Allegrini 2024

Antinori in Montalcino: the new Pian delle Vigne Winery, designed by Piero Antinori

It is an entirely recyclable building. Vineyards are now moving to higher altitudes, to counter global warming

The initial idea for the new Pian delle Vigne Winery, the Montalcino Estate of the Marchesi Antinori, a name that is the history and reference of Italian wine, came from Marquis Piero Antinori. His idea was to build a simple, practical and sustainable winery that respects the territory, without necessarily having to resort to famous architects. In other words, to give visibility to the wine and not to the structure or to a person. Antinori, inspired by similar structures, personally drew a sketch, which became the project for two buildings (one dedicated to fermentation and one to wine refinement). They decided to build the structure, making their priority the concept of environmental sustainability. The structures were to be built above ground (so there would not be a visible impact on the macroscopic balance of the landscape, nor on the microscopic balance of the land). Above all, though, to avoid using large quantities of materials and reinforced concrete, which then stay in the earth for centuries. Therefore, they needed a building that would have high energy performance — as if it were underground — which was an input for major studies with several technicians on how to insulate a winery. Work on the winery began in January 2020, which was then completed in September 2022, for an investment of over 6 million euros, and was followed by the
Architect, Silvia Nucci of the Luigi Rocchi Technical Studio.
“We discovered that 90% of the materials used in construction are produced to counteract the cold, not the heat”, Fabio Ratto, director of the Pian delle Vigne Estate and Fabrizio Balzi, oenologist, explained, “so we concentrated on the remaining 10%, designed to counteract the heat. We built 80 centimeter thick insulated walls, made only of insulating materials. Concrete was used practically only for the floor. They are double walls that have an internal insulating air chamber, which allows us to achieve the same performance as an underground structure. And, if one day these cellars were to be abandoned, everything can be disassembled and is totally recyclable, because essentially it is only iron and insulation panels, which can be reused”. Therefore, the structure respects the environment and is energy saving, which in turn respects the environment. And, their commitment to Progetto Viva - a program launched first by the Ministry of the Environment, and now by the Ministry of Ecological Transition - also confirms their purpose, as all three of the company’s wines have obtained product certification. Marquis Piero Antinori also explicitly requested that the winery be covered as much as possible with greenery. The ivy climbing up the walls will give the building even less of a visual impact.
In the spring of 1995, Piero Antinori discovered the Pian delle Vigne Estate and decided to buy it, because he believed in the potential of Montalcino. The land is at an altitude of between 130 and 250 meters, and belonged to the Camigliano company, which had 26 hectares of Brunello, and buildings in a state of semi-abandonment. The existing vineyards have been restructured and part of the buildings have been restored, and are used for fermentation and aging the wine. We added a few new barrels and a few used ones from some of the company’s other wineries. And then, we had our first harvest, entirely vinified by Antinori, in 1995. “It was a slow journey”, Fabio Ratto said, “but continuous. From the first 26 hectares we have grown and today there are about seventy hectares of vineyards, out of a total 184, almost exclusively in Pian delle Vigne. Further, we have recently invested a small part in the highest area in ​​Montalcino, at Passo del Lume Spento - 11 hectares to compensate for the rise in temperatures over the past several years”.
Up until 20-30 years ago, having vineyards in the lower parts of Montalcino was an advantage. The medium and lower altitude hills in the 1990s gave better results in terms of grape quality, while the ones higher up had difficulty ripening. In the lower areas, more developed wines were produced that had more structure, were enveloping and soft, because the tannins ripened well. In the higher areas, instead, the wines produced were thinner with rougher tannins, which needed a long time to find balance. “Over the past several years, we have never stopped investing. We have certainly expanded”, Fabio Ratto continued, “but, more than anything, we have done important work on the quality of our vineyards, and consequently, of our wines. We only work with our own grapes and only Sangiovese, because enhancing the wines in the area has always been Antinori’s hallmark. First of all, we tried to understand the soils, and how they react to annual variations and to this latest macro-transformation, due to climate change. Certain temperatures have put us to the test, and it was difficult to maintain the acidity of the wine and control the alcohol content. Twenty years ago, however, we started doing specific agronomic work, step by step, which let us maintain it, even in a vintage like 2022, constantly very hot, but also dry”.
While the agronomic development in the vineyard was taking place, the winemaking part was being developed as well, including the investment in the new winery, to have more suitable spaces to carry out the procedures. Construction that began in 2020 now allows us to work more easily and more carefully, respecting the times wine requires as well as not having to make practical compromises that lack of space would force us to accept. Working on understanding the vineyards — from the historical ones inherited to the new ones planted — naturally led to vinifying them separately, to let them mature in wood in their own time (woods were subjected to study, in turn, and our choice today is reduce, switching from the very large barrels to 15-60 hectoliter barrels, resulting in almost total elimination of tonneaux). “The new winery also makes more space available for the newly acquired vineyards, and the idea is to create a cru from those grapes over time, or at least be able to bring out the enological nuances of those particular places”. The cru would be added to the current 3 wines produced: Brunello vintage, Riserva Vignaferrovia and Rosso di Montalcino.

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