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Marchesi Antinori Srl is an Italian wine company that can trace its history back to 1385. They are one of the biggest wine companies in Italy, and their innovations played a large part in the "Super-Tuscan" revolution of the 1970s.
Antinori is a member of the Primum Familiae Vini and the 10th oldest family owned company in the world.
Rinuccio di Antinoro is recorded as making wine at the Castello di Combiate near the Tuscan town of Calenzano in 1180. The castello was destroyed in 1202, and the family moved to Florence, where they were involved in silk weaving and banking. In 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Guild of Winemakers, and this is the date usually taken as the start of the wine business.
The fame of their wine expanded over the years, to the extent that in 1506 they could afford to pay 4,000 florins for the Palazzo Antinori, built for the Boni family in the 1460s. At this time, Alessandro Antinori was one of the richest men in Florence, but like many Florentines he was soon bankrupted by the ravages of Charles V of Spain and the economic effect of his New World gold. Nonetheless the family prospered in the ensuing peace and gained the title of Marquis from the House of Habsburg-Lorraine in the 18th century.
The only unfortunate episode of the family happened with Bernardino Antinori, who in the second half of the 16th century had a relationship with Dianora di Toledo, wife of Pietro de' Medici and son of Cosimo I. Pietro, who was known at the time for his brutality and dishonesty, discovered the relationship between the Antinori and his wife, which he accused of adultery and strangled her with a dog leash in July 1576 at the Villa Medici at Cafaggiolo. Bernardino was then arrested and killed in prison, for this reason Pietro was later exiled in Spain by his father Cosimo I.
In 1900, Piero Antinori bought several vineyards in the Chianti Classico region, including 47 hectares at Tignanello. His son Niccolò scandalised Tuscany in 1924 by making a Chianti containing Bordeaux grape varieties. He continued to experiment over the following years, with new blends, types of barrel, temperature control and bottle ageing. Niccolò retired in 1966, to be replaced by his son Piero who was even more innovative. He investigated early harvesting of white grapes, different types of barrique, stainless steel vats and malolactic fermentation of red wines.
The real revolution came in 1971, with the launch of Tignanello, a barrique-aged wine from the eponymous vineyard that contained Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which meant that it was ineligible for the Chianti Classico appellation, also from 1975 the blend contained no white grapes. Technically Tignanello was not the first 'Super Tuscan' - that honour goes to Sassicaia, created by a relative of the Antinoris, the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta - even though the Antinoris were experimenting with Cabernet blends since the 1920s. But it was Tignanello that really shook up the Italian wine industry, leading to far-reaching changes in rules and attitudes. However, even though the Chianti Classico DOCG rules have now been changed to accommodate wines such as Tignanello, the Antinoris continue to sell it as a Toscana IGT wine. Emboldened by the success of the 20% Bordeaux blend Tignanello, in 1978 Antinori launched the 80% Cabernet Solaia, from the neighbouring vineyard.
Antinori responded to the inflation of the 1980s and 1990s with a frantic programme of investment in wineries and vineyards, most notably the Atlas Peak winery in California in 1985, and 325 hectares around Badia a Passignano in 1987. They also expanded into Piedmont, Puglia, and set up joint ventures in Bátaapáti Hungary, Stag's Leap and Col Solare in USA, Malta, Romania and Chile.
Antinori also owns and partners in retail outlets such as Cantinetta Antinori and "Procacci" in Via Tornabuoni in Florence, Italy.
The retail presence even extends to the United States, e.g. at the Pebble Beach resort and retail distribution throughout the United States by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
The company was covered on the 60 Minutes newsmagazine on October 12, 2008 and on May 3, 2009.