Those of a younger age may recognise the Tignanello is the most popular wine produced by the famed Antinori family, however the story behind the group that created it is truly one of more intriguing when it comes to the development and modernisation of wines.
The early history of the Antinori
The Antinori family has existed in Italy for centuries, with some records stating that the House of Antinori, which became famous as one of Tuscany’s most famous families, can trace its roots all of the way back to the infamous story of the wooden horse of Troy.
Whatever the true origin of the family name, what is known is that Rinuccio di Antinori is the first of the family to have been recorded in history as having been a producer of wines, working from the Castello do Combiate in Tuscany. His wines began to gain some level of repute in the later 1100s before the castello was eventually destroyed, forcing the family to move on.
They eventually settled in Florence and moved away from the winemaking industry, instead choosing to focus on silk weaving and banking to stay afloat.
However the call to produce wine never seemed to be far behind and, in 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Guild of Winemakers.
Rise to prominence
The family’s acceptance into the guild is generally considered to be the official starting point for the Antinori when it comes to winemaking, marking them as one of the oldest and most well-respected families in the industry.
Over time the wine produced by the family began to increase in popularity, allowing the Antinori to gain some vestige of wealth and prominence over the next century or so.
This eventually allowed for Alessandro Antinori to become one of the richest men in Florence and he wasn’t afraid to show it. He eventually purchases a palazzo that had originally been built for the Boni family, renaming it the Palazzo Antinori.
The period wasn’t one of uninterrupted success however, as the family eventually wound up being bankrupted thanks to the economic effect of the New World gold brought over from the America’s during the reign of Charles V of Spain.
Thankfully for the family, and for wine enthusiasts the world over, this period of poverty did not last long for the family and in the peace that followed the Antinori again managed to rise to prominence thanks to the quality of their wine and the actions of members of the family. In fact, the Antinori became so prestigious that Niccolo Antinori was eventually recognised as a Marchese for his efforts in uniting the various warring territories of Italy.
By the time the 20th century had arrived the Antinori family had fully cemented itself as one of the most respected in the country. However the group was not simply content with its prominence in Florence and, right at the turn of the century, Piero Antinori purchased a number of vineyards in the Chianti Classico region. This purchase included 47 hectares at Tignanello, which is the vineyard that produced the wine of the same name.
The Antinori were not afraid of changing the traditional methods of the region, resulting in a scandal erupting in the 1920s when Niccolo Antinori began producing a chianti variant containing grape varieties from the region of Bordeaux. Traditionalists were infuriated however the end product continued to increase in popularity and only served to increase the already prominent reputation of the family.
During this period Niccolo also began experimenting with new blends, barrels and bottle ageing techniques, marking a period of innovation that his son Piero was only too keen to continue into the 1970s.
It was during this period that the famed period that Tignanello was first launched. The wine, which was banned from receiving the Chianti Classico appellation thanks to its use of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, revolutionised the Italian wine industry and is often seen as the sarting point for the eventual shift from traditional attitudes into a more modern era.
The true success of the wine can be measured in the fact that when the famed DOCG altered its classification rules to allow new variations of Chianti such as the Tignanello to receive the Classico appellation, the family instead opted to continue selling and distributing the wine without it.
The modern era
Throughout its time in the wine industry the Antinori name has always been associated with quality and innovation. From those early days when the family made its fortune in the industry, through to the modern era where they helped to truly modernise the industry, the Antinori name has gained a prestigious history that is rightly celebrated by the family.
This history was recently celebrated with the opening of the Antinori Nel Chianti Classico, which is now open in Bargino. The winery features stunning examples of the craft of some of the finest winemakers the country has ever produced and even features guided tours for those who are interested in learning more about the family.
Furthermore the winery also plays host to a gorgeous restaurant where many of the famous vintages offered by the company are available for consumption. In short, it is the perfect place to take history buffs who also have an appreciation for fine wine.
As for what the future holds for the Antinori, one can only speculate. The opening of their stunning winery is surely taking a large amount of focus at this moment in time but it can surely not be too long before the family returns to what it does best – crafting amazing wines and bringing a level of innovation to the industry that few others are willing or able to deliver.
For the time being at least it is enough to simply appreciate the various wines introduced to the world by the Antinori, including the famous Tignanello, while we wait for their next move. If their future is anything like their past you can rest assured that their next venture will have a widespread effect on the entire industry once again.