Italy's Antinori Sisters Prepare to Run A Wine Empire
Nadeau, Barbie Latza, Newsweek International
The women at the helm of the Antinori legend.
By Barbie Latza Nadeau
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. "He thought to himself, that's life," says 46-year-old Albiera Antinori, now the company's vice president. "He didn't have boys, so he had to deal with what he had."
Albiera, together with sisters Allegra, 42, and Alessia, 37, 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. They also lead a growing number of women making headway in the male-dominated Italian wine industry, though none for a house as significant and historical as Antinori.
The Antinoris have been in the wine business since 1385, when Giovanni di Piero Antinori first entered the Winemakers Guild of Florence. The door from which the wine merchants of old sold the first bottles from the family cellars is still evident in the facade of the Antinori palace in central Florence. "My hope is that we will be able to maintain what we have been doing, incorporating new ideas along the way," says Allegra, who manages the growing Cantinetta restaurant wing of the business. In October the family opened a restaurant in New York following openings in Moscow, Vienna, and Zurich, Switzerland. "The best thing we can do is take our lifestyle to the people," she says, and explains that the restaurants are like stepping into the heart of Italy without getting on a plane. "We Italians live by the table. This is our way of communicating, by sharing wine."
The wine industry was once a small club, but in the last 10 years, it has become an ultracompetitive global business, say the sisters, who are all involved in public relations in addition to their niche jobs within the Antinori empire. Alessia is considered the family traveler and spent several years developing the Asian and Middle East markets. The family has estates across Italy, in addition to California and Washington state in the United States, Hungary, Romania, Chile, and Malta. They distribute their wines across the world. While their primary customer base is still Europe and North America, the Antinoris have successfully opened markets for their wines in India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Qatar, and Oman--countries that aren't normally filled with wine drinkers. …