Wine making is a craft that date back thousands of years and in Spain wine makers not only strive to create the best wine possible they design spectacular facilities in which to do so, making a destination in itself. There are thousands of vineyards all across Spain, big and small producing some of the best wines in the world, each making their wine with passion. Many bodegas take wine making a step farther, creating unique design spaces in which to produce their beloved beverage, combining ancient recipes with high tech production techniques housing the process in spaces one could call art. I think one of the things I love most in Spain is their desire to create something new while maintaining the best of the old and there is no better example than the architectural design on wineries, some dating back hundreds of years. By no means are my choices the only ones in Spain but here are my favorites architecturally most spectacular bodegas in Spain.
The hotel bodega of Marqués de Riscal wineries is by far one of the best known avant-garde designs in Spain. Designed by one of the distinctive architects of our time, Frank Gehry, the multi colored metal waved roof stands out among the vines and can be seen from miles away. Located in the Alava Elciego in the Rioja region, the building is covered with titanium on the new structure and incorporates all of the old structures into itself.
Frank Gehry wanted his work to represent the surrounding vineyard; pink to represent red wine, gold mesh to represent the Riscal bottles and silver to represent the bottle top. Called the city of wine, the facility is set on 100,000 m2 and is devoted to creating, caring for, and study of wine. Here you can visit for tours and tasting and even spend the night. They have created the Hotel Marqués de Riscal, A Luxury Collection Hotel with a 5 star rating making it a destination in itself. Marques de Riscal is a must see on any wine excursion to La Rioja, Spain.
Just on the outskirts of the medieval town of Laguardia, only only ten minute drive from Marques de Riscal, the YSIOS winery and is one of the most beautiful areas in Rioja Alavesa. Originally conceived as a cathedral of wine, the facilities were designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava and inaugurated in 2001.
From a distance the bodegas could be mistaken for a modern church with an undulating wave like roof top that fits right into the green expanse of grape vines. The roof is the part that stands out most and was designed to represent sea waves over the vines. The interior is simple and they layout of the barrel room emulates the waves in the roof.
The Bodega Ysios has differentiated itself by its innovative spirit and unique aesthetic if not for its wine.
In the heart of the Ribera del Duero wine region, east of La Rioja, Bodegas Protos rests just below the medieval Castle of Peñafiel. This XXI century work was designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Alonso Balaguer y Arquitectos Asociados. The design is based on a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional wine cellar construction in the region.
Making use of this idea, most of the wine production and aging facilities are all buried underground, taking advantage of the cool and consistent temperatures. The rest of the structure above ground is a reinterpretation of vault-shaped winery construction methods. The roof is made of parabolic arches of laminated wood and terra-cotta and is referred to as the “light structure” bringing day light into the work space. What I love about the Protos bodega is its position below the castle that has its origins back to 943, again the ancient and new seemingly fitting very well together.
The winery rests on a privileged location in La Rioja, nestled on a hill overlooking the Ebro Valley and the Sierra de Cantabria. Approximately 80% of the Bodega Regalia de Ollauri is buried under the mountain, taking advantage of gravity for transporting and processing the grape throughout the facility.
The building is heated and cooled using geothermal energy. Warm water is pumped from below to the surface during winter and cool water during summer. The bodega even produces a special wine called “Versum” made solely from its geothermal energy. The winery boast that they are the only winery in the world using this technology. It is one of the most innovative designs in the world and in 2007 won the International Prize Best of wine tourism in the architecture category.
This next design is more like something you would see in Dr No rather than a winery. A Norman Foster design, Portia Bodega is built like a three-pointed star resembling a kind of futuristic bunker or giant automobile hood ornament. Perhaps not the most appealing structure from above but the details and interiors are not quite like any other winery I have seen.
The building is divided into three spokes, each containing its own section of production, one holds the production, the other fermentation barrels and the other the bottling – all joined by a nucleus that houses the rest of the facility. Just to witness the room with wine rack panels is worth the trip. Some of the most striking features are the central staircase, the monumental barrel cellar, the view from the restaurant. The winery has received an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects for its design.
Ron Otto is Onwer of Best in Spain.