building owned by the family and built by one of my ancestors during the Renaissance period.”
For three centuries, flasks of local wine were sold directly to the consumer through these windows. This innovative commercial enterprise was the result of the imagination and invention of wine-producing families in Tuscany, such as Antinori, who had residences in the city of Florence.
The Antinori family has seen many changes take place in the more than 600 years of winemaking history. While the finestrelle are preserved by law as historical artifacts today, the business of getting wine from Italy to dining tables across the world has evolved into a more complex system.
Through the generations, the Antinoris have adhered to tradition, but their innovative spirit remains at the core of their philosophy. To maximize the undiscovered potential in winemaking while safeguarding the wealth of tradition, culture and taste, they have developed groundbreaking wines, such as Tignanello, and have explored winemaking outside of their Tuscan home base.
“Innovation and tradition are the most important characteristics,” Antinori said. “We look ahead and experience other areas of Italy as well.”
Alessia was raised with her two older sisters, Allegra and Albiera, in the 15th century Palazzo Antinori. The three understand today that the whole is more than the sum of their contributions to the family business.
“We are family-owned, and this is important nowadays, Alessia Antinori said. “To us, it is important to transmit the values of passion, integrity, perseverance, patience and quality from generation to generation.”
She always knew she was an Antinori, but didn’t realize the significance until she spent time away from home. “In Florence we had always been surrounded by art and beauty and everything seemed normal, but life is not like that. Life is very different.”
Wine had always been a lifestyle, however, and she has enjoyed it in a great many capacities. “I love the idea that I can pair the wine with great moments of my life.”
To add to the timeline was the dinner at Carbone. And on the tables were a few of her favorites, namely Tignanello, Cervaro della Sala and Solaia. “This is special because we don’t drink this everyday at home.”
Cervaro della Sala is an age-worthy white wine made from a blend of Chardonnay and Grechetto, a native grape of the Umbria region. Her grandfather purchased the winery – Castello della Sala – after World War 1. The area of Orvieto was known for its crisp, white wines, but her father decided to add Chardonnay to create a unique blend.
“This is an example of tradition with innovation – taking an indigenous grape and blending with a French grape, then aging it in oak. This was not typical in Umbria.”
As a lover of Sangiovese, Tignanello is among her favorites. She gravitates to her roots, where she has spent every harvest on the Tignanello estate in Chianti Classico. She also explains how this wine represents the history and innovation of the Super-Tuscan.
“It’s the example of what we created in the 1970s.” She said. “From France, my father brought back cabernet to Chianti Classico and blended it. This wine went against the rules of the Chianti Classico DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin).” Yet, it represented an enormous wave of ingenuity that delighted wine lovers the world over.
Finally, the Solaia, a 100-pointer (2015) by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, was poured to pair with Carbone’s veal Parmesan and rib-eye Diana. Solaia’s 10-hectare vineyard runs adjacent to Tignanello. The wine was borne out of exceeding production of Cabernet grapes, so a blend was created of 80 percent Cabernet (75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent cabernet Franc) and 20 percent Sangiovese.
“This is the exact opposite of Tignanello, and we are very proud of this wine as well – not only for us, but for the image of Italian wines,” she said.
Certainly Antinori’s wines are a reflection of tradition blended with innovation. Through the continual integration of the new and the old, Marchesi Antinori has been able to successfully stay in business for more than 630 years. Tomorrow will be another day for Alessia – in a different city where more wine will be poured, shared and memories made.