High standards meant that from the first vintage years, Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle understood the necessity of a cellar exclusively dedicated to Clos Apalta. The renowned Chilean architect, Roberto Benavente Riquelme, was asked to design a building with an ambitious and unique infrastructure, harmoniously integrated into the existing landscape. Used for refining the wines, this cellar was designed to cater for the complexity of Clos Apalta’s terroirs. For the first time, an architectural masterpiece became a dwelling place for the Chilean wine.
An architectural feat
Soberly functional, yet aesthetically and conceptually grandiose, the cellar’s dazzling beauty does not meet the eye above the ground, instead, buried, it solemnly preserves a breathtaking mystery. From reflection to realization, six years (1999-2005) were needed to give birth to this 4,600 square metre cellar, seven floors of which were excavated in the rock (35 meters deep). Thousand-year old underground water lines were dug along in the hill and the immense wall of granite rocks has been preserved in order to collect the runoff. From the arrival of the grapes to their bottling, the visitors experience a vertical trip, imitating the downwards movement of water.
A spectacular cellar, unique in design, totally buried in the rock, the volumes of which are imperceptible from the outside. Nothing appears but huge wooden slats depicting the splinters of an open-air barrel. A decade later and going through the gate of Clos Apalta’s cellar still causes the same shock! It remains an essential stop on the Chilean circuit.
Michel Rolland, Consultant
Allegory of the surrounding nature
The large rocks, found on-site, were converted into tiles and placed in every part of the cellar to reaffirm this link with nature. A glass tasting table, engraved with the etching of natural granite rocks, opens on to two stairs that lead to the wine library, the Marnier Lapostolle family’s personal cellar. The twenty-four wooden beams, resembling a conch, stand towards the sky; they show the number of months necessary for the production of Clos Apalta wine. The sundial on the roof is made up of five granite stones, which are an allegory of the vegetative cycle of the vine: bud break, flowering, fruit set, veraison and maturity. The shadow cast by each stone corresponds to a stage of the vineyard’s evolution.
In praise of gravity
We preserve the wines from all unnecessary mechanization: the grapes enter the fermentation vats, arranged in a picturesque circle. Below, a barrel cellar ensures ageing, before assembly and transfer to the lower level for an additional year of maturing. At the lowest level is the Vinotheque, where the bottles age slowly between granite blocks.
By its succession of descending floors, this cellar is 100% gravitational. From the reception of the grapes to bottling, no winemaking operation takes place; no pumping, no mechanical stress. A perfectly adapted working tool.
Michel Rolland, Consultant
Nearest to the terroir
The twenty-one vats each able to hold 75-hectoliters (1 hectare and a half), adapted to the different varietals and terroirs, makes it possible to maintain the individual expression of each wine and allows a more accurate parcel vinification. In short, it is a skilful way of creating infinite varieties of wine.
We aim to push the expression of a terroir to its maximum.
Charles-Henri de Bournet, President and CEO
Such a division makes it possible to form the wine with much more precision; a precision that will be seen during the final assembly of the wine.
Michel Rolland, Winemaker Consultant