Giosuè Carducci sang the praises of the land in which the Masseto winery stands. Its name comes from the blue clay that is an essential element of the hillside as it tends to form hard blocks, known as ‘massi’ or masses, that line the surface of the vineyard. Here, in the 1980s, a series of Merlot vines were planted on a slope that had long been left fallow, and in 1986 the first year of Masseto wine was produced.
The winery is run by the Frescobaldi family who have lived in Tuscany for over seven hundred years and who have recently dedicated their time to developing and celebrating the diversity of the Tuscan terroir.
The first step in refurbishing the winery was taken in 2012, when a Europe-wide tender was launched and the last step was when the building was finished in April 2019.
The architectural directives for the tender specified that the cellar had to be a real work of art. The company therefore launched an invitation to tender that numerous international architectural firms took up, and was won by the ZITOMORI Studio.
The architects Hikaru Mori and Maurizio Zito created a wine-focused architectural design that represents the company, reinforces its brand identity and embodies its philosophy. It is a space for people and technologies that is perfect for production and conservation. The two concepts around which the project was developed are those of “sacredness of place” and “timelessness”, so the building is not tied to any specific period.
The winery does not play a dominant role in the landscape, but blends with it instead. Secondly, the architecture meets the specific functional requirements of the gravity-based production process by vertically stratifying the different stages in the production cycle from grape storage to vinification and onto the barriquerias where the wine is aged.
The ZITOMORI studio therefore created a “Cava” or quarry concept that became the project’s underlying theme. This means that when the complex is seen from the outside, all that emerges from the hillside is the structure where the grapes are delivered and the two floors of the historical building. Because on the inside, the studio created spaces, not by building but by excavation. Overhanging volumes and irregularly shaped empty spaces increase the sensation of being inside a quarry, and the different ribbed and grooved textures of the wall surfaces intensify this extraction effect. The artificial lighting in this environment, which is completely underground, creates an interplay of light and shadow to highlight both the relationship between solid and empty space and the textures on the walls. To achieve this, iRound recessed luminaires were installed directly in the reinforced concrete and set slightly back to avoid problems of glare. In some cases, they were also positioned right next to the vertical walls so their light cones are actually projected on the walls. The depth of the stairs that lead down to the second basement level is marked by Underscore InOut light lines. In this context an outdoor luminaire was used as the environment required an IP66 protection rating due to its high level of humidity. This takes us to the twelve large vats of the fermentation room and from there, through a smoked glass partition, the space widens into the first year barriqueria. From that point, a sunken stairwell leads down to a gangway that rests on a water tank. The texture of the walls in all the rooms, in addition to being highlighted from above with a grazing effect by the recessed luminaires, is also emphasized from below in certain points, using both linear luminaires, such as Linealuce, and pinpoint luminaires like Light Up Orbit.
At the end of the second year barriqueria there is a glass-partitioned tasting room that is a partially suspended cube. On the other side, hidden by a stone covered wall, there is the historic cellar, the Masseto caveaux, where the bottles for each year are stored and suspended in a stainless-steel grid. Running around the barriquerias and the historic cellar there are technical corridors for checking the vinification process. In fact, there are two sides to the winery, which is why the lighting is designed to meet both work and visiting requirements.
Going back to ground level and moving from the darkness towards the light, there is a concrete staircase that leads to the interior of the Casa Masseto. This structure has been rebuilt in a way that preserves its historical character, to pay tribute to a workplace that reveals the secrets of every Masseto vintage and the commitment of the company’s staff to their work and interaction with nature.
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