In the 2000s, Marques de Riscal started a new trend hiring world-renowned architects to design statement wineries. Portia Winery followed suit by hiring Norman Foster for their Ribera del Duero headquarters, a Spanish region home to many wineries.
This was the first winery to be designed by Foster + Partners, so they really looked at this building type with a fresh and innovative concept. The trefoil design takes advantage of the natural topology of the landscape to aid in the vinification process. Trucks drive on a ramp on one of the wings and drive off on a second ramp on the second wing. They drop the grapes straight into the sorting facility at the center of the building, taking benefit of gravity and avoiding mechanical conveyor belts.
At the interior, each wing represents a different function and step in the winemaking process: fermentation in steel vats, aging in oak barrels, and aging in bottles. The two aging processes occur in the wings partly embedded in the natural landscape. Material choices are concrete, wood, steel, and glass, representing all materials linked to the winemaking process: the terroir or soil, the barrels, the fermentation vats, and the bottles. The level of detail in the design is impressive as even the steel fermentation vats have been designed from the ground up by the Foster + Partners team. Throughout the three wings, red-stained windows have been added as a reference to medieval churches, reinforcing this winery’s stature to be a church of wine.