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A toast to Morley Safer

A toast to Morley Safer
A toast to Morley Safer 13:21

We lost Morley Safer early Thursday morning. He slipped away barely a week after he announced his retirement from 60 Minutes. All of us here are saddened by the loss of a friend, colleague and mentor. But we are grateful that Morley was able to watch last Sunday's tribute with his family and to be reminded of how much we admired and loved him.

We'll rebroadcast that hour-long look at Morley's life and career on a future Sunday. Tonight, we'll salute Morley with a toast: one of his favorite pieces, shot in his favorite country, about one of his favorite things. This is how Morley told the story back in 2008:

All in the Family


The following script is of "All in the Family," which aired on October 12, 2008. Morley Safer is the correspondent. David Browning, producer. Matthew Danowski, editor.

As anyone who's sat through a Thanksgiving dinner can tell you, families can drive you nuts. And if you're bold or crazy enough to go into business together, beware. A recent study found only 15 percent of family businesses survive past the second generation, meaning if the whims of the marketplace don't get you, familial rivalry or plain old-fashioned greed will. Which makes the Antinori family of Italy all the more remarkable. They've been in the same line of work for six centuries now. The Antinoris make wine. And the family story reads like something a wine critic might write about their product. Complex, stylish, sophisticated, with a bouquet both elegant and earthy.

It's harvest time in the great vineyards of Italy, none greater than the 5,000 acres farmed by the Antinori family. Until recently, Italian business -- especially the wine business - was pretty much for men only.

Albiera Antinori: Girls, normally, in families like ours, ended up to be married, possibly happily, and that's it. No, no need to work.

But Albiera Antinori and her two sisters are the first women in 26 generations to play a major role in the family enterprise. Allegra Antinori:

Allegra Antinori: I feel part of the land. You know? I think I'm owned by that land. It's something very, very strong.

From the fields to the cellars you'll find the Antinori women at work. Hoping, as vintners have for centuries, that this year, the balance of sun, soil and rain will produce a vintage for the ages. Alessia Antinori:

Morley Safer People use these wonderful words to describe the taste. There's personality. What else.

Alessia Antinori: The elegance. The wine...

Morley Safer: Elegance?

Alessia Antinori: The wine has to be elegant. And so you say, "How do you describe elegance?" You can't. It's like an elegant woman. How do you describe her? It's personal.

Morley Safer: You know it when you see it.

Alessia Antinori: Exactly. Exactly.

Their domain stretches from the legendary vineyards of Tuscany and Umbria to their property in California's Napa Valley. Antinori is perhaps the oldest family business on Earth.

Piero Antinori: The first document which we have which proves that an ancestor of mine was involved in the wine production dates back to 1385.

The patriarch -- and still the godfather -- is Piero Antinori. He's 70, and bears the noble title of "marchese." He works behind an antique desk that dates to the Renaissance.

Piero Antinori: When we have to take some decision regarding the family. We have them here. And my father used to do the same thing.

And in his birthplace, Florence, the city that gave birth to the Renaissance -- that flowering of art, science and the good life -- he leads a visitor to a small window to the past.

Morley Safer: It looks like a confessional.

Hundreds of years ago, an Antinori cellar master sat waiting for customers to knock.

Piero Antinori: The cellar master would pass a bottle of Chianti wine. And would receive the money back. This has been in operation until a couple of centuries ago.

Morley Safer: Recent history by your standard.

Piero Antinori: Yes. Recent.

For 623 years, various Antinori have kept the business going, despite war, plague, political intrigue and the shifting tastes of consumers. The family tree shows a bumper crop of Antinori who made their mark, not just in wine, but in every aspect of Italian life.

Piero Antinori: In business. In politics. In church.

Morley Safer: So the family always made sure back then that all bets were covered, correct?

Piero Antinori: I think it was a bit the concept, yes.

There were poets and priests, rogues and rascals. In 1576, Francesco D'Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany, had one Antinori strangled for his undue attentions to Bianca, the duke's wife. In the 1700s, another Antinori cultivated Pope Clement the 12th as an important customer. The pontiff, who commissioned the building of Rome's Trevi fountain, decided to throw a few coins the Antinori's way.

Piero Antinori: We have some correspondence saying that the pope used to like very much the wines of our family and he wanted to order more.

Morley Safer: A pretty good recommendation, correct? Especially in the 18th century.

Piero Antinori: Yes. No doubt.

But the family history lining the shelves of the Marchese's office says precious little about the wives and daughters in the Antinori family tree. A fact not lost on Albiera, Allegra and Alessia.

Morley Safer: Are there any interesting women in those 26 generations?

Albiera Antinori: I'm sure there are some women. But women in history, in the past time, even if unless they were special, they were not.

Alessia Antinori: Considered.

Allegra Antinori: Yes, exactly.

Albiera Antinori: To be mentioned.

Alessia Antinori: It's true. Because when I went to agricultural university in northern Italy, in Milan, we were two women. And the rest were all men. Very lucky.

