No journey through Tuscany is complete without a visit to a winery. There are too many in the home of Chianti Classico to count. But there is one that stands out from the rest: the Antinori family vineyard estate.
Just 40 minutes by car south of Florence the Nuova Cantina Antinori is an architectural monument to wine. Here’s why.
The Marchesi Antinori wine empire
The story of wine from the House of Antinori had its start way back in 1385. Ever since, the Marchesi Antinori wine cellars have centered spatially on the village of San Casciano Val di Pesa.
However, since 2012, also worth a drive is the new Cantina Antinori by Bargino, a mere 10 minutes farther south by car. Here, the winery was nobly set into the Tuscan countryside.
Marvelous architecture: the new Cantina Antinori
It was Marco Casamonti’s Florentine architecture studio that made a conspicuously inconspicuous winery reality for the Marchesi Antinori in Bargino San Casciano.
Inconspicuous, because the bulk of the wine cellar is set into the vineyard to be practically invisible.
Conspicuous, because the projecting roof of the administration building is visible from far and wide.
From the Florence-Siena expressway, a ramp that is even drivable for semitrailer trucks runs along the vineyard and leads into the building’s subterranean parking garage.
The 870-meter long driveway, done in earth-colored concrete, curves through the extensive grounds.
The Cantina has already become a new tourist attraction in Tuscany. In any event, we see several groups of visitors and they tell us that guided tours are sold out today.
A harmonious whole
Form and coloration of the driveway as well as the winery make for a harmonious whole with the surrounding vineyard slopes.
The color of the rustbrown oxidized building shell is a reference to the color of Tuscan soil.
Ensconced under the generously projecting roof in an elongated glass cube on several levels are the administrative spaces and visitor areas, with offices, a museum, a shop and an auditorium.
Daylight streams into the building interior through large, circular openings in the roof. The play of light and shadow is continuous.
The iconic spiral staircase
As if the remarkable structure were not landmark enough already, it also features a stupendous spiral staircase made of weathering steel.
The now rust-colored stairs wind elegantly around the roof support from the below-gound parking garage all the way to the rooftop viewing platform.
As it does so, the staircase conquers a whopping 16.8 meter height differential and does it while only being supported in three places.
To accomplish the construction of the staircase with its complex curves, it was fabricated offsite and delivered in 35 segments. The 105 tons of steel plate were then welded together on site to form the stair’s structure.
Construction facts worth knowing
The mostly below-ground building site measures nearly 40,000 square meters. The access road for deliveries and the garage are for the most part also sunk into the ground.
Moving a mountain
The earth moving and handling of the foundation materials were two of the most problematic aspects in building the winery: Some 380,000 cubic meters of dirt had to be removed, which equates to 35,000 truckloads.
If all the dumptrucks were lined up bumper to bumper, they would stretch in a column 420 km long.
It was necessary to find both final storage and interim storage sites for the earth that was intended for backfilling after the end of construction.
In addition, the 15 meter deep and nearly 500 meters long excavation pit had to be reinforced with enormous supporting structures. For that purpose, a retaining wall over 20 meters high and up to 120 cm thick had to be constructed.
Not your ordinary roof
The 21-meter long cantilevered roof, because it carries earth and grapevines, presented a special challenge.
The supporting framework here consists of 2.1 meter (!) high dual-T steel beams whose height diminishes toward the outer edge of the cantilever.
The height of the building exterior varies. The roof therefore is not a flat form but instead is adapted to the terrain slope.
Statistics tell the tale:
- Builder: Marchesi Antinori S.r.l.
- Location: Bargino, San Casciano Val di Pesa
- Planning start: 2004
- Construction start: 2007
- Completion: October 2012
- Construction budget: 67 million euro
- Gross building volume: 287,260 m3
- Land parcel: 12.83 hectares (31.63 acres)
- Total building footprint: 39,700 m²
- Annual production volume in bottles: 3,000,000
- Construction workforce: 5,315
- Working days: 2,100 or 7 years
To the architectural studio’s website.
An assist from gravity
Because the various stations for making wine are distributed over two levels, the visitor is not aware that the architects sank the rooms up to 26 meters deep into the vineyard.
From delivery of the grapes, through fermentation and aging of the wines to bottling and storage, all processes are gravity-assisted. And all of it happens in the first place at a constant cool earth temperature of 13 to 15 degrees Celsius.
This means that the fermentation cellar is practically below the vat cellar and the vault of the barrel cellars.
Their ceilings are covered in reddish-brown terracotta bricks that make up the monumental “sacred space” for the wooden wine barrels.
Glass blocks stick out from the ceiling vaults into the room offering an open view of the neatly stacked barrels: Wine tasting doesn’t get any better than this!
Famous wines…and a fully-booked restaurant
In the cellars of the Bargino vineyard they produce the Villa Antinori, the Chianti Classico Pèppoli, the Chianti Classico Riserva Marchesi Antinori and the Vin Santo del Chianti Classico.
Coming after the Vin Santo cellar and obligatory oil press is the Restaurant Rinuccio 1180. Here terminate the guided tours with a tasting of the various Antinori wines.
The restaurant takes its name from Rinuccio degli Antinori, the family’s forefather.
Here, too, a reservation is absolute necessity: all tables were booked during our visit.
For table reservations:
Tel: +39 055 2359720
Restaurant concept: Cantinetta Antinori
In researching the new bottega, I came across a couple of interesting articles that let me share a little more background information on the Tuscan wine culture.
A historic first for Antinori
In the 26th generation, for the first time a woman is at the helm of the Florentine Antinori wine dynasty in the person of CEO Albiera Antinori.
The oldest of three daughters handles the marketing and the wine house’s gastronomic initiatives.
Besides Restaurant Rinuccio 1180, there is also that of the “La Cantinetta Antinori” concept.
The osteria concept
It revolves around five osterias in Florence, Zurich, Vienna, Moscow and Monte Carlo, that marries simple Italian fare with mid-priced Antinori wines.
To this middle segment, for example, belongs the Pèppoli 2010. With its slightly acidic style, it represents the fruity version of the chianti classico.
The cuvée consists of 90% Sangiovese and 5% each of Merlot and Syrah. The freshness and fruit go perfectly with simple Italian dishes and at 16 euro, the price/value ratio is also right.
The osteria concept is suitably down-to-earth and attractive for anyone seeking now and then to indulge in affordable Tuscan regionality on the plate and in the glass.
A hearty “cheers” for the Antinoris!
If you are looking for a stylish, impressive place to bed down in Tuscany near the Cantina Antinori, we recommend the Castefalfi Toscana Resort. Here you’ll find Katja’s take on this romantic resort.
You’ll find more Tuscany excursion tips in this article.