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Six must-visit wineries

Fine wine meets architectural mastery as vineyards go all out to attract discerning tourists

AS WINE tourism becomes increasingly popular, many of France's most illustrious wineries have renovated their facilities to provide the best experience for visitors.

Oenotourists, who are more and more eager to uncover the secrets of wine-making, will also delight in the architectural charm of the cellars and vat rooms, some of which are the work of top international architects and designers. Here, we take a look at six architectural marvels among France's wineries:

Château Cheval Blanc
With its legendary vineyards, classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Château Cheval Blanc in Saint-Emilion, just outside of Bordeaux, is among the world's most picturesque wineries. Its cellar, which opened in June 2011 after 16 months of construction, was designed by the architect and urban planner Christian de Portzamparc, who created a wave-like structure calling to mind "a groundswell, carried by concrete sails towards the light and the skies".

The Tavel cellar, a French national treasure
With its unique and historic architecture, the Cave Coopérative de Tavel, a cellar shared by several wineries in the southern part of the Rhône Valley, was officially named a French national heritage site in July 2013. The region has seen its reputation take off in recent years as its rosé wines have become more popular, and the new status of its cellar is likely to further enhance its prestige.

Domaine Les Aurelles
The owners of this winery, Basile Saint Germain and Karl Mauguin, called upon Eric Castaldi and Gilles Perraudin to bring a modern spirit to the site in the early 2000s. Perraudin designed an impressive cellar in natural stone slabs, with remarkable thermal and acoustic properties.

Château Faugères
When designing the cellar at the Chateau Faugères in Saint-Emilion, Swiss architect Mario Botta aimed to "establish a comparison between the 'rational' architecture built by man and the 'natural' evolution of the landscape, for the mutual enrichment of both". The architect was commissioned in 2009 by fellow Swissman Silvio Denz, the winery's owner, to design this monumental, stylish and functional structure, which since bears the name Chai-Cathédrale de Mario Botta.

Château Pavie
The Parisian interior design firm of Alberto Pinto was brought in to remodel the Château Pavie, which reopened after two years of construction in June 2013. The structure, all in natural stone, stretches across 8,500sq.m, with an additional 1,500sq.m terrace. The blending, packaging and storage cellars occupy 600sq.m on the ground floor, while the opposite wing welcomes visitors to the site, with its tasting room and gift shop.

Château Mouton Rothschild
This world-famous winery called upon the architect Bernard Mazières, along with the set designer Richard Peduzzi, to oversee the renovation of its cuvier, or vat room, which re-opened on June 16 this year after two and a half years of renovation. The space houses 64 vats in a harmonious blend of wood and steel, with its oak beams and metallic pillars. According to Richard Peduzzi, the design of the vat house calls to mind the imagery of the Encyclopedia edited by the French Enlightenment philosophers Diderot and d'Alembert.

© AFP/Connexion

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