Over the years, Xtrawine has used our weekly spotlight article to shine a light on some of the best wine producers in Italy. Some of these, such as the Antinori family, are household names that deservedly have the quality of their wines shouted from the rooftops. Others are smaller producers, many of which bring new innovations to the wine industry or have otherwise achieved the exceptional feat of creating absolutely superb wines with much smaller teams of people than their larger peers.
Today’s company very much fits in the latter category, being both a small company and a producer that is trying to enhance the reputation of a wine region that is fairly unknown, particularly to those outside of Italy. This small producer certainly has some big ideas, which have led to the creation of some wonderful wines, but before we get to that we should examine the company first.
So, without any further ado, here is the story of Antoniolo.
Hailing from the little-known Gattinara region, Antoniolo has been creating great wines since 1948, with a particular focus on driving the recovery of its home region and once again establishing it as a force to be reckoned with in the Italian wine industry. It is no small task, not least because the region is located in Northern Piedmont and thus faces an awful lot of competition from nearby winemakers. However, it is a task that the Antoniolo has risen to over the course of almost 70 years and it is one that the current owner, Rosanna Antoniolo, continues to confront to this day.
Many critics believe that the wines produced by Antoniolo represent the absolute best of what Northern Piedmont has to offer, with a particular eye towards the traditions that some would argue are becoming lost in the modern wine industry.
Antoniolo set itself apart early on in its existence when it became the very first producer to create cru wines in the newly-minted DOCG region of Gattinara. Located in the foothills of the Alps, the Antoniolo winery is approximately one hours drive away from the more famous Barolo and Barbaresco territories, which goes some way to explaining why the region has, until now, perhaps not achieved the level of acclaim that it deserves.
As you would expect for a fairly small company, Antoniolo operates on a rather meagre patch of land, at least in comparison to many of the larger wineries within a couple of hours drive of it. All told, the company operates a little over 14 hectares of land, which it divides into five vineyards, each of which produces a different grape to allow the company some leeway and room for experimentation in its wine producing. Better yet, this multi-vineyard structure allows the company to take full advantage of the particular traits of each of its grapes, with those grown in its Osso San Grato vineyard demonstrating a longevity and structure, while the grapes from its San Francesco vineyard tend to be a little more delicate.
Though Antoniolo still falls under the watchful eye of Rosanna Antoniolo, who many consider to be a true pioneer in the Italian wine industry due to her dedication to the Gattinara region and her continued efforts to enhance its reputation, much of the day-to-day operations of the company are now handled by her children. The brother and sister team of Alberto and Lorella Antoniolo have grown with the benefit of their mother’s advice and wisdom ringing in their ears, in addition to having a number of modern tools at their disposal that have helped them slowly grow the company’s reputation above even the heights that their innovative mother achieved.
Of particular note is the Antoniolo family’s dedication to ensuring the integrity and quality of its land is maintained. The company operates using integrated disease and pest control products, a system it has used since 1995 in order to keep its grapes safe without affecting their texture or quality.
On top of that, the company avoids using plant products that act via systemic transport, which means transporting the products via the sap of the plants. Again, this has the aim of maintain the integrity of the vine and ensuring its product is wholly representative of the land from whence it came.
Beyond this, the company, though not advertising itself as organic, avoids using chemical fertilizers in its work and avoids using any products against botrytis, a form of fungus that can have a devastating effects on grapes if not properly contained and manged. Thankfully, after many years of following this very natural practices, the Antoniolo vines have developed a sturdiness that makes them resistant to many of the issues that commonly affect grape vines. In fact, approximately 80 percent of the vines in the company’s vineyards now exceed 30 years of age, which demonstrates the positive effects of its vineyard maintenance program.
Of course, now you know a little bit more about the Antoniolo and what they bring to the Italian wine industry, it’s about time that we took a closer look at one of the company’s best wines.
You may remember our previous mention of the Antoniolo family’s San Francesco vineyard and its tendency to produce fairly delicate grapes that take a great deal of skill to work with. Thankfully, that’s exactly what the Antoniolo has and that skills has resulted in the creation of the Antoniolo Gattinara San Francesco 2011.
A gorgeous red wine that gleams with a beautiful pale garnet colouring that hints further at the delicacy of the grapes use. The bouquet is stunning aromatic, offering plenty of intense fragrances, including black cherries and plums, alongside a hint of sweet spices that indicate the wine has a little bit more of a kick to it than you may have anticipated.
The skill of the Antoniolo is most evident when you taste the wine, as it offers a gorgeous, soft texture that achieves perfect harmony. The intense flavour acts as an interesting counterpoint to the soft texture, making this a wine that will leave you curious to try more.