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How these ‘wine temples’ changed Argentina’s wine industry

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Argentina is now the 5th largest producer of wine in the world.
Argentina is now the 5th largest producer of wine in the world.   -   Copyright  AFP   -  

Two architects helped put Argentina’s wine on the world stage by building ‘wine temples’.

Argentina has a long history of wine making but until the mid 1990s most wine was considered ‘table wine’ and was not exported outside of Argentina.

These days Argentina is the World’s 5th largest producer of wine. Its province of Mendoza is internationally renowned for its Malbec red wine. But what you might not know is that it has also become a global leader in winery and wine cellar architecture.

What’s the difference between a winery and a vineyard?

A winery is a building or place where wine is produced. This isn’t to be confused with a vineyard which is where the grapes for the wine are grown. Many artisan wine producers like those in Mendoza have their wineries surrounded by their vineyards which makes them a great place to visit.

How did Argentina put itself on the world wine map?

In 1991 the then Argentinian President Carlos Menem tied the value of the peso to the US dollar. This didn’t have entirely positive effects on the country but it did help to increase Argentina’s international trade and meant that Argentinian wines could be competitively priced for the US market.

At the end of the 1990s, winegrowers in Mendoza decided to produce quality wines that could compete on international markets. They enlisted the help of Bormida Yanzon, an architecture firm, to design and build wineries across the region.

Twenty years later, the Argentinian wine industry has boomed and the drama, style and scale of these magnificent buildings, dedicated to all things wine, have earned them the nickname ‘wine temples’.

The light, textures, sounds, materials and smells in their wine temples all play a role in the wine tasting experience

What is a wine temple?

Eliana Bormida and Mario Yanzon have worked on more than 40 projects across the Mendoza region. They create unique buildings designed to be at the cutting edge of wine production and education, but also luxurious settings for guests to visit and taste the wines.

The light, textures, sounds, materials and smells in their wine temples all play a role in the wine tasting experience and the architects have considered every detail of their designs to stimulate the senses during a visit.

Where can I find these wine temples?

The Mendoza wine region is set in the arid climate at the foothills of the Andes mountain range in west Argentina. The dramatic and unique scenery has inspired the architects to develop, what they call, ‘landscape architecture’ which aims to create buildings which work harmoniously with the landscape and don’t detract from the surrounding natural beauty.

In this landscape, the Andes stand out, like the 'prima donna' of the stage
Mario Yanzon

One half of the duo, Mario Yanzón, explains their design approach, saying, "In this landscape, the Andes stand out, like the 'prima donna' of the stage. So we try not to make our architecture compete with what you have to see first, which is the mountain range."

Each design is unique to its location and the producer. The architects take inspiration from traditional building techniques, Indigenous communities and the surrounding landscape.

Their project at the Salentein Bodega, in the Uco Valley, links a wine cellar, chapel and visitor centre and is surrounded by 2,000 hectares of vineyards. It is built in the style of a Greek cross and the site looks like a temple inspired by renaissance churches.

The visitor centre has been given the name ‘Killka’, which is the Quechan word for ‘entrance’, a language still widely spoken among Andean people. For its facade, the architects used an ancient technique known as cyclopean masonry, using sand and stones taken from the surrounding earth.

Watch the video above to learn more about Mendoza’s wine temples.

Video editor • Hannah Brown