The Architecture of Wine

For years, the world of Spanish winemaking has enjoyed a love affair with renowned architects. Beautiful wineries have sprung up as a result, turning winemaking into a true art.

By Real Academia de Gastronomía

Real Academia de Gastronomía

Portia WineryReal Academia de Gastronomía

Wine represents repose; the stillness of those who wait patiently for it to emerge into the world to be enjoyed; for it to be born and to mature. And it's not just the "what" that matters in that process, but the "how" and the "where"— the method and the place.

It's about the containers and materials used; the walls that protect them; the stone, steel, cement, and glass constructions that shelter them into maturity inside steel tanks, large earthenware jars, wooden barrels or, of course, wine bottles.

Behind every wine is a wine cellar that influences the personality of each bottle it produces.

La Mejorada Winery (15 Century)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Throughout history, people have searched for the best locations for making wine, both above and below ground. The perfect location that has enough space, just the right light, is the ideal size, and is also beautiful—because why shouldn't it be? Much like erecting a building out of nothing, winemaking can be an art—creating, inspiring, and evoking sensations.

Architecture and wine go hand in hand when producers and architects join forces to create a winery that also represents what is inside it.

Marqués de Riscal Winery (1858)Real Academia de Gastronomía

There are many examples of this from eras past and various countries. As you will see, Spain is home to some beautiful wineries created by world-renowned architects.

We have chosen a select few that best represent this creative pairing, the result of which is pure pleasure, in every sense.

La Mejorada Winery (15 Century)Real Academia de Gastronomía

La Mejorada Winery and Vineyards

The La Mejorada winery is in Olmedo, near Valladolid. It was designed by Rafael Moneo, who is also one of its owners, completing the perfect marriage between an artist and his work.

La Mejorada Winery (15 Century)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The winery and vineyards enjoy a spectacular setting in what was a Hieronymite monastery founded by Ferdinand I of Aragón in the 15th century. Inside lies a hidden treasure: a Mudejar chapel, which has been classed as a National Monument since 1931 and is a clear example of the influence of Islamic culture at that time.

It is a place where beauty and history are combined. The architect Rafael Moneo decided to rescue it in the year 2000, restoring it to its former splendor and reinstating the vines that had been grown there in the past.

Rafael MoneoReal Academia de Gastronomía

Rafael Moneo

Rafael Moneo (born 1937 in Tudela, Navarre) has enjoyed an impeccable career and is one of the greatest Spanish architects of all time.

Notable among his many projects are: the extension of the Prado Museum in Madrid; the Laboratory for Integrated Science and Engineering building at Harvard University; the Roman Theater Museum in Cartagena (Spain); the library at the University of Deusto (Spain); and the science and laboratory building at the University of Columbia.

His raft of work has won him a range of major awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Royal Institute of British Architects' Royal Gold Medal, the Gold Medal of Spanish Architecture, the Spanish National Architecture Award, and the Prince of Asturias Award.

La Mejorada Winery (15 Century)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The Winery that Was a Monastery

La Mejorada's restoration has been respectful of the past, retaining its 17th-century pilgrim's house, a dovecote that was originally a mill, various storage spaces, farmhouses, a fishing ground, and the stone walls that enclose the whole site. Then, of course, there's the old cloister: the key building that houses the winery.

La Mejorada Winery (15 Century)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The most iconic part of the site is the Mudejar chapel. In fact, La Mejorada's logo is actually the chapel's floor plan, drawn by Moneo himself. It can be seen on all La Mejorada products, which brings us to the most important point: they produce wines there too.

They are produced with extreme care by a team of enologists and technicians who subscribe to a philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyard.

La Mejorada Winery (15 Century)Real Academia de Gastronomía

They avoid chemical products, believing that a balanced ecosystem is the best way to protect the crop from pests and diseases. The result is a product that is an authentic expression of the estate's soil and climate—an elegant and refined reflection of the landscape in which the vines grow.

"Las Cercas" Wine (2004) by La Mejorada wineryReal Academia de Gastronomía

Four different wines are made here: Las Cercas, Las Norias, Villalar, and Tiento.

Let's take the last of these: Tiento 2009 is a potent, well-structured red made using Merlot grapes, and smaller quantities of other varieties. This complex spice and red berry blend goes nicely with roast meat and is firmly focused on its monasterial home.

Marqués de Riscal Winery (1858)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Marqués de Riscal

Anyone arriving in Elciego, Rioja Alavesa is dazzled by its beauty: that of the surrounding landscape, of course, and the magical, impossible-looking building created by Frank Gehry. This is the City of Wine: an initiative by the producer Marqués de Riscal, intended to make its winery a must-see.

