A recent passion project with a dedication to earth-friendly practices resulted in the conversion of a historical landscape into the Delas Frères Winery in the Rhone Valley, France.

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a green landscape with a river cutting through green hills

Farming in the area is almost as old as the land itself. In fact, the terraced hills above Tain l’Hermitage have been cultivated since Roman times. However, the modern setting is more urban than rustic, making it an unlikely choice for a winery. But architect Carl Fredrik Svenstedt rose above the challenges, melding the old with new.

a white building with long, thin windows and a staircase to the right

The result is a renovated manor house and surrounding walled garden. The main house, now called the guest house, offers overnight visitors bedrooms, a restaurant and a tasting room. A new wine cellar and shop were thoughtfully constructed to frame the existing building. Ramps connect areas of the winery, allowing visitors to enjoy expansive views from the upper level or observe the wine-making process.

a covered walkway with shadows

Using solid structural stone leaves a lower carbon footprint compared to steel or concrete, and the materials were locally sourced from a nearby quarry so transport emissions were low. Although sustainability was at the forefront of the design, the stone also marries well with the needs of the facility by providing thermal cooling to moderate the temperatures for the wine during production and storage. Controlling the natural light is another aspect of the architecture that effectively lowers lighting costs. Skylights stream sunlight into common visitor areas while the placement of the stone walls reflects light that would be detrimental to the wine tanks and barrels.

interior of a light gray building with wavy textured facade and floor-to-ceiling windows on the left

A high groundwater level means the building can only be partly sunk below grade, but provides for the geothermal system that aids in the buildings’ climate control.

a curved glass wall to the left on a hallway. outside are green trees

The walls of the winery invite touch. They speak of the history of the area with Estaillade stone from down the river. The main wall measures 80 meters long and 7 meters high and is made from blocks individually carved by a robot. According to a statement from the winery and Svenstedt Architects, “Intelligent machining reduces waste, while the resulting gravel is reused to pave the garden. Despite the unique technicity of the wall, the blocks are mounted traditionally by a two-man father and son team of stonemasons.”

an interior hallway with off-white chairs and tables. windows line the wall

Delas Frères Winery was the winner of the AMP award for sustainability in 2019.

Images by Dan Glasser