For six centuries, command of the Antinori empire was passed from father to son. But with no male heir, the marchese -- some years ago -- sold a major stake in the business to Whitbread, a British company whose fortune was based on beer-making.

Piero Antinori: It was the period when I didn't know exactly if my daughters would be interested or not to be involved in the business. And so for me that was a way to guarantee a continuity also to the company.

But the partnership produced mainly grapes of wrath: it was a vintage clash between the foaming suds of quick profits and Piero insisting he'd sell no wine before its time. This marriage of inconvenience ended when Piero bought back the shares, keeping Antinori all in the family.

Albiera Antinori: I think he saw us interested and said "Why not? What's wrong with girls?" And so took his chance of expecting his daughters to fall in love with business.

And that they did. Now all three travel the countryside and the world, helping to grow, promote and market Antinori wines.

They sold 17 million bottles last year, $200 million worth, making a healthy profit. And though the business now involves spreadsheets and science, the basics still come, as they have for centuries, from down on the farm.

Morley Safer: Even with all this tradition and history and everything else, the family still regards itself as farmers. Yes?

Albiera Antinori: Yes. Absolutely. This is our origin. Still now in modern times, we are basically, basically farmers.

Alessia Antinori: We appreciate the nature and the countryside more than the glamorous city life.

Morley Safer: You're three country bumpkins.

Albiera Antinori: Yes.

Allessia Antinori: Exactly.

Well, hardly.

Morley Safer: Well. Salud.

Piero Antinori: Cheers.

Elegance is the rule at Palazzo Antinori, the family home in Florence. Since the family's wines must be sampled often to ensure quality control, every lunch at the palazzo is a kind of business lunch. The marchese, his wife Francesca, their daughters and sons-in law and the grandchildren. All may have a say.

Morley Safer: Any family arguments at this table? Come on. Secrets. I want secrets revealed here.

Piero Antinori: Yes. Sometimes we start with an argument. But after three or four glasses of wine (laughter)...

Alessia Antinori: Everything disappears.

Piero Antinori: This palazzo has been in the family since 1506. Both the headquarters of the business and also the residence of the family.

When an Antinori wishes to seek solace, or a place for quiet contemplation, or even a place to confess his earthly sins, it's hardly difficult. Just leave the Palazzo Antinori and, traffic notwithstanding, cross the Piazza Antinori, and within minutes, arrive at the Capella Antinori, the Antinori family chapel. Where they might visit the tomb of Alessandro Antinori, one of the founders of the dynasty. And perhaps a nod to any number of Antinoris buried beneath the chapel floor. If wealth and history can buy you one lasting pleasure, it is convenience.

Marchese Antinori, for instance, commutes by air to his most famous vineyard, Tignanello, in the Tuscan countryside south of Florence. Here, the family developed the red wines for which they're famous. At his villa here, this is the view the marchese wakes up to every morning.

Piero Antinori: We have the vineyards and the landscape...

But as the experience with the British partners showed, it's no business for the impatient or for those who have a taste for the quick buck. Ten years can pass from the time a new vine is planted until its wine comes to market.

Piero Antinori: You have to be patient. And to wait until the wine is good enough, the vines are old enough to produce a good wine.

Tignanello is but one of the Antinori postcard-perfect estates. Castella Della Sala is another, halfway between Rome and Florence. Here, Albiera went to work after high school, living at the family's grand 14th century castle, but learning the wine trade from the bottom up as a fieldhand in the vineyards.

Morley Safer: You got your hands dirty.

Albiera Antinori: Yes, I got my hands dirty. It was the first place where I really started to understand what was going on, I mean, the whole process.

But it's not all dirt and business. There's that other estate, Guado al Tasso on the Tuscan coast.

Allegra Antinori: I did my own stable. My own training track in the middle of the vineyards. And I go riding every morning. It's beautiful. I love it.

Morley Safer: It's a very good life you describe. Are you spoiled?

Allegra Antinori: Yes. I am very spoiled. But I think we appreciate what we have.

And they are constantly reminded that in this line of work, nature always has the last word. The Antinori found the 2002 crop wasn't up to par, and didn't bother bottling most of it.

Albiera Antinori: You cannot force things. You cannot force nature. If you have a bad vintage, tough luck. We can wake it up for a second before we put it back to sleep.

Every few months, they check on the progress of their wine, fast asleep in the cellars.

The verdict: Let it sleep awhile longer.

Albiera Antinori: You see, it's still very young, very rough. Very. It has to stay in there for a little while.

Another family meal, another bottle of wine or two. Every once in a while someone offers to buy them out. But this farmer and his daughters politely decline. On the theory, that if family ownership was good enough in 1385, it's good enough today.

Piero Antinori: It is really our intention to remain a family business because we think that this is the best solution for us.

Morley Safer: For at least another 500 years?

Piero Antinori: At least.

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