Antinori: Keeping It All In The Family

Family Has Run Wineries For 623 Years, With No Plans To Sell

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This story was first broadcast Oct. 12, 2008. It was updated on April 29, 2009.

Families, the poet Philip Larkin wrote, they mess you up. Only he used slightly stronger language. When it comes to family business, he was right on the money.

A recent survey found only 15 percent of family businesses survive past the second generation. If the whims of the market place don't get you, rivalry or old fashioned greed will.

Which makes the Antinori family of Italy all the more remarkable: as 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer first reported last fall, they've been in the same line of work for six centuries now.

The Antinoris make wine and the family story reads like a wine review - 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.

"Girls, normally, in families like ours, ended up to be married, possibly happily, and that's it. No need to work," says Albiera Antinori, who with her two sisters Allegra and Alessia are the first women in 26 generations to play a major role in the family enterprise.

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

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.

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

"The elegance," Alessia Antinori replies. "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."

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.

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

He's 70, and bears the noble title of marchese; he works behind an antique desk that dates to the Renaissance.

"When we have to take some decision regarding the family, we have them here. And my father used to do the same thing," he says.