Marqués de Riscal Winery (1858)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Tradition and modernity go hand in hand at this complex. It is home to the old Marqués de Riscal winery; the San Vicente winery, equipped with cutting-edge technology; and a new building designed by Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry, which contains a luxury hotel, a spa, 2 restaurants, and a meeting, conference, and banquet center.

Marqués de Riscal Winery (1858)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The Bordeaux-style winery was built in 1858 by Don Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga, Marquis of Riscal, who owned the vineyards and winery on the Torrea estate in Elciego.

The winery won its first awards within just 5 years and, in 1883, the site was extended for the first time with the construction of the "El Palomar" wine cellar. It was the first non-French wine producer to be awarded the Diploma of Honor at the Bordeaux Exhibition. Over the years, it reaped more and more success and added new wines to the range, with the City of Wine opening in 2006.

It is step above and beyond the ordinary, attracting people from all over the world keen to enjoy everything it has to offer.

Frank Gehry (2016)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Frank O. Gehry

Gehry is one of the world's leading architects and has made his mark on many cities.

Over the decades, he has advanced his career by constructing public and private buildings in America, Europe, and Asia. His work has earned him the highest recognition, with awards that include the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Wolf Foundation Prize in the Arts (Architecture), the Japan Art Association Praemium Imperiale, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

Frank GehryReal Academia de Gastronomía

His creations are well-known and easily recognizable thanks to their signature shapes and volume. They are real works of art with an exuberant beauty and visual harmony.

Gehry's works include the Corcoran Gallery and School of the Arts and Design in Washington D.C.; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao; the DZ Bank building in Berlin; the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle; the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio); the Millennium Park Music Pavilion and Great Lawn of Chicago; and the Center for the Visual Arts of the University of Toledo.

Marqués de Riscal Winery (1858)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Gehry in Elciego

The Marqués de Riscal building comprises a series of projecting, wave-like wings in 3 colors inspired by wine: the pink tint of red wine, the silver of a bottle top, and the gold of the signature wire on the bottles that this estate produces.

Its architectural style goes above and beyond, shaking off convention and blending into the surrounding landscape with an elegant beauty. Inside its complex geometrical structure there is a reception, lounge, differently designed bedrooms, wine library, and spa. The Canadian architect has had a hand in everything, right down to the smallest details.

Marqués de Riscal Winery (1858)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Although such a design may be dazzling, let's not forget that the real protagonist here is the wine. It is part of La Rioja's living history and is mostly made using region's 3 grape varieties: Tempranillo; Graciano; and, to a lesser extent, Mazuelo. The names of the wines include Marqués de Riscal Reserva and Gran Reserva, Barón de Chirel, Finca Torrea, and Arienzo.

However, there is a glass of another recent creation on offer: Frank Gehry Selection 2012. This second vintage made with the best Tempranillo grapes from Elciego is deep, elegant, and tenacious. It is a drink suited to reflection, to be enjoyed at leisure and, if possible, in excellent company.

Portia WineryReal Academia de Gastronomía


Bodegas Portia is a winery designed by the prestigious British architect Norman Foster, in the heart of Ribera del Duero. This spectacular project has come to symbolize the union between wine and the avant-garde; between the land and the future.

Portia Winery (2010)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The design harmoniously combines 4 materials—steel, wood, concrete, and glass—seamlessly integrating its shapes into the landscape.

The building was inaugurated in 2010 and its 3-pointed star structure covers over 130,000 square feet. Each point is dedicated to a specific part of the winemaking process: fermenting the wine in stainless-steel tanks, maturing it in barrels, and aging it in bottles.

The visitor center sits in the middle of the 3 points and boasts a tasting room, shop, auditorium, meeting room, and cafeteria.

Portia WineryReal Academia de Gastronomía

The winery is set on a hill and uses the terrain to achieve the best conditions for producing wine. Indeed, Foster has managed to create an environmentally-friendly building that uses minimal energy and is perfectly integrated with its surroundings.

Its beauty unfolds with calm and poise amid the brown soil and magnificent reds. This architectural work has managed to capture the style of an estate that moves between power and elegance.

Norman Robert FosterReal Academia de Gastronomía

Norman Robert Foster

Norman Robert Foster is one of the greatest architects of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has won major awards including the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts.

His original high-tech style has softened over the years but his creations always have something of an industrial character. Examples include the Valencia Palacio de Congresos; Hong Kong International Airport; the Cepsa Tower in Madrid; the extension of the Bilbao metro; Wembley Stadium in London; and Buenos Aires City Hall. This series of gems are now permanent landmarks that will help the places where Foster has left his mark to grow and flourish.

