Throughout the ages, wine cellars have been hidden away underground in order to take advantage of the humidity and consistent temperatures. However, modern technology’s advancement means that the perfect conditions for wine storage can be replicated anywhere in the world, which has lead to an abundance of luxury wine cellars and storage facilities being built. Often, architects are contracted to design and build the facilities to ensure that they not only mimic underground cellars but also have a touch of class that sets them aside from the rest. In this series, we’ll be looking at some of the most state-of-the-art wine cellars and the collections and wines that inhabit them.
Château Cheval Blanc
The brainchild of French architect Christian de Portzamparc, the cellar is built above ground and is one of the most elegant designs on this list. The facility is comprised of two undulating waves of white concrete that rise magnificently out of the vineyard. Inaugurated in 2011, the masterpiece even features a garden of wild grasses which is located on top of the structure.
Kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment, the cellar measures a whopping 6000m squared and the technology that it houses is entirely guided by human decision, not the other way round. In the storage vat room, there are 52 in total, which were built in Italy and range from 20 to 110 hectoliters. Each vat is labelled with the type of grape that it is dedicated to, allowing Cheval Blanc to fine-tune each of their final blends. In this way, the cellar is in-keeping with the extreme attention to detail that the château pays to its winemaking process.
The cellar is setting the bar extremely high for others of its kind, having been certified for the High-Quality Environmental (HQE) standard. The certification process has stringent criteria and recognises a broad range of aspects including the choice of building materials, energy saving capabilities, waste management of solid and water waste, as well as acoustic comfort and employee wellbeing. This demonstrates that the cellar really does tick all the boxes.
The winemaking process is thorough and sees that only the best products leave the vineyard. In addition to the industry-leading cellar and storage facility, the vineyard practises a number of sustainable farming methods that ensures consistent high-quality vines are produced year on year. During the winter months, the soil is pushed up around the base of the vines in order to protect against the cold weather and then flattened down again when the weather gets warmer.
During winter the vines are pruned, a process that is carried out with extreme care and dexterity. In an attempt to ensure consistency and quality across the vineyard, the same worker is assigned to the same plot year after year to ensure they become familiar with the vines. Extreme detail is the key at Cheval Blanc, even down to the vine stakes, ties and guide wires being checked on every plot.
When it comes down to the harvesting process, all grapes are picked by hand. Approximately 50 pickers are called into action, all of which are supervised by the vineyard manager. If you think all the grapes are picked at the same time, then you will be incorrect, as the grapes are picked according to their ripeness of each plot, a process that can take up to ten days spread over a month period. Grapes are all individually sorted depending on which plot they were sourced from, meaning that there are no mixed batches. The grapes are then sorted using a tiered process with three stages, meaning that only the best grapes are retained, eliminating any shrivelled, green or pink berries.Make sure to keep an eye out for more articles on some of the most spectacular cellars and wine storage facilities in the world in our grand designs series. If you’re inspired to give your wine cellar an upgrade, get in touch with our experts to discuss the best solutions for your needs. Or, if you have a creation that you’re proud of, let us know on social media!