May 06: Alberto Antonini who owns Poggiotondo winery in a small town in the Chianti region- Cerreto Guidi near Florence in Tuscany and 5 kms from Vinci where Leonardo Vinci was born, is a winemaker’s winemaker, producing excellent quality of Chianti and working as a consultant , was not there when I went to visit his winery a couple of months ago after the Tuscan Tastings but his wife Alessandra Renieri organised to pick me up from Grand Hotel Baglioni in Downtown Florence and show me the vineyards, writes Subhash Arora who finally managed to visit the Estate this year
I met Alberto Antonini in Hong Kong at Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Competition (HKIWSC) in 2011. He was the invited guest judge at the competition where I have been judging regularly since the beginning. All judges are otherwise Asians. He had impressed me as a very smart and passionate winemaker but did not know he made such excellent Chianti wines in Tuscany and that he was also a much sought after consultant in several countries.
I met him again a few years later at the Tuscan Tastings when Chianti alsojoined the annual Tuscan Tastings on the first day. Since then I visit his stand every year-and leave with a promise to cash in on his invitation to visit his winery after the Marathon. Only this year in 2018, I planned to stay a day extra in Florence to visit a couple of wineries. His stand was being manned by his wife Alessandra and daughter Angelica; he was away to Latin America visiting his clients. But she invited me to visit anyway and we tied up so I could be picked up from Grand Hotel Baglioni, near the Florence Station where I was staying.
Alberto is a 58-year old native of the nearby town of Empoli. A Doctorate in Agricultural Studies from the University of Florence with an oenology degree in Bordeaux and studies at the University of California, Davis campus, made him a very well qualified winemaker. He started his working career as an assistant winemaker at Frescobaldi Winery and then as Technical Director at the Col D’Orcia Winery in Montalcino (1988-92). Afterwards, he was named Head Winemaker at the Antinori Winery when he replaced late Giacomo Tachis (1992-96) before starting his own consulting business in 1997 and looking after this family winery.
Giving a brief history of the wine estate, Alessandra tells me that in 1986 he also started expanding work on his family winery. The winery and the small vineyard his father owned, are on one side of a rather busy street going through the village. In 2000 he bought a plot on the other side of the road too; he had already bought 1 hA in 1995. He also started consulting in 1996, the year they were married. The grower producer is a consultant to a large number of wineries in various countries including Italy, Spain, Portugal, the U.S., Argentina, Canada, Chile, Uruguay, Armenia, Australia and Israel.
The family including the children Angelica (who I had met at the Chianti Lovers Tasting a few days earlier in Florence), Margherita and Carlo lives on his family estate. In 2013 the Drink Business Magazine ranked him among the Top 5 Wine Consultants in the world. In 2015 he was ranked again in the top 5 Wine Consultants in professional category by Decanter.
He has been a key player in helping Argentine Malbec wines gain international reputation. He has been encouraging producers in different viticulture regions in Italy to embrace the traditional, indigenous grape varieties and local winemaking techniques (A stand propagated also by delWine-editor) and is a strong proponent of authentic, pure, terroir-driven wines. His mission is to give a small contribution towards making the world of wine more diverse and more interesting- away from the coca-colanisation of wines.
No wonder that he practises Organic farming and has been certified since 2014 vintage. Incidentally, the winery was started in 1968 by his father and the winery is celebrating 50 years this year. Antonini has now 27 hA of vineyards with 7 hA in Chianti Classico area. The winery exports 95% of its 400,000 bottle production, mainly to Europe and China.
1. Vermentino 2015- 100%- Fermented in Stainless Steel tank for 20 days; then on the lees for 60 days. Moved to cement tank for 70 days. Quite perfumed, lovely concentration with lots of black fruit, Crisp, brilliant, long finish. 91/100
2. Chianti 2016- 85% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 5% Colorino. A typical Chianti wine and grapes- very pleasant entry level wine with 13.5% alcohol. 89/100
3. Chianti Superiore 2016 13.5% -Indigenous yeast used , in cement tanks for 12 days followed by 5000 Liters wooden barrels for 12 months. Lots of fruit, smooth on the palate. Tannins from Sangiovese are still aggressive. 89/100
4. Chianti Riserva 2013- very concentrated and full of fruit concentration especially black cherries, great balance and structure, lovely back end, persistent taste, Minor taste of wood in the back notes, great with food , easier drinking. Only 6000 bottles produced 93/100
5. Riserva 2003 Vigna dell Conchiglie 2013- 100% Sangiovese- 3000 bottles produced only. Gravity process; 500 liter rolling barrels is what is used for them- 28 deg fermentation for 10-12 days.-20 months-aging, no filtering. 92/100
6. 1928 Chianti 2011- vines planted in 1928 on only half hA of vineyard in old Chianti formula- grapes are a field blend in the 90 year old vineyard, Precise, elegant and powerful but with excellent structure and balance 93/100
Alberto Antonini is a winemaker out to prove a point that Chianti is an excellent overall region to produce red terroir based wines and is still under rated. Perhaps, the big volumes and low prices of the 1970s depreciated wines from Chianti. He is gradually changing the perception.
For earlier article please click
Tuscany Taste: Anteprima 2016 for Chianti Lovers
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