15 October 2011

“Wine Cathedrals & New art Cellars” - by Enrico Mercatali

From the old cellars to the cathedrals by archistars:
In the Langa - Piedmont this is "the acinus" from the grape of the wine Brothers Ceretto, an oval bubble by the architect Giuseppe Blengini: "Taste the wine tasting the landscape"

Wine Cathedrals and New Art Cellars”
(Cattedrali del Vino e Nuove Cantine d'Autore)

by  Enrico Mercatali

Above: the new ruby red wine cellar  of the enlargement of “Tramin Cellar” in Termeno (Bolzano), where the famous Gewurztraminer is produced, realized by Werner Tscholl between 2008 and 2010, and that has entailed 20 moths of work on 19.270 cubic metres, and an investment of 8 million euros.
Romantic image of an ancient wine cellar, which evokes stories of land and efforts.
Below: New distilleries Nardini in Bassano del Grappa, realized on a project of Massimiliano Fuksas of 2004. The two crystal bubbles contain the analysis laboratory and the guest room for the visitors.

Enlargement of "Traminer" wine cellar in Termeno (Bolzano), relized by Werner Tscholl. A view on the surrounding vineyards from the inside of the representation room.

We dedicate this article of   TACCUINI INTERNAZIONALI   to the current good relationship between Wine and Architecture, which means to the good union between the best italian and worldwide wine cellars with the modern architecture that contains them, whose image is often assigned to the big names of the international star system so as to give more visibility to the big and well-established brands, and to spread in a more incisive way their qualities not only about the product, but also about the company.

Below: Three images of the enlargement of the wine cellar in Termeno (Bolzano), realized by Werner Tscholl between 2008 and 2010. In the first picture you can see the tasting room, and some display cabinets made out of wood with a pattern similar to the one of the building’s structure; they show many products of the house, within a room from which you can see the whole Adige valley, entirely cultivated with vineyards, and whose furniture can symbocally recall its shapes and colours.
In the following image the spectacular night sight from the outside of the structure’s floors, with the representation and tasting rooms illuminated in a really suggestive way. The following image emphatically shows the green spider web that simulates the vine stocks, in which are enclosed, behind wide windows, the offices and the guest rooms.

We report in the article some interesting examples of famous wine cellars that have given famous architects a free hand for the construction of small and big complexes of wine production and storage, or simple additions like commercialization rooms or guest rooms, spaces for tasting or retailing.

Above: the new cellar of Sagrantino in Castelbuono (Umbria), named "Carapace", between Bevagna and Montefalco, by the famous sculpture artist Arnaldo Pomodoro (Photo by A. Mulas)

Center of production of Rotari sparkling wine, in Mezzocorona (Trento), at the core of Adige Valley, in the middle of vineyards where the Street of Wine begins, and finishes in Bolzano. The enormous complex has been realized under a project of Alberto Cecchetto, in the firts years of the ‘90s. Many of its shapes draw inspiration from the vineyards, and the most part of the inner rooms emphasize the relationship between the visitor and wine. The tasting room’s floor is particularly interesting, and has been realized inclined so as to cause an idea of drunkennes to the visitors. 
Above, two images of Rotari wine cellars in Mezzocorona: in the first one, the big roof made of wood with plates emerges, constructed following the scheme of the vineyard round top typical of this area, where the vine stocks are distributed on supports of equal length, to the left and the right of a central support.
The second image highlights the relation the the building has with the mountain at the back. The big dimension of the structure depends on the high number of the cooperative society’s members. Each of them gains access every day with his products to the storehouse, to the common areas, included a big auditorium with about 1500 places, for the assemblies.
Below: the area for the goods movement has a covering  whose surface doesn’t have a gap with the surrounding meadows.
The access to the cold stores is really wide and protected by a covering for the movement of the numerous means of transport that pass in this area every day.

We want to indicate a foreign example with the wine cellar of the Perz Cruz vineyards, realized in 2001 by Josè Cruz Ovalle in Paine, Santiago of Chile, and also some italian examples, amogn which the Pietra Wine Cellar in Suvereto owned by Mario Botta, in the hinterland of Piombino, built between 2001 and 2003.

Above: two images of the new "Antinori", in Chianti area, realized by ARCHEA Studio. Both of the images show the aim of the designers to avoid strong impacts outside the structure, by hiding its volumes under the green surfaces, amalgamated with the surrounding land. The second image highlights the wide and stretched levels below which the inner structure of the cellar is hidden. The vertical connection is guaranteed by comfortable spiral staircase on the plates’ perimeter.

Below: an analogous concept has been applied some years before by Piero Sartogo in Badia wine cellars of Coltibuono, in Chianti area again (Gaiole Village). Even here the covering reaches out, wide and light, on the green hills, amalgamating with them and hiding the considerable inner volumes.

