exterior of winery showing garden and curved roof of the subterranean storage area

The First Winery in Europe to Receive LEED Gold Is a Subterranean Marvel

RCR Arquitectes designed a hyper-efficient winery for the Perelada Group in Northern Catalonia that breaks the mold of wine tourism destinations.

Wineries in Spain, at least the ones that open their doors to the general public, loosely fall into the two architectural styles: The century-old bodegas of the heritage denominations and the eye-catching contemporary buildings built by a newer wave of winemakers. A decade or so ago the starchitect phenomenon also left its mark, with spectacularly showy structures set amongst the vineyards and signed by international names like Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, and others.

A new winery for the Perelada Group designed by the 2017 Pritzker-prize winning studio RCR arquitectes falls outside both categories. For starters, it’s almost entirely underground. Secondly, sustainability and energy reduction were given as much consideration as aesthetics.

The Perelada Group is a prominent winemaking dynasty with several estates in the Empordá region of Northern Catalonia. Their new winery is situated on the grounds of the its flagship estate, on the edge of the medieval village that gave the company it’s name.

interior of underground storage with wine casks

It annexes a historical part of the estate dating from 1935—a configuration of workers cottages and agricultural buildings that have been converted into a smart visitors’ center, a wine bar, and offices that support the wine experience they now offer.

The architecture studio RCR are also from Northern Catalonia, and their works, despite or perhaps because of, their avant-garde character, often effortlessly merge into the natural environment, transcending into the realm of landscape art. From the beginning RCR had were clear that Perelada’s new winery must be subterranean in nature.

More from Metropolis

vats of wine in cavernous space
brutalist hallway with dramatic lighting

From the exterior, the bodega is barely perceptible. It’s gently curved, low-level roof is vegetated, except for an earth-colored weathering steel canopy that shelters a bay for the delivery of grapes during the harvest. Visitors descend from here; first into a labyrinth of enclosed hallways, each one projecting a multimedia presentation of describing each of Perelada’s estates, with the idea that they will come to better understanding of the terroir of the Empordá region.

This experience is a mere aperitivo for the main event, which is centered around viewing the facilities, from elevated platforms, vast and pillar-less chambers, in which the key functions of wine processing—crushing, fermentation and aging—take place. In the fermentation room, 188 gigantic stainless-steel vats guard the entire quantities of must produced from the company’s extensive vineyards, and the aging room is a seamless sea of pristine oak casks enclosed by softly textured concrete walls. The industrial nature of the structure is diminished with a sequence of timber partitions, natural lighting though perforation in the rooftop, and giant charcoal-colored swing doors that reverently usher you from one section to another. 

curved roof over rows and rows of wine casks

The work is the first winery in Europe to receive a LEED® Gold certification. Its core sustainable feature is a foundation of 538 geothermic energy wells sunk to depths of 24 to 60 feet that have reduced the energy required for heating and cooling water by 37 percent. Climatic insulation occurs naturally through the walls’ contact with the ground, and the two-level layout (with the upper level for grape intake) cuts down on the energy needed to move vast quantities of grapes and must. 

Perelada hopes that the opening of their new winery will place Empordá on the international wine tourism map. Already known for its experimental and creative wines, with RCR’s daring design and concept the company has found its perfect paring.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]