WORDS Michaela Stehr IMAGES Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes
The wine cellar at Babylonstoren has expanded (downwards) into an intriguing underground wine tunnel, which you can explore during an interactive tour.
A new subterranean tunnel at Babylonstoren links the wine production cellar with the underground barrel storage, and provides more processing space for the winery’s extensive offering. As you head down into the tunnel, it’s clear that the design of the space was developed with the sights and sounds of winemaking firmly in mind.
According to Chris Fick of Malherbe Rust Architects – part of the team behind the project – a key driver of the flow was accommodating the cellar tours that the farm runs daily, and which are central to celebrating real farm activities as part of the guest experience. The tunnel architecture adds to the immersive nature of the tours, during which visitors learn about farm processes.
In the cellar, a terracotta-coloured concrete floor and exposed-brick walls support an undulating roof, which descends into the bowels of the building and will provide a foundation for the vineyards that are due to be planted above it. Pools of light trickling in from ceiling skylights give the space a warm glow and create a moody atmosphere.
Each level houses different fermentation and storage vessels that have been used through the ages – all are part of the range of current wine-production methods at Babylonstoren, and range from Italian-made clay pots similar to those used by the Romans 6 000 years ago, to the more contemporary nomblot (also known as the “concrete egg”), which hails from Burgundy, France. Further down the tunnel are gigantic French oak casks, each containing more than 4 000 litres of wine.
Guests enjoy their tasting in the vinoteque, surrounded by bottles and casks of wine in various stages of maturation. Each Babylonstoren wine is paired specifically with treats grown and made on the very farm you sit beneath.