Portia WineryReal Academia de Gastronomía

It All Starts with the Vine

Bodegas Portia spans 395 acres across the Roa, Gumiel de Izán, Villanueva, and Gumiel de Mercado areas.

The soils here are the essence of the wines they produce. It is a mix of temperament and personality, influenced in no small part by the area's extreme climate. Particularly important is the emphasis that local agriculture places on respect— something that is evident in every bottle of Portia Prima La Encina. This red has a complex warmth to it, with black fruits and hints of the barrel, and is one to drink at leisure.

Cordoníu Winery (1902-1915)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Freixenet and Codorníu: Two Great Wineries

The Sant Sadurní d’Anoia area near Barcelona is synonymous with cava and home to the Freixenet and Codorníu wineries, which are the first port of call for a glass of this sparkling Spanish wine.

Cordoníu Winery (1902-1915)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Whilst the story of Freixenet began in 1861, Codorníu has over 450 years of history behind it. History and the architecture go hand in hand there, since the buildings that house the 2 wineries are true works of art from the Catalan modernist era.

Cordoníu Winery (1902-1915)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Josep Puig i Cadafalch

Manuel Raventós, the force behind Codorníu, hired architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch to extend the winery in 1895. The result was a building symbolizing the union between nature and the labors of man: a marvel of stone and silence reflecting the stillness that cava requires to become truly great.

Puig i Cadafalch was a protégé of Lluís Domènech i Montaner and is considered to have been the last modernist, and the first representative of Catalan Noucentisme. His work can be split into 3 periods. The first was his modernist era when he created buildings such as Casa Amatller, Casa Martí and, most notably, Casa de les Punxes (also known as Casa Terradas).

He then moved on to rational idealism, before ending his career with a monumentalist period. This coincided with preparations for the 1929 Universal Exposition in Barcelona, for which Puig i Cadafalch was the principal architect.

Freixenet Winery (1889)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Josep Ros i Ros

In 1927, Freixenet built its 5-cellar winery designed by talented architect Josep Ros i Ros to reflect his taste for mixing different styles.

The main building, where visitors now enter the winery, is particularly impressive. It is flanked by 2 medieval-style towers and crowned by a modernist tiled cornice featuring motifs of vine leaves and bunches of grapes, in reference to the production of wine.

Freixenet Winery (1889)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Freixenet and Codorníu are 2 of the largest cava wineries, and both are committed to making a variety of products by combining traditional methods with the latest technologies.

This is ably demonstrated by Freixenet's "Paraje Calificado" (certified top quality) cava, Can Sala, which is made in the Ferrer Sala family's original old winery using grapes from the best plots on the estate. It is always vintage and only produced when the harvest is at its best. The result of 7 years of aging, it is a full-bodied cava with a long finish, an elegant bubble, and hints of compote on the nose.

"Ars Collecta" bottle of cavaReal Academia de Gastronomía

Codorníu's Ars Collecta Paraje Calificado La Fideuera is a cava of a similar quality. This gem is made with Xarello grapes from vines that are over 25 years old and grow in limestone soil, and is aged for 90 months. It is refined and well-structured, elegant and tenacious—a wonder not to be missed.

Ysios Winery (2001)Real Academia de Gastronomía


Our next winery is not far away. We're still in Rioja Designation of Origin territory, this time in Rioja Alavesa. Here, at the foot of the Sierra de Cantabria mountains in the Basque Country, lies Ysios: a winery designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.

Ysios Winery (2001)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The building is near the town of Laguardia, about 11 miles from Logroño—a beautiful historic area that enchants its visitors.

The town's attractions include the ancient city walls, the monastery of Santa María de los Reyes (which has one of the few remaining colorful porticos in Spain), and the Hermitage of Santa María de Berberana (the only one in the region with a square apse).

Ysios Winery (2001)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The winery, designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, has been integrated into the landscape in what its creator has described as "a permanent dialogue between the building and nature."

This breathtaking work has become something of an architectural benchmark for wineries in the region. It is located at the north of a plot covering 775,001 square feet and is high enough to have views of all its vineyards.

Ysios Winery (2001)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The outside of the winery recreates the line of a row of barrels which, reflected in the pools alongside it, creates the impression of large casks. From above, the winery and its access route form the shape of a wine glass.

The building has a linear structure that tracks the journey of the grapes from when they are harvested to the end of the production process. Their 643-foot course is only interrupted by the central visitor area: a glazed double-height space from which you can see the aging rooms and surrounding vineyards.

This natural avant-garde design has already become part of the Rioja Alavesa landscape.

