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Famous architects are the new weapon for Bordeaux chateaux

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Like Philippe Starck, who will design the new cellar of Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, more and more architects are being employed by the Bordeaux chateaux who are engaging in a fierce war of images.

Chateau Cheval BlancNorman Foster, Jean Nouvel, Philippe Starck or Alberto Pinto: the largest names in architecture respond to the calls of the prestigious Bordeaux wine properties wishing to renovate their cellars to adapt to recent discoveries in winemaking.

In order to invest in technological adaptation to increase the value of the domain and its reputation, the construction of new cellars is vital and concerns many presitgious Chateaux, such as D’yquem, Latour, Petrus, Angelus and Mouton Rothschild.

Some turn to architects or designers such as the renowned Mario Botta in Faugères , Jean Nouvel in Dominica , Alberto Pinto in Pavia or Norman Foster in Margaux . These investments for the future are possible through revenues gained from excellent exports to Asia over the last 2 years.

« There were many projects that were postponed due to the crisis of 2008. But the two beautiful growing conditions of 2009 and 2010, resulting in exceptional vintages have enabled properties to reinvest and grow technically », says the president of the regional Union of wine brokers, Xavier Coumau. »

« Demand (for new cellars) explodes today », confirms the architect Bernard Mazières, who made many buildings including Yquem, Petrus, Latour and Mouton Rothschild. » « The owners need more space to work, including to adapt to the new knowledge about the harvest which lead them to develop smaller vinification vats, » he explains.

Indeed, they now practice « parcel winemaking », using tanks of different sizes for each parcel of vines. A detailed analysis of the basement geo-referenced satellite now offers the possibility to cut the vine in plots with the same characteristics according to the soil type or the age of the vines. This new approach allows us « to manage much more accurately the dates of harvest, for example, the window of maturity for the Merlot being four days’, explains Jean-Michel Laporte, Director of the chateau La Conseillante in Pomerol.

In 2011, Cheval Blanc, premier grand cru Classé A, had marked the world of wine by daring to create a modern building amid the vineyards of Saint-Emilion.  A short walk from this immaculate white building with rounded shapes, will stand for the 2013 harvest a rectangular Pavilion covered with stainless steel blades ‘Bordeaux red’, explained Jean Nouvel.

The grand cru Classé Château La Dominique intends to create a modern building, ‘inspired by works of artist Anish Kapoor on the effects of reverse mirror’.

The desire to distinguish themselves and increase its reputation is at the heart of this competition in the Bordeaux region. « Dominica is surrounded by the world famous St Emilion and Pomerol properties’and’as our illustrious neighbour Cheval Blanc appealed to a great architect, the idea was to take a great design from Jean Nouvel ‘, adds Mr. Evenou. The designer of the Institute of the Arab world and the Musée du Quai Branly wanted « to make a work of art in the vineyards », he explains.

Not far away, the legendary Petrus also has a need to develop a parcel cellar. But here, in the most famous grands crus of France, « The aesthetic objective has been integration into the landscape and discretion », indicates the architect Bernard Mazières

The battle of egos between the large landowners of Bordeaux which began with the pricing of the bottles and for reasons of prestige, wanting to be more than their neighbour, now takes on a new twist as the architecture of the cellars is a tool in the consideration of the grandeur of a chateau.

Source: La Revue du vin de France
4th March 2013

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