The Pozo de Tintainstallation in the Castilian vineyards of Bodega Numanthia.
The well conserves three bottles of the fine Termanthia wine 3 meters underground.
Selecting grapes after hand picking.
The metal structure goes as deep as the centuries-old Tinta de Toro vine roots.
Reinventing the wine cellar and redesigning a space: the 5.5 designers collective has created a wine well in Spain, where three exceptional vintages can be kept cool. Land design at the source.
strange miracle has taken place in Valdefinjas, a little village in Castile-León. Under a vast sky, wine emerges from the depths of the earth. As if by magic, three bottles are raised by an astonishing sculpture-cum-portico designed by the agency 5.5 designers. The bottles contain a rare wine: Termanthia, made with grapes from the best vineyard in the Toro appellation. This wine packed with sun and intense aromas, of which no more than 6,000 bottles are produced each year, is made by Bodega Numanthia, an estate owned by the Moët Hennessy group. It is noon and the sun is at its peak: “When we came here for the first time, we were overwhelmed by the landscape,” explains Vincent Baranger, one of the agency’s four designers, together with Jean-Sébastien Blanc, Anthony Lebossé and Claire Renard. “It was during the grape harvest. Big wires had been stretched above the vines and hung with silver foil to keep the birds away. It was like coming across a contemporary art installation. When Bodega Numanthia asked us to reflect on a new way of approaching their wine, we wanted to create a work that was beautiful and functional, like those winemakers’ garlands.
Echoes of the vines
When major wine and spirit brands contact designers, it is generally to ask them to redesign packaging or to create a limited-edition box. More substantial collaborations are few and far between. For a long time this was the case for 5.5 designers: for Veuve Clicquot, they created a rosé box with built-in handle; for Moët & Chandon, a gilded box that keeps the Champagne cool; and for Belvedere Vodka, another box, but one that has two uses, becoming an ice cube container. These unusual projects earned them numerous accolades, but often limited them to aesthetic considerations. “Our aim is not only to produce objects, no matter how beautiful or creative they are, but to tell an overall story that enables brands and companies to evolve.” So Bodega Numanthia came along at just the right moment. “We have been working with them for two years. Everything required thought: the appellation, the identity of the two winesTermanthia and Numanthiaand finally the concept of heritage, since this is a very old variety with a history we found exciting.”
The taste of Castile
When Christopher Columbus left Palos de la Frontera in 1492 to look for a new route to the Indies, he loaded wine from Toro on his caravel. When phylloxera destroyed most of the vines in Europe in the 19th century, the Tinta de Toro varieties were the only ones that withstood the attack. Wine lovers will be familiar with the legend of this unique wine, made with grapes from original vines, some of which are 140 years old. “The resistance of these vines is due to the fact that they have deep roots to obtain the nutrients they need. They draw moisture from a depth of between 2.5 and 3 meters. That is what gave us the idea for our Pozo de Tinta installation: digging a narrow cavity in the ground to house three exceptional bottles, which remain cool until they are freed.” The 5.5 designers also drew inspiration from a local practice. Everywhere in the region the wine producers have created little caves called tuda, where they can shelter from the sun when they pick grapes and stash food and wine.
This is not 5.5 designers’ first “land design” project. For the La Ferté-Vidame park, they designed a piece of furniture for visitors to sit in that brings them level with the ground, giving them a different perspective on the site. At the Centre d’Art et de Design La Cuisine in Nègrepelisse, they created picnic areas that have permanent checkered picnic tablecloths made out of pâte de verre mosaic. At Bodega Numanthia, they had to take into account the particular history and geography of the place, because the vineyard consists of several small plots that all lie some distance from each other. “The work we designed is intended to be a sort of beacon in a vineyard that is very fragmentary. With this faceted sculpture, carved like a diamond, we frame the landscape in various ways. The viewpoint is always different wherever you stand. We wanted to create a way of experiencing the place. This vineyard is very unique. We had to symbolize it with a work that makes a poetic link between man and nature.”