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26th generation winemaker

At just 34, Italy's Alessia Antinori is one of the world's most influential wine makers.

by: Leslie Gevirtz | 16 Nov 2007

Antinori is the 26th generation in a family of winemakers that dates back to 1385. She is the youngest of three daughters of Italian wine mogul Piero Antinori who runs one of Italy's largest wine making companies.

As well as estates in Italy, the family owns wineries on its own and in joint ventures in California, Washington State, Chile and Hungary.

As a child, Antinori accompanied her father on visits to their vineyards and wineries so it was little surprise that about a decade ago she decided to join the family business.

She now manages a new estate, Montenisa, in Franciacorta, in northern Italy, that makes largely sparkling wines, as well as acting as export manager for some new markets in the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

But for Antinori the major challenge is to ensure each of the family's estates produces "its own creation, its own taste."

"That it is true to its terroir giving the wine a lot of personality with fruit and elegance," Antinori told Reuters in an interview.

Antinori spends four months of the year visiting estates around the world, working with the local winemakers and meeting customers.

Character and passion

"My idea, more and more, is that we are doing this business to make wine that has a lot of character, a lot of identity," she said.

"To globalise wine, to use all the same varieties, it can create a likable wine. It can be very easy, but it lacks character. Many of these Chardonnays, you don't know where they come from."

Antinori dismissed the so-called international style of making wine as lacking passion as it lacked a relationship between the land and the wine.

"You have to have a passion for it. Otherwise why do it?" she said.

She almost didn't. Her first love was art. Not surprising for someone who grew up in Florence, home to artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Fra Angelico and Raphael, all of whom probably drank some of her family's wines.

But her father's influence swayed her in the end.

"Of course, I was influenced by my father," she said. "When I mentioned to him that I wanted to study art, he said 'Fine, but why not wine?' Art is my hobby, wine is my vocation."

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