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To invoke Fifty Cent in his classic Many Men, “Like Paulie in Goodfellas, You Can Call [Antinori] The Don.” Antinori being Piero Antinori, the patriarchal leader of Marchesi Antinori, the Italian wine company. The famous rap bar applied prior to Piero Antinori acquiring Chateau St. Michelle’s majority stake in the Napa Valley icon, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, earlier this month. If being a Don means that you are Italian and run shit like storied Napa Valley wineries. If that’s the case Piero Antinori says piece of cake in his deep Darth Vader like voice (literally, listen to any interview) while piloting his own burgundy-colored (coincidence?) helicopter and overlooking his many wineries.
Piero’s wine pedigree is profound. His family has been making wine for 26 generations. No cap, they have written proof. Marchesi Antinori produces over 20 million bottles a year and are credited with inventing the “Super Tuscan” wine category. Meghan Markle’s favorite red wine happens to be Tignanello by Antinori. This is the same wine that spawned the whole new Super Tuscan category. It would be extremely remiss to mention the duchess who doesn’t really want to be one (well, not all the time) without noting the countless popes who have consumed Antinori wine.
Piero entered his family’s company officially at the young age of 28. The company at the time was suffering from a blunder in the bottling phase of a batch of wine that was making people sick. When it rains it pours is the old adage. The company’s headquarters in Florence also flooded around the same time and hundreds of bottles of heirloom wines were destroyed.
Adding insult to injury, Italian wine was also overshadowed by French wines. This was confirmed to Piero’s father on a trip across Europe. In Italy, everyone drank Italian wine but that was not the case elsewhere he noticed. French wine was preferred in England and Germany. The reason being French wines tasted better than Italian wines.
Needless to say the company was in a malaise and on top of that the whole wine world had just been turned upside down when two relatively unknown wineries from America beat out the the crème de la crème of French wineries in a wine tasting. That wine tasting has come to be known as “The Judgement of Paris” and has been deemed an inflection point in the modern history of wine. One of the wines that bested the mythic Bourdeauxs came from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars of Napa Valley, California with their 1973 “S.L.V.” (abbreviated for Stag’s Leap Vineyard) Cabernet Sauvignon. We sell their highly regarded Artemis.
One can safely say that the Antinori’s and especially Piero, given his well documented studious nature, took notice of this California coup. But they were too busy soul searching when Stag’s Leap was breaking out. Ever the student though, Piero would borrow from French and California winemaking methods and produce some of the greatest wines ever. In fact, his 1997 Solaia, another Antinori Super Tuscan expression, would win Wine Spectator's 2000 Wine of the Year. What was particularly momentous about this feat was that this was the first time the authoritative wine periodical ever bestowed the title on an Italian wine. (Sidebar (pun): Antinori Solaia is highly allocated and sometimes we come across bottles so be sure to subscribe for updates when we do but we tend to have Peppoli in stock and that also is another innovative wine from Antinori.)
So what did Piero say when a small American winery from Napa Valley, California shuffled the pecking order in the wine world. We think he said something like this in his deep, throaty evil overlord voice to the nearest Stormtrooper in his office, “Interesting, we will buy them.”
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