Great wineries come in many guises. Cutting-edge, contemporary architecture always turns heads, creating monoliths to winemaking on the landscape. Yet there are also plenty of more understated design features incorporated into chateau cellars that deserve a moment in the spotlight – whether to celebrate their technical innovation, unconventional use of raw materials or even conservation of tradition. From the show-stopping to the subtle, we take a look at five unique wineries…
Chateau les Carmes Haut-Brion
Famed for his products, interiors and industrial design, Chateau les Carmes Haut-Brion turned to post-modern maverick Philippe Starck when overhauling its cellars. Located just outside of Bordeaux’s bustling city centre, one of the biggest challenges was ensuring the new structure could offer stable conditions for wine storage. To meet this requirement, Starck developed a subterranean structure, partially submerged in a man-made lake and clad in reflective steel panels – meaning it remains cool year-round. “[It] had to be evocative, a minimum, an institution, a reflection” explains Starck.
Chateau Maris, based in the Minervois in the South of France, is an organic and biodynamic producer whose sustainable principles reach beyond how their vineyards are maintained. Described as “one of the five most environmentally friendly wineries in the world” by Wine Spectator, the domaine is the first to have built a cellar out of lightweight, biodegradable hemp bricks. These bricks have been specially designed to consume CO2 in a bid to achieve carbon neutrality. Furthermore, their insulation properties mean that no heating or cooling systems are required.
Architecture refers not only to man-made design; old wineries can have a unique living and breathing biological structure that plays a dynamic part in the production of wine in that facility. As Jancis Robinson attests: “a visit to Chateau Rayas is special – not just for its rarity”. There is a primitive nature to the Chateau’s dimly-lit cellars with their rough stone walls, bare earth floors and ancient barrels creating an air of decrepitude. Yet from the under the layer of cobwebs and detritus, emerge some of the purest and freshest wines in the Rhone. These extraordinary cellars have created the perfect environment for a population of ambient yeast to flourish, bringing unique aromas, flavour and texture to these highly sought-after wines.
Following a seven-year renovation project, Chateau Montrose now produces more energy than it consumes through the use of 3,000m2 of solar paneling, geothermal energy generated from a local groundwater source, plus an array of other environmentally enlightened choices. Described by the domaine as “a high environmental quality approach”, Chateau Montrose’s all-encompassing vision brings the estate into the 21st century through technical innovation, while respecting the traditional Bordelais architecture of the building.
While some architectural wineries are built to stand out from the landscape, others have been specifically designed to blend in. The Dominus winery in Napa Valley, known locally as the “stealth winery”, was designed with integration is mind – making it distinct as a design and sympathetic to its surroundings. The winery was designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, who are best known for renovating the original Tate Modern from power station to gallery space. From a distance, the basalt rock filled walls of the winery (extracted from nearby American Canyon) dissolve into the surrounding vineyard, but they also play a technical role in moderating the extreme temperatures of the Napa Valley and maintaining the ambient temperature inside the winery.