Whenever I go to Italy I have two prime concerns. One is food, the other is wine. Both are often especially good in bella Italia and since my first visit to South Tyrol last summer I am becoming more and more intrigued by all things wine and have been known to appreciate many a tastings since.

A growing trend has wineries compete for always better and more unique architecture, hiring the best architects in the industry to build the impressive estates. There is a word for this too: design wineries. There are lovely coffeetable books about this and a great website showing off the most wonderful ones with photos and interviews.

Not too long ago I was invited on a weekend to Florence by Vueling, Spain’s most popular airline, and one afternoon we left central Florence to visit the Antinori estate, an easy 30-minute drive away. If you’re not by car, you can hop on a city bus that will drop you off right outside the estate. Previously, in South Tyrol I had been impressed by the very modern Cantina Tramin, but this was on a whole different level.

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I might be a photographer but I don’t usually enjoy taking pictures of places unless there are people in it. In the case of Antinori however, I would have gladly spent hours exploring different angles, interesting shadows and shapes. So if you enjoy architecture and you love wine, then this is your spot.

The Antinori family has been making wine for almost 1000 years, so it’s not much of a surprise that they could afford the 67mio euros to build the 49000sqm large building. The whole project took a solid 8 years to complete but now that it’s done it all seems worth it.

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The luscious hills of the Chianti region reflect beautifully in the glass facade of the building, perfecting the picture of nature blending into modern architecture. Merging technology and nature, that was the bottom line of this project, the basic idea that has determined shape, functionality and materials used. One of the conditions the region imposed on the Antinori family with regard to the contruction was that it was needed to have minimum impact on the landscape, ideally shouldn#t even be visible from street level.  Now, when you drive past the estate you cannot even see this gorgeous piece of architecture.

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Most of the magic happens below the ground, in proper cellar fashion. The team around Italian practice archea associati has based the designon only 4 main elements: glass, wood, terracotta and corten (a mix of copper and steal), materials which are meant to get better with age, which will grow and mature with the estate – just like a good bottle of wine.

Anybody can come visit the winery, and individual guided tours are available from 3.30pm every day, except for Thursdays and Sundays, provided you have made a booking. The tastings happen in a dimly lit glass capsule offering a lovely view on the cellar and adding a special athmosphere to the whole thing. A wildly romantic excuse to get a little tipsy on a sunny afternoon.

By the time I visited, a tour followed by a wine tasting cost around €20 a person. If you just want to visit the estate you can do so daily between 10am and 11pm, each day except Sunday.

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There is a library here you can waste away some hours in, looking at photography and design books or you can empty out the shop selling wines (deliveries abroad are also possible), food, decanters, bottle openers and everything relating to the joys of wine.

If you do need one more reason to come here make it the Osteria di Passignano, the stylish restaurant that opens for lunch and dinner every day and dishes up award-winning culinary delights. If eating here is not enough and you actually want to learn something, opt for one of their popular cooking classes (10am to 4pm and from 4pm to 10pm, by booking only) which usually end is sumptuous dinners.

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For more information about Antinori check out their website, for more photos, have a look at this article.

Special thanks to Vueling for flying me here direct from Berlin and for introducing me to this gorgeous place.

 

*all photos by katja hentschel