Globetrotting consultant brings sense of place to wine
When it comes to the subject of vineyards and wine, Alberto Antonini is always thoughtful. And when he speaks, his passion is interesting and unrestrained.
The soft-spoken Italian began his wine-soaked journey to internationally acclaimed wine consultant in 1986 with a doctoral degree in agricultural science from the University of Florence. His thesis revolved around indigenous Tuscan vines on the verge of extinction. He then worked as an oenologist at Marchesi Frescobaldi.
Later, he became the technical director at Antinori's Col D’Orcia winery in Montalcino before becoming the head of oenology at Antinori through 1996. Along the way, Antonini studied in Bordeaux and California, refining his skills in the highly competitive international arena with short stops in California at Robert Mondavi, Au Bon Climat and Qupé.
By 1996, he opened a global oenological consultancy company, Gruppo Matura, with his winemaker friend, Attilio Pagli. He hasn’t stopped travelling since. Antonini now consults in Italy, Argentina, Chile, California, South Africa, Portugal, Uruguay, Armenia, Australia and, recently, at Haywire Vineyards and Okanagan Crush Pad in the Okanagan Valley.
Although he is careful not to come across as an expert on any region that’s new to him, Antonini still holds strong beliefs about what is necessary to make quality wine. Take his first trip to the Okanagan, for instance.
“People were growing everything everywhere,” says Antonini. “It’s something you don’t associate with an important premium wine region. [At Okanagan Crush Pad,] we are focusing on a small part of the valley, and that’s a key point. You can’t do everything there. I’m not very familiar yet with the valley; I’m still learning a lot, but it is a place that has inspired me.” Indeed, Antonini finds inspiration everywhere he goes. His globetrotting, for example, regularly takes him to South America.
“What we are doing mainly in South America, but other wine regions in the world, too, is just trying to understand more in depth what the terroir is,” he says. That idea is something he is also exploring in Armenia — home to ancient grapes and the world’s oldest winery, dating back 6,000 years.
“It’s a beautiful place, at a very high elevation, at 1,400 metres, with beautiful calcareous soils,” says Antonini. “What we are trying to do there is really go back to the roots of the place, because when I saw the 6,000-year-old winery with all the amphorae and all these very emotional things, I thought that probably doing something modern there was not just building a standard facility, but something that went back to the grapes and the winery thousands of years ago.”
Once you understand a place, Antonini says, you can then make wine that has a sense of place. “When we talk about wines with a sense of place, you have to preserve the place. Otherwise, you end up making a wine with a sense of what?”
That isn’t enough for Antonini. Place matters, always.
Six Degrees Connection:
Alberto Antonini and David Paterson have both made their mark at wineries around the world. Now they are raising the profile of Okanagan Valley wines, with some of their latest creations.
Photo by Mark Brand Inc.
Read more about virutal winemaking at Okanagan Crush Pad here.
Read all the Six Degrees of Separation profiles here.