We chose to show you also the new base of Nardini distilleries owned by Massimiliano Fuksas in Bassano del Grappa, realized between 2002 and 2004; the Rocca of Fassinello Winery, realized by Renzo Piano between 2001 and 2007 in Gavorrano, near Grosseto; and then, Rotari sparkling wine factory in Mezzocorna (Trento), where Alto Adige’s the Street of Wine starts, whose works began in 1996 under Alberto Cecchetto’s project.

On the Street of Wine, between Trento and Bolzano, we also recommend the modern addition to the cellars with wine shop Alois Lageder, in Magrè, built under Abram & Schnabl Architekten’s project in the first 90’s. We also suggest to your attention the New Cellars of Marchesi Antinori in San Casciano Pesa Valley (Florence), of Archea Studio (2005-2008), and then Icario cellars of Gino Valle in Fucile, Montepulciano 2007. And lastly Badia cellars in Coltibuono, of Piero Sartogo (1995-97).

Above: Icario Cellar of Gino Valle (two images), in the country of Montepulciano (Siena). Rock, water and glass are the materials chosen by Valle so as to make the project uniform, following orthogonal stereometries little naturalistic, but able to mark a strong image of recognition and rationality. This modernist choice allows to fascinate the visitor more with its intrinsic geometrical strenght than with its ability to hide.
Below: Icario Cellar of Gino Valle also displays some wide rooms designed to become picture galleries, with modern works belonging to society which show the binomial art-nature, wine-architecture.

All the realizations that we have cited belong to the first years of the ‘90s, and have thus been created in the last 15 years. In fact, in these last years an out-and-out culture of “well married off wine” has developed; in a modern version, this idea belongs to the more traditional conception of a link between wine cellars and the Palladian Villa or the Ancient Castle, a conception that sees this product, noble and sometimes even luxurious, duly adapted to a scene which can welcome and contain it in a way adequate to its status, symbolically indicating its “high rank”.
Many methods are used today to denote the good relationship existing between wine and architecture, so as to give a uniform, logical and well structured idea of them if they’re coupled, as well as all the art buildings and the valuable wines must be.

Above: two images of Nardini distilleries in Bassano del Grappa.  In this complex of extremely recent realization, its author Massimiliano Fuksas, back from the milanese experience of Milan Rho Fair, has wanted to modify Nardini grappa’s taste, which has a really ancient origin in Bassano del Grappa, by surprising the visitors with these “bubbles”, of really futuristic style. Inside them, in the usual vocabulary of the architect - the realtionship between steel, glass and water- are reflected the future fates of the famous mark, which has chosen these extreme signs, astonishing and unconventional, to promote itself.
In the two following images you can see a detail from on high, of the bubbles (an analysis laboratory and a representation room) and a view made of transparencies.

A wide literature already exists about this binomial; so, if you want to just give an idea to the reader, in a simple article, of how much this kind of union is fashionable in the “sanctuaries” of wine production today, it is necessary to make a synthesis, by showing a selection of the best recent creations that express this concept the best way.

But, before starting out with the hard task of selections, let’s explain why we feel so tempted by these argumentations, so as to understand and make everybody elese understand which passions are moving us right now, and making us renew these interests. First of all both of these subjects, wine and architecture, have ancient origins, and their combination dates back to the history of the centuries.

What is more recent, however, is the necessity of giving to them, once you have put them together, an hedonistic value, in some way linked to the pleasure of senses, of throat and sight first of all, but then of all of them, from olfaction to touch to hearing, which recall the idea of concrete pleasures, such as the ones of food and taste, but also the unconscious ones of transgression, inebriation, beauty, voluptuousness...

 It seems like, in this way, both the architecture of wine and the one of well-architectured wine have similar inclinations, as if the former attracted the latter, or if one of them mingled with the other, correcting and improving themselves reciprocally, promoting the reciprocal qualities and excellences. Both of them aim to their image as well as their intrinsic qualities or the ones that have developed and become refined. It is from a good image of oneself that desire emerges, together with the idea of trying, knowing, deepening. And from the same element starts the idea of pleasure that develops in us as we foretaste the follow-up of a banquet made of promises of taste and flavours, of well-blended and assorted shapes and colours
I have been in woderful places where you enter just to taste wine, and the maybe buy some bottles.

Above and below: Petra Cellar project by Mario botta, on the hill that overtops the wide vineyard of Suvereto, in the hinterland of Piombino.

We have cross the thresholds of ancient villas in glorious parks, we have entered the walls of castles tranformed into wine cellars, so as to accomplish an image, as if to say that good wine was always born in fresh and dark places, behind cycloptic walls.