Ysios Winery (2001)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Santiago Calatrava Valls

During his career, this Valencian architect has received major honors and awards, including the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, the Spanish National Architecture Award, and the European Prize for Architecture.

His works include the Bac de Roda Bridge in Barcelona (which won him international recognition); the Lusitania Bridge in Mérida; the Alamillo Bridge in Seville; the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin; the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia; the Tenerife Auditorium; the Roundhouse building in the Swiss town of Suhr; and the reconstruction of the Greek Orthodox Church in New York that was destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

Ysios Winery (2001)Real Academia de Gastronomía

Calatrava is one of the best-known Spanish architects of recent times, and Ysios reveals him at his most radical, yet without losing sight of his surroundings.

But aesthetics should not eclipse the ultimate goal, which is to produce wine—in this case, a new, modern, and select Rioja, made using the best grapes from its vineyards. Technology and research are combined to achieve the desired result: concentration and structure for palates in search of something enduring.

"Venenciador" in JerezReal Academia de Gastronomía

González Byass

The González Byass complex in Jerez de la Frontera (Andalusia) is more than just a building. Crossing the threshold, you find yourself somewhere that resembles a city, with streets and buildings from different eras and origins; a place where you can lose all sense of time, intoxicated by the aromas of fortified wines stored in casks.

Ciegos Street at Tio Pepe winneryReal Academia de Gastronomía

The main building was designed by Eduardo Torroja in 1960 and comprises 4 square units, each with 3 floors, covered with domes and joined together by a rectangular nave. The materials used (exposed brick, concrete, and pavestones) are as weighty as the reputation of the winery itself.

The world of González Byass' sherry brand, Tío Pepe, is full of delights like Calle Ciegos (considered one of the prettiest streets in Spain) and various wine cellars, including Los Gigantes, La Constancia, Los Reyes, and Los Apóstoles.

Real Bodega de la Concha, González Byass wineries (1869)Real Academia de Gastronomía

The standout cellar is Real Bodega de la Concha, designed by engineer Joseph Coogan and the Sevillian foundry Portilla and White using sketches by Gustave Eiffel, the famous architect behind the Eiffel Tower.

This cellar was inaugurated in 1862 to mark a visit from Queen Isabella II, and various monarchs have been here over the years.

Real Bodega de la Concha, González Byass wineriesReal Academia de Gastronomía

The structure does not have any central support. Instead, the weight of the iron dome is held by iron ribs supported by the surrounding wall, giving the cellar the shape of a shell (which is the meaning of the Spanish name "Concha").

The cellar is semi-circular and houses 214 casks of La Concha Amontillado sherry, with 115 flags representing the countries to which González Byass wine is exported.

LIFE Photo Collection

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel

French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel is best known for his flagship project: the iconic Eiffel Tower, constructed for the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition. But this was by no means his only work.

He also designed bridges like the Garabit Viaduct in France, as well as the La Ruche building in Paris, St. Mark's Cathedral in Arica (Chile), the Iron Palace in Veracruz, and the Church of Santa Rosalía in California.

This artist, whose innumerable and varied creations are dotted all over the globe, always stood out for his groundbreaking designs.

José Ángel de la Peña, "Tío Pepe"Real Academia de Gastronomía

This detour exploring Eiffel's work brings us back to La Concha and González Byass to recount the story of a winery that dates back to 1835, when it was founded by Manuel María González Ángel.

The young man's uncle on his mother's side, José Ángel—whom he called Tío Pepe—played an important role in this story. His uncle taught him all he knew about wine, and the brand's original "solera" sherry and one of the most popular wines in Spain today, are still named after him.

Tío Pepe barrels at "Gonzalez Byass" wineriesReal Academia de Gastronomía

Today, the winery is still managed by the fifth generation of the González family, who are determined to make the brand one of the greats, producing wines that impress both in Spain and beyond.

One example is the "Palmas" sherry range, also known as "The Ages of Tío Pepe." These 4 sherries, aged for increasing lengths of time, include the fresh "Una Palma," a beautifully developed "Dos Palmas," a more serious "Tres Palmas," and an extremely well-aged "Cuatro Palmas" amontillado. The selection is produced each year and is always enjoyed to the full.

Credits: Story

Text: Carmen Martinez de Artola.

Image: La Mejorada Winery / Marqués de Riscal / Portia Winery / Freixenet Winery / Cordoníu Winery / Ysios Winery / González Byass Winery.

Acknowledgements: Rafael Ansón, president of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; Elena Rodríguez, director of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; María García and Caroline Verhille, contributors to the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy

This exhibition is part of the Spanish Gastronomy project jointly coordinated by Google Arts & Culture and the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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