Like wine, which so often aims to translate terroir and the voice of the winemaker, architecture has the ability to tell the story of period and place. The era in which a structural style evolved and spread can reflect the culture, politics and prosperity of a people. And, of course, it also reveals the building materials and techniques that were in vogue at the time.
Given that the two categories share this fascinating power, it’s hardly surprising that wine and architectural design have many times been linked. Indeed, some of the world’s most beautiful buildings are wineries. Today, a look at these structures offers a near-bottomless opportunity to explore the world. Ahead, five estates with which to start an epic vinous journey.
Shavnabada Monastery of St. George
The Orthodox Church of Georgia is one of the oldest in the world, adopting Christianity as the state religion in 337 A.D. From the fourth century, winemaking was considered an important monastic activity for rituals and everyday consumption.
The Shavnabada Monastery was constructed during the High Middle Ages, a time of expansion and wealth, when architectural elements were designed largely with religion in mind. As with most structures of this period, the buildings within this monastic complex boast vaulted, mural-covered ceilings that stretch upward to signify a reach for God.
The cellar was restored in 1992, and it resumed wine production in 1998, now overseen by Brother Markus. Handpicked grapes like Saperavi, often foot-trodden, are macerated and aged traditionally in qvevri, then bottled and sold to an eager American market.
Villa Della Torre Allegrini
After the Middle Ages, 14th-century Italian thinkers declared a rebirth of learning predicated on art and culture. Architecture eschewed Medieval Gothic-styled structures, and instead highlighted order and emotion. Villa Della Torre Allegrini had two architects, one a pupil of Raphael, and was completed around 1545.
The Allegrini family, a benchmark producer of Amarone wine, acquired the property in the early 2000s, and has since restored the palace as a hospitality center with luxury accommodations. Still, today’s wine-sipping visitors can gaze upon several facets of Italian Renaissance design, like the villa’s four gargantuan fireplaces framed by the jaws of distorted angel, devil, sea monster and lion figures, or the peristyle, a column-surrounded courtyard that once served as the reception area for noble guests.
In Crocetta del Montello, the heart of Prosecco country, Villa Sandi pops against a backdrop of lush, emerald-hued hills. Built in 1622, the regal winery structure represents an approach to design conceptualized by influential architect Andrea Palladio, whose compositions incorporated order and symmetry to pay homage to classical antiquity.
Today, the family-owned estate is recognized as much for its profound regional connection as it is for its wines. The property immediately impresses with its grandiose neoclassical promenade. Adorned with statues by Venetian sculptor Orazio Marinali, it leads to a wide and grand pronaos, a vestibule enclosed by Ionian columns, like that of classical Greek or Roman temples. The interior is just as striking, characterized by elegant stuccos, bas-reliefs and Murano-made chandeliers.
The Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards
St. Helena, CA
The Rhine House stands as an exquisite example of Victorian architecture, a style characterized by Gothic features mixed with French, Italian and Egyptian influences. It was popular during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria in England.
Completed in 1884 for just $28,000, the 17-room mansion was constructed to be the private residence of vineyard cofounder Frederick “Fritz” Beringer. (Comparatively, the building’s 2009 renovation cost an estimated $3,000,000.)
Designed by famous architect Albert Schroepfer, the property boasts ornate elements like turrets, a gabled roof of Pennsylvania slate, carved woodwork and 41 intricate stained-glass windows that echo the trends of the Victorian era. Meanwhile, a dark lumber interior is meant to imitate the family’s home on Germany’s Rhine. Guests can take it all in while tasting a selection of reserve wines on the house’s stately wrap-around veranda.
Known for designing several of Barcelona’s most significant buildings, renowned architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch also left the imprint of Catalan Modernisme on one of the oldest and largest wine producers in Spain: Codorníu.
In 1895, Manuel Raventós hired Puig i Cadafalch to expand the winery and cellars. At the time, Catalan Modernisme was the regional interpretation of Art Nouveau. This ornamental style of fluid, organic lines inspired by nature traces its roots to a backlash against industrialization and the diminished role of craftsmanship. Codorníu winery and the Sala Puig or “Cathedral of Cava” earned a National Historical-Artistic Heritage nod in 1976 and can be toured by visitors, a glass of bubbles served at the end.