The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Six Questions with Alessia Antinori, Fiorano’s Phoenix

Posted on | November 12, 2014 | Written by Robin Kelley OConnor | No Comments

Fiorano_Dinner_Alessia_AntinoriOne of the great winemaking stories, Fiorano was an Italian wine-producing estate owned by the Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, the Prince of Venosa of the millennia-old Ludovisi family, active during a period from the late 1940s to 1995. The Prince inherited the land in 1946 and planted Sémillon, Malvasia di Candia, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which he grew organically. He kept his selections to making two white wines and one red. Known for his stubbornness he was highly selective to whom he would sell, the Prince limited his wine to a number of connoisseurs, aficionados, and experts. Upon his retirement from winemaking, Ludovisi decided to uproot and rip out most of his vines, convinced that no one else could make wine as he did. He was wrong, and his granddaughter Alessia Antinori, a 26th generation winemaker and one of three winemaking daughters of Marchese Piero Antinori, is proving it.

Located on the same lands as Fiorano, the fabled estate founded in 1946 by Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, the Prince of Venosa, Fattoria di Fiorano is the project winemaker Alessia Antinori, daughter of Marchese Piero Antinori. After inheriting a portion of the Prince’s estate in 2005, trained enologist Alessia, in conjunction with her sisters Allegra and Albiera, has taken on the project of restoring the estate of her grandfather, the Prince, to its former majesty. Like her grandfather, Alessia is devoted to using organic protocol to grow her grapes, as well as the estate’s surrounding olive trees and vegetable gardens; in fact, Alessia is going even further, taking the estate biodynamic. Since beginning her renovations, Alessia has discovered rows of forgotten Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines, and she has replanted the rest using old clippings and original rootstock.

Last week was great for Italian Wine Merchants and for me personally. As part of our tasting series, we were honored to host a dinner with winemaker Alessia Antinori featuring the extraordinary wines of Fattoria di Fiorano, and I was fortunate to sit down and chat with Alessia, who was gracious as you’d expect.

RKO-Robin Kelley O’Connor: What wines do you drink when you’re not drinking your own or your family’s wines?

AA-Alessia Antinori: I go through periods and cycles of what I like to drink, because I like to change, and most of them aren’t Italian because I’m interested in what’s happening abroad in the wine world. Right now I’m drinking Austrian Riesling from the Wachau and other areas, and for reds, classic Bordeaux grape varieties from the Bordeaux region particularly high-end Bordeaux Châteaux and also Carménère from Chile, because it’s different and Cabernet Franc. But, I forgot, most importantly I’m totally addicted to Champagne.

RKO: What do you find is the biggest challenge in renovating the Fiorano estate?

AA: The big challenge is to give the same continuity and philosophy of what has been done by my grandfather (Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi). Obviously my grandfather was a very particular character with a lot of charm. I’m very attached to the soil. So I’m very happy to give the dedication to the renovation of the estate. I’m a winemaker and I have an approach to the land that is very similar to his. I’m trying to use the same Fiorano natural yeast as he did, the same aging techniques, and I did a propagation from the old vines. I’m trying to do what is most similar to what has been done; this is a most challenging thing…to make wines that are with the same character, with wines that you hated, you loved, with a lot of character and personality.

In the 1960s it was so innovative, the idea of my grandfather to use Cabernet, Merlot and Sémillon. Today I’m not really using so many innovative techniques. If the grapes are good, I really don’t have to do anything. It’s not really a winemaker’s job.

fiorano bottles vRKO: Does the difficulty lie in the physical work, trying to recapture the spirit, or something else?

AA: It’s a physical work. I’m in the vineyards and I’m there all the time, I’m very connected. But certainly recapturing what has been done in the past and all the memories [is challenging] because many of the memories have been lost. [My grandfather] wasn’t a man that talked a lot about what he was doing, so I’m going back and talking to his assistants and talking to people who were close to him and I talk to them. In the last years he was very ill, so it was difficult. Most importantly I want to give a character to the wines and estate.

RKO: What was your favorite memory of your grandfather, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi?

AA: When we were young he would come and pick up my sisters and myself in an old Renault Quattro and bring us to Fiorano.

RKO: Italian wine drinkers and American wine drinkers are very different. What could American wine drinkers learn from the Italians? (And is there something Americans could teach Italians?)

AA: We have a wine called Antica of Napa Valley and it is a blend of Old World and New World. The Old World is elegance and finesse and the New World is power, alcohol and also fruit. The two together we can learn from each other; that’s a very straight-forward answer. The two blended, Old World and New World and also what they can learn from each other is unique. From the Old World elegance and finesse is something the Italians have to learn from France.

RKO: Let’s imagine that you had to pick a final meal, what would you eat and drink?

AA: I love Asian food—Japanese—but I probably would have a good Chianina Italian steak and a great bottle of red wine of my family, either a Fiorano or Tignanello.

 

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