Fine Wine Shrines

2 minute read

While the chateaus of France have long welcomed wine tourists, enoturismo is only just coming of age in northeastern Spain’s Rioja Valley. But what a vintage — the winemakers have hired some of the world’s top architects to create full-bodied bodegas to impress. Here are a few that are stopping traffic; be sure to arrange visits in advance.

Visitors to Ysios’ new bodega, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra de Cantabria that shields the Rioja vines from northwesterly winds, may feel like wine pilgrims. Architect Santiago Calatrava has created a cathedral-like building with undulating curves that echo a row of barrels.

The residents of Elciego, a small Riojan winemaking town, probably never expected to see Los Angeles-based architect Frank Gehry’s trademark titanium curves on their skyline, but there they are. It took 10 years and $77 million, and Gehry’s 43-suite hotel, vinotherapy spa and Michelin-starred restaurant opened at the 146-year-old bodega late last year. “I wanted to design something exciting, festive, because wine is pleasure,” says Gehry.

Enter this barrel-shaped bunker and step into French architect Philippe Mazières’ vision of 21st century winemaking. Towering 17.5 m above a glass floor, a giant mechanical arm delivers crushed grapes into the 72 stainless-steel tanks that line the circular walls. Even more impressive are two enormous caverns bored into the hillside that store 22,000 barrels of crianza. “Making wine used to be like a secret in the Rioja,” says tour guide Nunia Noja. Now it’s like the underground lab in a James Bond film.

“We have always been sensitive to beauty,” says Maria José López de Heredia, a fourth-generation winemaker, who commissioned British architect Zaha Hadid to design a wine-tasting shop for the winery’s HQ in Haro. The result: a mirrored white bottlelike building incorporating a carved bar that Heredia’s great-grandfather took to the 1910 Universal Exhibition in Brussels. Says López de Heredia, “My great-grandfather designed a bodega 129 years ago, and half of it is to be built still. Our dream is to finish it.”

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