Wine is associated with gastronomy, history, local identity and spirituality. With its rich past of sensory delight dating back thousands of years, wine has long since established itself as a lasting cultural symbol of a healthy and harmonious lifestyle. Throughout history, the role of wine has seen various phases, changing from an important source of nutrition, through to religious paraphernalia, to a cultural compliment to food and festivity. Viticulture, or winemaking is a commercial production act whose status borders on art and magic.
Taking this rich history into account, the architecture of wine is faced with a much greater challenge than meeting the very specific technical requirements of winemaking, it has to celebrate the process. Nowadays, wineries like religious buildings, are the must-visit destinations for tourists, where people go in droves on alcoholic pilgrimages. In recent times, wine tourism has boomed: tours of wineries and package holidays centered around a wine tastings have become big business. This popularity has given rise to some unique new architecture, with every winery fighting to have the competitive edge and that extra element to draw the attention of tourists.
While there is no romance for the general wine buying public in picking a bottle of wine from the supermarket shelves, there would also be very little enchantment in wine tourism if the modern buildings were also purely functional. Contemporary architecture of wineries are challenged with achieving bold novelty and respectful traditionalism at one time.
Looking through dozens and dozens more of recent winery buildings, the novelty about them seems to rarely spring up from an architect's whim and much more often from the necessity to adjust adequately to the specific conditions of context, society and market. The resulting variety of eclectic blends -- of untraditional form and traditional function, of untraditional geometry and traditional materials -- appears pleasingly effective both in terms of meeting the requirements of the present and preserving tradition.
Portuguese architect Carlos Castanheira of Castanheira & Bastai Arquitectos reflects on the current status of wineries:
A winery is no longer what it used to be. I once knew wineries where cobwebs and dust were the sign of time passing and of the times. Time was also, almost always, the sign of quality, as the wine that got preserved over time, at the time, was good wine, which got even better after being left there for a few years. Wineries are changing and they no longer have room for dust nor for cobwebs. Now they are true laboratories, ruled by strict laws of employment and hygiene. They are obeying a finely tuned science of dosage, temperature control, accelerated or slowed down with more or less chemistry. In some cases, a winery is a place of real alchemy.
Technology or not, in caves or in buildings -- nowadays it is up to architects, more than ever, to preserve and display the magic of viticulture and bring it closer to people through inventive architecture.