Given Piero Antinori’s 55 years at the helm of his family’s historic Tuscan wine group, Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson introduced him to the Wine Experience audience as someone with a “unique perspective.”
Antinori’s many decades of experience are informed by 26 generations of family history. He quipped that six centuries in the wine business showed a certain “lack of imagination.” But he also noted that over that long history, “the last half-century has been the most exciting”—a time in which Italy’s producers increasingly shifted from emphasizing volume to focusing on quality.
“I call it a renaissance, but really it’s a revolution,” he said. “I consider myself lucky, because I happened to be in the business during this very exciting period of change.”
Antinori’s comments humbly underplayed his role in that “revolution.” During his tenure, the Antinori brand expanded beyond the family’s native Tuscany to both established and emerging regions in Italy, as well as abroad, including the United States and Chile, pushing the industry forward at every step.
Antinori also brought with him his 1997 Toscana Solaia (97 points, $115 on release, Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2000), a fine example of the family’s exploratory spirit and commitment to excellence. From Tuscany’s “golden vintage,” Antinori generously poured what he noted were, “the very last bottles,” of the 1997 Solaia.
“Solaia was a wine born in 1978, by chance,” said Antinori, explaining that when the family’s Tignanello estate yielded some extra, high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon that harvest, they decided to vinify and blend it as an experiment.
“Solaia has a style which is a bit more international than other Tuscan wines, but always keeping the Tuscan heritage,” said Antinori, adding, “Great but simple at the same time; able to go right to your heart and give great emotion.”