Rocca di Frassinello Winery of Castellare di Castellina, of Paolo Panerai, in society with the french Domain Barone of Rothschild Lafite, is one of the lates projects that Renzo Piano has dedicated to the architecture of wine, to its cellars and its activities of
marketing. The location of the new join venture cellars, between french and italian people, has seen new and favourable opportunities of transfer from Chianti area to Maremma, in the areas already devoted to wine (Bolgheri and Morellino di Scansano). 125 hectares of vineyards on a land of 500 hectares, a building of 8000 square meters, with a capacity of the cellar that reaches 2500 barriques.
We can recognize Piano’s style in the orthogonal cuts, in the light coverings, in the dominion of glass on the masonry. A tower shows the presence of the site from a long distance. If the organization of the maturation room in barriques looks powerful to us, we can’t say the same thing about the rest of the building, its emerging part, weak in its relief with landscape, more prone to interpret the style of its author than the idea that a potential consumer would want to get about that wine, which want to grow in quality.
An architecture that, all in all, doesn’t express at best the strong and rich greatness showed by Piano in the Menil Collection of Huston in Texas, or in the Cultural Center Jean-Marie Tjbaou in Noumea, New Caledonia, or again in the more recent Paul Klee Museum in Berna. A work, this one in Rocca di Frassinello, a bit unsatisfying, since it isn’t really evocative of the enological referent: much Piano, little wine. Personally, I would have rather eliminated the tower and put a vineyard -true or metaphorical- on the roof, bringing out only the horizontal component of the project-landscape.

Ancient signs indicate its presence with graphics suitable for that ancient style. But some new semantic matchings have been developing in the last two decades about the idea of “drinking well”, which don’t necessarily have to go back to a recognized concept of experience, tradition and knowledge. Today, the conception of wine must be linked to courage, sense of experimentation, creative intelligence and sensorial investigation.

Renzo Piano, Rocca di Frassinello Winery, the big room where 2500 barrique of wine ripen. This image is really suggestive. A perfect scenic representation of how order and cleanliness reign supreme, symbol of workmanship and  carefulness in procedures.

Today, the desire for discovery is in force, together with the will to obtain more marked matchings, and, why not, new ones with food and life moments, searching for greater qualities in those moments we want to improve. The new architecture can say all of this, and become an expressive wrapping for these intentions, bringing the product of wine to the highest peaks of its visibility, of its  renown.

Rocca di Frassinello Winery, wine view of the lower part of the surrounding vineyards. We don’t think that the presence of the tower is appropriate to the site, and not even the light glass covering of the body that emerges at the core: it has little to do with wine and its image traditions. The glass, mastered by Piano in every other work, turns out little convincing in here. It definitely creates a better effect in the alembics of Fuksas for Nardini, where it seems to assume a meaning that here, on the contrary, gets out of our hand.

As well as abroad, even in Italy a season of great proofs about the marriage between a good enological product and a good architectural product has started; the term “good” is mainly referred to the best interpretation that they give to the land they belong to, to the tradition that expresses it, and to the specific site where they put down roots.

Rocca di Fasinello Winery: Above, vine stocks and big glass windows... a poetics that doesn’t stand the comparison with the land... with the landscape. An architecture that turns out light, instead of recalling the weight of land and its efforts; a cellar that proves to be transparent, when instead it should dip into the shade of its fruit, and in the mistery of its alchemies. Below: along the path of the cellars, the atmosphere and the colours can better get inside the part, going along with traditions.

When both of these prerequisites are given, then we can affirm that the binomial is well blended, and that the result of its union can be considered a success.

The sites that we are showing, the italian and foreign ones, can have been more or less able to interpret the typical characteristics of their lands, but they all have the merit of having reached the main goal, the one of spreading the product which was born in them, promoting its qualities and distinguishing it from other products.

Above and below: Feudi of San Gregorio Farms in Sorbo Serpico in Avellino Province. The enlargement of the Winery’s historical cellars, realized by the architects Hikaru Mori and Maurizio Zito.

Last purpose of our research is the one of divulging our assumptions, besides the image results reached, by asking ourselves if we shouldn’t do the same thing for the best products of our piedmontese lands. Hoping for the same enterpreneurial courage by the side of our best productions, we wish that even here in Piedmont we could start some communication and promotion projects like the one analysed above, and that even our Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Spanna and Erbaluce could brag about similar example in the immediate future.

Taccuini Internazionali won’t give up carrying out its battle in aid of Modern, so that, where there aren’t any previous qualities of the production and commercialization places, like Villas, Parks, Estates or Castles, a new good architecture can become a sign and a business card, other than a mean for new and  more quoted statements, where an intrinsic quality of the products already exists, together with the will to improve it so as to compete with the ones of other lands, countries and cultures.

Along the Street of Wine, in Magrè (Trento), only inside the ancient court of a very old farmstead, you can discover the presence of this modern addition, all dedicated to representation and sale, of the prestigious Alois Lageder wine cellars. The architects from Alto Adige Abram and Schnabl have created a structure which is almost entirely made of wood, with shed coverings, totally centered around solutions of eco-compatibility, as requested by the purchaser.

Lesa, September the 7th 2010 (italian original text)
Enrico Mercatali
(translated from italian by Penelope Mirotti, october 2011)


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