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By Amanda Barnes
If you were asked what winery in Mendoza makes the biggest impression, it would almost certainly be O Fournier. There are many beautiful wineries in Mendoza from the modern palatial grandeur of Salentein through to the attractive simplicity of historic adobe wineries like at Alta Vista. However O Fournier really does take the biscuit when it comes to the most unusual and interesting of them all.
As you drive up to the winery through the open lands of the Uco valley it strikes you as more of a space ship than grape crushing facility: a flat black cap looks like the wing of a mechanised bird, the central trunk that connects to it resembles the launch base for a rocket, and then there is the curved U-shape foundation that swoops through the vineyards and plants the construction firmly in the ground. The avant-garde architecture is emphasised by the dramatic background of the Andes mountains, and the flat blanket of green vines surrounding it.
Once you step inside though, you begin to understand the beauty of this glass, concrete and steel structure. Its appeal lies in its functionality. This multi-tiered winery uses one of nature’s greatest assets to its benefit: gravity. A continuous gravity flow system minimises the use of pumps and works in a downward progression from the outset.
The view of the Andes mountain range from O Fournier's dining room
The sloped sides create a circuit for the grapes to get seamlessly rolled into the winery, always covered by the shade of the big black cap, so that they can be sorted and distributed straight into the tanks in the central pillar. The fermentation area sits neatly besides and below the reception area, and then the grapes move down the tiers into their next stages of winemaking - through tanks and finally down below ground where the wine is aged in the cellar.
This wine circuit is deeply efficient, however best of all it is the visitor’s circuit that incorporates the more aesthetically pleasing qualities of the construction: a stunning restaurant overlooking a reflective lake and the breathtaking Andes, and a prominent cross shape to the bodega which is symbolic of the Southern Cross. The most atmospheric of all is, of course, the cellar, which sits inaudibly underground giving the wine peace and quiet to develop into the rich and complex wines that are poured into your glass upstairs in the restaurant. How better can you enjoy the awesome architecture of this building than by celebrating its purpose (by enjoying a few glasses of great wine)?
It’s no surprise that O Fournier was selected as Great Wine Capital’s winner for winery architecture last year - it represents the fearless innovation and remarkable character that is shaping up Mendoza’s wine industry today.