"More than a cellar door"

International best of wine tourism / Architecture and landscape

In my opinion you will never get enough of the gently rolling hills of McLaren Vale, but if you are looking to offer your eyes a bit more excitement the winner for the Best of International Wine Tourism has got you covered! The d'Arenberg Cube will have you lapping up the big picture, while needing time to soak up all the amazing details, too.

Actually, the d'Arenberg Cube is a 2018 winner in two categories: International Best Wine Tourism, and – of course – Architecture and Landscape. Although the Cube is a new and unexpected addition for the region since last year, it is not an unexpected winner in these categories. A building made entirely out of glass, shaped like a Rubik's cube, which surprisingly enough seems to really fit in the Mourvèdre vineyard surrounding it – that is a feat we all need to take a closer look at.

Chester Osborn designed the entire building with in mind not only the outside architecture, but also how he would use the space to tell the story of his winemaking family, the history of the d'Arenberg brand, their colourful labels and mostly just how sexy the process is of turning grapes into wine (take note of the sexy woman ‘swimming' her way through the tasting benches). You will find all of this back in the ever-evolving art installations in the building (120 and counting) and the flow of the different levels you move through to get to the tasting room at the top level. By taking you on a sensory journey from the very moment you walk in you are prepared to actually really taste your wine.

The Cube seems to be floating in the vineyard as the ground level is fully surrounded by mirrors, showing the visitor walking up nothing but the green vines around it. And while you are getting closer to your tasting experience you will hear the first art installation, Weather for Vines. Music is playing (for the pleasure of the vines of course), and what you are hearing is based on the live weather reading in the Vale! Once inside, the Alternate Realities Museum on the ground level guides you through the wine aroma room where Chester's old tasting bench is hanging from the roof - complete with the number of glasses he would usually have on it - and gets you to smell different aromas hanging from flasks on the wall. Then there is the 360° video room, the virtual fermenter and more art work than your brain can probably really handle in one visit. Once you make your way through all of this you get to go up to the tasting room, or the restaurant if you are booked in for a degustation lunch, where the pace is noticeably slower and all about letting the wine taking control of the story here.

Some may call the ‘Willy Wonka Wine Factory' an overload of the senses, and the building something that does not really fit in with the general range of cellar doors in McLaren Vale. However, I have an (unconfirmed) suspicion that this was part of the plan when Chester designed the building and its purpose. From the Alternate Realities Museum to the tasting bench, it is all about your perception. As Olivia Moore, d'Arenberg product marketing coordinator, puts it: "Your reality of tasting wine is different to my reality, it is all based on personal experiences." What might work for someone might not work for everyone, but d'Arenberg at least makes sure your experience will be educational and above all, interesting.

The Cube is open every day from 10am-5pm for tastings at cellar door, and takes bookings for groups. Multiple experiences (from blending wine to helicopter rides) are on offer to learn all about the wines, McLaren Vale and the d'Arenberg history, as well as an amazing degustation lunch Thursday through to Sunday.

Written by Lieke van der Hulst

Photo Credit the South Australian Tourism Commission

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