Italy's New Faces: Albiera Antinori

Following in the footsteps of a giant
Nov 4, 2003
The Antinoris own more than 5,400 acres of vineyards around the world.
Italy's New Generation
Winemaker Profiles:
Luca d'Attoma
Elisabetta Foradori
Lamberto Frescobaldi
Barbera Kronenberg-Widmer
Francesca Planeta
Luca Sanjust
Alberto Tasca d'Almerita
Cesare Turini
Luca Currado Vietti

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Albiera Antinori has a lot to live up to. Her father, Piero Antinori, changed the face of Tuscan wine forever and brought Italian wines in general to great tables and cellars around the world. But the famed vintner's oldest daughter doesn't worry about invidious comparisons.

"You can't fit into his shoes," Albiera says. "You have to find your own pair." At 36, she oversees Prunotto, the family's winery in Piedmont, manages many of the clan's newest projects in wine and tourism, and directs much of the company's marketing and communications. She says that she doesn't really have an official title because she is involved in almost every aspect of the company. "I am the owner's daughter," she says with a laugh.

Antinori officially began working in the family firm in 1985, but she has lived wine her entire life. "It's a family business," she says, sitting in the garden of Tignanello, the winery in Chianti Classico that makes, among other wines, that famous super Tuscan red. Her two sisters, Allegra, 31, and Alessia, 27, also work with the company. "So you can find a place in the company that you really like. I like what I do. It is transmitting our heritage and products in a tasteful way. It is complementary to what we put in the bottle."

For many consumers around the world, the name Antinori is synonymous with Tuscan wine, even Italian wine. In the 1970s, Piero was the main creative force behind the wine category of super Tuscan. He also traveled the world as a goodwill ambassador for Italian wine overall.

Today, the family-owned company has more than 5,400 acres of vineyards around the world. In Italy, their properties range from Piedmont to Puglia and cover most of the key wine producing regions in between, including Chianti Classico, Bolgheri, Montalcino, Montepulciano and Umbria. Abroad, the Antinoris are involved in vineyard projects in California, Washington and Chile. They are even making a tiny amount of wine in Kyrgyzstan, a small country on the western border of China. This is a pet project of Albiera and Alessia, who hope to help establish a wine industry in a developing country.

Antinori has already proved herself to be a solid manager. She put together a young team of winemakers and vineyard managers at Prunotto -- "all in their 30s" -- and the results have been excellent. With their help, she managed to change the winery's output from weak and rather boring reds to fresh, focused and well-structured ones. The high quality reds range from the single-vineyard Barolo Bussia to super values such as the Barbera d'Asti Fiulot.

"The goal with everything we do is to make wines with a strong local identity," Antinori says. "We want to have many small companies in our big company. We want our wines to reflect where they come from [be it] Italy, Tuscany or anywhere else in the world. The big change in recent years has been big expansion in the vineyards. We wish to one day to be almost completely self-sufficient."

It's a daunting goal. Antinori has two children -- Vittorio, 10, and Verdiana, 8 -- and admits that being a mother and a full-time vintner is not an easy task, with the many responsibilities as well as a busy social life and travel schedule. There's hardly any time to spend doing what she really loves, hunting with her dog, Cyrock.

"Sometimes I say mama mia!" she says. "It's difficult keeping the identity of our family company so strong. It's all more complex than it looks. But everyone in the family works together and keeps track of everything. So it all comes out fine."

So will she take over as the head of the company when her father retires? "I hope my father never retires," she says with a brilliant smile. "We haven't talked about it. It would be difficult. He is such a great personality."

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