“I love India, I love the sounds, the aromas, and of course, the people. It’s the only place in the world, after Italy that I know I’ll come back to the minute I leave,” says Alessia Antinori on her 12th visit to India to dinner guests at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai recently. The evening was hosted by Sonal Holland from ITC, and Sandra and Farhad Bhabha from Berkmann Wine Cellars India. Suneeta Sodhi Kanga represented Sommelier India at the dinner.
The Antinoris have been in the wine business since 1385, when Giovanni di Piero Antinori first entered the Winemakers Guild of Florence. According to Alessia, the door from which the wine merchants of old sold the first bottles from the family cellars is still evident in the façade of the Antinori palace in central Florence. When Italian winemaker Piero Antinori’s third child happened to also be his third daughter, he had to rethink a 600-year-old tradition of men running the family business!
Alessia Antinori, is the youngest of Piero’s three daughters. The sisters are the first women in 26 generations of the Antinori lineage to have any significant role in the family’s winery. They will eventually head the business when their father retires.
Although Alessia is the only Antinori who travels so much, her two sisters also work for the company. Albiera concentrates on the Prunotto estate in Piedmont and the packaging of the wines. Middle sister Allegra focuses on the family’s casual restaurants that now number six, each in a different city in Europe. The number of restaurants is still growing and may include one in India, perhaps Mumbai, in a few years, according to Alessia.
Alessia brought Antinori wines to the Indian market in 2000. She first sold them only in hotels, and later mostly to Italian restaurants. Now many retail stores also have Antinori wines on display.
We started the evening with a lovely white wine, Pietrabianca Chardonnay 2009 from Puglia, but Antinori red wines are particularly popular in India.
“Red wine is everything in India,” says Alessia, “Santa Cristina is our most popular red wine in India,” she adds, naming one of their cheapest Chiantis, which cost as much as Rs. 2334/- here in retail. This is thanks to the high import taxes and other imposts, which can fluctuate wildly from one state to another and even from one month to the next which makes selling wine to India so hard.
However, Alessia is very positive about India in the future. “There are so many more opportunities now for wine consumption here because the new generation has travelled abroad and is now into drinking wine. They were into drinking whiskey and beer first and now they’ll get into drinking wine. We’ll see a difference in the next few years.”
An impressive 44 labels from the Antinori portfolio are exclusively distributed by Berkmann Wine Cellars India Pvt Ltd since the year 2010. Some of the wines we tasted were –
Peppoli Chianti Classico 2010 DOCG, characterized by elegant and gentle tannins. This wine is intended to be consumed while it is young, during the height of its expression of the grapes.
La Brasecca 2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulcian. The mineral sensations of the wine, together with very well balanced tannins, accompany its flow over the palate, all the way through to the long and tasty finish and aftertaste.
Prunotto Barolo 2007 DOCG, a 100% Nebbiolo which is gorgeously scented with a poised finish. The star of the evening was the
Guado Al Tasso 2006, a Super Tuscan from the prestigious Bolgheri DOC which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah but still manages to keep its Italian DNA and identity.