Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Visit to the New Antinori Winery in Chianti

Yesterday I finally got the chance to visit the new Antinori cellars in Bargino. I had of course heard quite a bit about this imposing, state-of-the-art winery that belongs to one of Italy's (and the world's) foremost winemakers. As with all new constructions (especially in this part of the world) it has elicited plenty of mixed opinions, but one thing is sure, you will be hard pressed to remain indifferent after a visit here. 

You can sense the "weight" of the Antinori name from the moment you enter the gates. The attendant explains in detail how to reach the parking lot… and already you begin to feel overwhelmed. Following the wide and curving driveway you reach the first parking area and if you are lucky, you find a spot. There is a huge spiral staircase leading up to the reception area (or is it to the sky?) The building is architecturally impressive, with its massive cellars built inside an excavated hill and the wide panoramic terraces overlooking the Chianti countryside. Modern and minimalist, the design is all about forms (especially curves) and materials (like the rust covered steel and copper alloy that makes up most of the structures). Innovative in the way the cellars are kept at ideal temperature naturally, year round, without any air conditioning or machinery, thanks to hollow vaults and terracotta tiles held together by being lined up in steel tracks one by one, rather than cemented.


The impact is clean – both in terms of visual lines and hygiene. It’s new and everything looks and feels new, something odd for Tuscany. Usually we are used to conservative renovations of the historic. So even the most modern elements are almost always juxtaposed with the antique. Here there was nothing before, other than some vineyards, which now are just rows of seedlings that will take years to become vineyards again – at which point the exterior will certainly take on a totally different dimension. Today it is bare (not because it’s February, but because it has just been planted).

I definitely do think it is worth the visit, as it represents one of the newest and most modern wineries in Italy. However, I would agree with those who have told me that it doesn't feel "typically Tuscan" – because in so many ways it isn't. Here, the history is in the family name and their long legacy of wine-making in Tuscany, not in these cellars which have been opened for just over a year. This is the Italian wine-making industry at its best. The Antinori family deeply desired to create a monument dedicated to their empire, and they have done just that.


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