We have spoken about the Antinori family on multiple occasions here at Xtrawine, particularly in reference to their Chianti and the effect that they have had on the modern wine industry. When you think of Italian wine, their name can never be far from your thoughts and they stake a very strong claim towards being the single most important family in the history of the Italian wine industry.
With that in mind, we thought now would be a good time to once again revisit the storied history of the Antinori family and examine how they rose into prominence during the Renaissance, before focusing all of their attention on creating some of the most interesting and revolutionary wines to ever come out of Italy.
The Early History
The Antinori wine label proudly boasts that the company was established in 1385, making them on of the longest-tenured wine companies in the entire world. However, the actual history of the family, particularly in regards to the creation of wine, actually stretches back more than 200 years before the company was officially founded. Records show that Rinuccio di Antinori made wine near the Tuscan town of Calenzano as far back as 1180, in the Castello di Combiate.
This early efforts ground to a halt when the castello was destroyed a mere 22 years later, resulting in the family moving to Florence where they truly started to make a name for themselves. There they became involved in the thriving silk weaving and banking industries, building a strong reputation and increasing levels of political power to the point where they were able to influence Florentine policy.
However, that early passion for wine was never quite forgotten and, in 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Guild of Winemakers and the official story of the company began.
Over the following century and a half, the company’s fame continued to grow as more and more people recognized the sheer quality of the wines that they were capable of producing. By 1506, a combination of their efforts in banking, wine and silk weaving allowed the family to afford the 4,000 florins required to buy the Palazzo Antinori, which has originally been built for the Boni family back in the 1460s.
Alessandro Antinori was now one of the richest and most-respected men in Florence, but his good fortune would not last forever. The discovery of the Americas and the influx of gold that was brought over to Europe from the new continent had a devastating effect on the families that worked in the Italian banking industry and the Antinori family son found itself bankrupted, falling back on silk and wine in an effort to support itself.
Thankfully, the story quickly turned to a happier time, as the ensuing peace that came following the discovery of the Americas allowed the family to restore its name and prestige, with the family gaining the title of Marquis from the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, reinforcing their political importance as well as their economic efforts.
Adventures Into Chianti
While the Antinori family had always been known for being capable of producing some truly outstanding wines, it was not until they began their adventures into the Chianti region that they truly began to make a name for themselves and establish the company as one that commands the respect of everybody who hears of it.
It was in 1900 when Piero Antinori purchased a number of vineyards in what has become known as the Chianti Classico region, signalling his intent to start creating this most famous of Tuscan wines. Perhaps most notable from this era is the purchase of 47 hectares of land at Tignanello, though the importance of this decision would not make itself known until more than 70 years later.
The family quickly set about bringing their own ideas and brand of innovation to the world of Chianti, which did not sit well at all with those who had dedicated themselves to the Classic methods and were unwilling to see any efforts to change them brought to light. In 1924, Niccolo Antinori hinted at the intentions of the family by creating a Chianti that made use of the Bordeaux grape variety, demonstrating a penchant for experimentation and innovation that would come to the fore a number of years later. During the course of his career he experimented with different blends, barrels and techniques with the aim of creating superior wines, often meeting opposition while he did so but laying the groundwork for the event that would make the Antinori family famous on an international stage.
The Tignanello Years
In 1971, the Antinori family made the decision to completely fly in the face of the traditionalist who has previously rallied against their efforts with the release of Tignanello. The wine quickly became the standard bearer for the new wave of ‘Super Tuscans’ that swept the industry during this era and represented a move away from the traditional methods of making Chianti, instead focusing on creating a wine of immense quality that would also be more to the tastes of an international consumer.
The wine completely shook the Italian wine industry to its core, leading to a number of changes in rules and attitudes, particularly within the DOC that originally refused to allow the wine to carry the label until realising its immense quality and popularity could not be ignored.
Despite these rule changes, the company continues to sell the wine as an IGT Toscano, demonstrating something of a rebellious air for the way that some in the industry treated it way back when it was first released.
Now, we all know the Antinori family as one of the most important dynasties in the history of Italian wine. Their continued hard work sees them innovating on a constant basis and they have fully dedicated themselves to the industry that has given them so much over the years, even when others have fallen by the wayside. Simply put, if you purchase a bottle of wine made by the Antinori family, you are practically guaranteed quality every single time.