Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


A visit from Antinori... and what I'm drinking this week

Italy holds strong fascination for wine lovers, especially those who enjoy a long history with their glass of Chianti, which is exactly what made last week's highlight tasting so compelling. The tasting was of Antinori wines and Prunotto (one of the many other wineries the Antinori family now owns). Members of this family owned company can trace their winemaking descendents back to 1385. It was a representative from Antinori (rather than a family member) who treated a small group of wine trade professionals to a tasting of Tuscan and Piemontese wines, which varied widely in style with two highlights standing out particularly strongly. The host was Guido Vannuchio, the Asia Pacific export manager for Antinori, who led a trade group by day and a wine lovers group by evening through the following wines. 

The history of Antinori is extremely interesting with the first family member becoming involved in wine when Giovanni di Pietro Antinori enrolled in the Vintners Guild of Florence in 1385, which was followed by centuries of Tuscan wine production. In the 1990s, however, the company grew fifteen-fold and has since acquired wineries, vineyards and joint ventures everywhere from Tuscany's complex layers of sub regions to every major Italian wine region from Franciacorta, Friuli and Barolo to Washington State, the Napa Valley, Malta, Hungary, Chile, Romania and Kyrgyzstan. 

Antinori was the first winery in Italy to experiment with grapes that were not traditionally from Italy in the mid 20th century, producing ripe but balanced and powerful expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscany. This began a movement now known as Super Tuscan wines, which are made solely or as a blend from interlopers from other places (including Merlot, Syrah and many others) and this helped to turn Italy’s flagging wine reputation around from being perceived as low quality to a vibe of wake up and smell the coffee - Italy is serious. 

“The company is becoming a monster with all these wineries in different countries now,” laughs Guido, “but the point with Antinori is the tradition and the innovation. We want to achieve elegance and balance and that is a little different from the trend of oaky wines in the 1980s and 1990s."

What's in my glass this week...

Elegance and balance are the great buzzwords of good, very good and outstanding wines and they don't always come at the highest price, as the following tasting showed this writer. My pick of the wines below was the Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva from 2020 because its structural qualities, powerful tannins and body really do command attention in the mind and the mouth and this, to me, is what elevates goodness in wine to greatness. I have secured one bottle so far and look forward to the precious small supply that will find its way to Regional Wines & Spirits where I work as wine advisor for part of my week. 

 A taste of Antinori in Wellington

2022 Prunotto Barbera d’Asti Fiulot 

Guido describes the wines as Barbera d’Alba as being the solid wines while Barbera d’Asti are the fun ones, which comes through in the youthful and fruity young wine with its medium body and length, a silkiness in the mouthfeel and light notes of spice adding complex interest. 17/20

2021 Prunotto Occhetti Nebbiolo d’Alba DOCG

Ochetti is the name of the vineyard and is considered a cru wine by Prunotto (a winery that Antinori now owns in Barolo). This wine is pale ruby in colour with powerful tannins and a medium body; it's definitely Nebbiolo, albeit in a lighter style but those savoury, earthy notes of tar and roses are all present and counted. 16.5/20

2019 Prunotto Barolo Classico DOCG

Pale ruby with an orange tinge at the edge and a clear rim, indicating a little age and as the wine warms up, its red fruited perfume starts appearing. This wine was aged in 20 hectolitre Hungarian oak casks; a nod to tradition, while also being softer and more approachable, as many modern Barolos are. This wine is very open and pretty to drink now but can also age significantly; five years+. Must be decanted. 17.5/20

2022 Antinori Bramito della Sala Chardonnay 18.5/20

Pale lemon with a light yellow gold tinge and expressive creamy nose leading into a wine with great acidity, freshness, depth on the mid palate and length. Very good quality with layers of lemon, grapefruit and white peach complexity. Lovely, lively, long. 17.5/20

2020 Antinori Santa Cristina Toscana IGT

Very smooth modern Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with soft but spicy aroma and ripe dark fruit flavours in abundance. This wine is a great entry level expression of modern Tuscany and Italianesque flavours. It is made with grapes bought from other estates (the only purchased grapes in the Antinori stable, we were assured at this tasting) and it retains a freshness and approach that shines a favourable light on Tuscany today. 17.5/20

2020 Villa Antinori Rosso Toscana IGT 17.5/20

A big step up from Santa Cristina with more body, acidity, firm but smooth ripe tannins and good length. Very Tuscan savoury aromas underpinned by great acidity and length, driving the flavours of dark cherries, a hint of cedar, earth and mocha to a long finish. 17.5/20

2021 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico DOCG

Very oak forward on the nose and palate; strong flavours of tamarillos. Youthful and needs time. 16.5/20

2020 Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

Highlight of the tasting with its commanding, powerful silky tannins and high acidity. Black cherry flavours lead into a wine of great concentration and complexity with smoky and cedary notes in a youthful but beautifully balanced wine with excellent power now and great aging potential, thanks to all that structure. Must be decanted. Try to have the willpower to age it. 


2020 Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT

Made from a selection of grapes grown on one eighth of a hectare, Tignanello has the deepest ruby colour of all the wines in this tasting and also has a surprisingly smooth, drink-me-now appeal along with its bold but soft tannins. A very good wine and can keep but almost begs to be enjoyed now. 18.5/20