Going on 50 years ago, the Marchese de Antinori rocked the Tuscan wine world by flouting tradition.
Today, innovation and tradition keep a rare and delicious correspondence in places like Antinori’s Chianti Classico estate; from the art to the architecture to the wine, it remains a distinctive place today.
Their international art resists definition – from spare biome globes to the spare rendition of the Resurrection on vinyl tarp to the 17th century oils and the line drawing miniatures of the Bacchae.
The building’s structure comes from three local materials: native oak, their Cortana steel/copper and the terra cotta. These comprise the voluminous 129,000 square foot, technologically advanced winery. Constructed into the side of a hill, it is nearly invisible, even from the air.
The Marchesi cultivates this balance of innovation and tradition as enthusiastically as his vineyards cultivate grapes balancing ripeness and acidity. The traditional grape varieties of Chianti alloy with international varieties in wines as diverse as the renowned Tignanello and the Chianti Classico. These foreigners lend bas relief of taste to the structure of the natives, a contrast that highlights the crisp acidity and lively (my guide called them ‘crunchy’) fruit and spice characters indicative of the region.
Yet, balance implies a simplistic quality, between ripeness and acidity or old and new or tradition and innovation; the deeper balance of dynamic elements winks out of these impressions from light, shadow and darkness.
Across Europe we celebrate the traditions of wine; we adhere to guarantee of the DOCg in Italy, entrusting their regulation to ensure the consistency of the next bottle, at least within the parameters of vintage. It has been this way for more than 100 years in Tuscany, less so in France but even longer in Spain, mainly to combat fraudulent copycats. Breaking these rules breaks faith, creates remarks. So in the celebration of the constancy of tradition, innovation always sparks attention.
Dynamism finds expression in the flexing terra cotta walls of the aging cellar, breathing with the seasons and the wine. It finds expression in the religious relics represented on modern materials adorning the aging room of the Vin Santo.
The massive winery appears as a topographical line from the air, a simple curve of architecture over vineyards from below, creating tension, space and wine where there was less before.
The place is like the wines, or vice versa.
This dynamism lives in the wines, new and old, light and concentrated, fresh and complex. The reds of Chianti mimic the best artistic tension; they pair with food to create something that was not there before.
What’s not to love here? The restaurant is mentioned by the Michelin guide, deservedly. The antique Tuscan art and terra cotta pieces adorn every architectural innovation. The hospitality is gracious and the wines express why the 12th century Baron Ricasoli thought this region deserved recognition and protection for its wine identity. For an authentic treat, try a bottle of Antinori’s Chianti Classico Riserva with some Wild Boar ravioli and Ragu!