Portia Winery: Wine and Architecture in the Ribera del Duero
The worlds of wine, art and architecture unite at Bodegas Portia (part of the Grupo Faustino), another of the great works of prestigious British architect Norman Foster. Where? In the heart of Ribera del Duero.
Opened in October of 2010, with Foster himself in attendance, Bodegas Portia has since become a first-rate tourist destination.
There’s no doubt that Portia is the reflection of how the wine world has surrendered itself to the elegance and craftsmanship that the world of architecture has to offer. Today’s wine makers are not just striving to present a perfect and meticulously bottled product, rather more and more of them have become aware of wine’s important draw as a tourist attraction.
The 12,500 m2 building is shaped like a trefoil, or a three-point star, comprised of three wings that come together in a central area which houses the services that are open to the public, including the store, tasting room, auditorium, meeting rooms and cafeteria. Each wing has a different function with regard to wine production: fermentation in steel tanks, and barrel and bottle ageing. Foster designed the building using cement, steel, wood and glass.
A road across the winery’s roof
The harvest of the 150 hectares of grapes carefully cultivated by Grupo Faustino on 26 different plots marks the initiation of the wine making process for the different varieties of wines made by Portia.
A road on the winery’s roof makes it possible for vehicles to directly unload their grapes under ideal circumstances, helping the fruit remain intact until it is placed in the vats. The wine then begins to ferment inside 46 stainless steel tanks with a 30,000 liter capacity and a truncated shape that hints at the unique characteristics of a wine that, in addition to flavor, thrives off of its own aesthetics. This is demonstrated by the next-generation machinery found on the more than 11,000-meter surface area that comprises the winery.
The heart of the winery is where the coupage takes place. This French term refers to the blending of the wines from the same or different vintages or batches, until the desired outcome is attained.
From the “heart,” we move to another of the winery’s arteries: the ageing rooms. This space is where the wine sleeps. More than a thousand French and American oak casks are stacked from right to left in an underground cellar with the capacity to store 6,000 barrels.
A reddish light illuminates this part of the room, emulating the raspberry hues that are so typical of the wines from this region – a light that rises up from the floor, illuminating the bottoms of the barrels.
Portia in international markets
The wines that bear the Portia label travel halfway around the world. The United States, England, Switzerland, France and England are only a few of the markets where Bodegas Portia exports its products. As testament to the huge international acceptance of this brand, it’s enough to cite the fact that Portia Prima 2007 was the wine chosen for the toast at the banquet in honor of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winners in Stockholm.
The pairing of these Ribera del Duero wines with international cuisine is, in part, responsible for the fact that countries that until now had consumed their own wines, are now interested in these. This is the case with countries like Israel, Japan and China, all of them habitual consumers of DO Ribera del Duero wines. In this vein, Bodegas Portia (Grupo Faustino) has signed an exclusive distribution agreement for the Chinese market with the company Cofco Wines and Sprits, the world’s most important food and drinks company on a worldwide level (for example, it is the top distributor of Coca Cola globally).
Text: El Vino Magazine
Photos: Portia Winery