FLOATING on air and transparent
With its spectacular new tasting room, the tradition-steeped Hensel Winery in Bad Dürkheim is causing quite a stir. The new showroom opened in July 2017 and architecture fans are already making the pilgrimage to visit the building, which presents the central forum of a winery in a radically different way.
The new showroom seems to float on air. Two concrete steps provide access to the building, but the support elements are concealed. What perfect architecture for wines with names like ‘Aufwind’ (‘Upwind’), ‘Ikarus’ (‘Icarus’) and ‘Höhenflug’ (‘High-altitude flight’)! The connection to weightlessness and flying is a trademark of the Hensel Winery. After all, it is located right by the Bad Dürkheim recreational airport. “I wanted the new wine shop to go with the modern overall image”, says Thomas Hensel, who took over the 24-hectare vineyard in Bad Dürkheim from his father in 2010 and has also attracted attention with purist bottle labels. “The old tasting room was also of high quality, but a little drab inside”, Thomas Hensel explains. “The little light that shone through the crown glass windows was almost completely swallowed up by the dark oak furnishings.”
The new showroom also features oak, but in this case a reddish-brown thermal oak with a finely textured finish is used to clad the surrounding terrace. The wood is heat treated to make it more robust. It is a very rare material as few producers anywhere in the world are able to thermally modify oak. This is just one of the many fascinating details of this masterpiece by the architect Lars Nicklas, with whom Thomas Hensel already worked back in 2011 to renovate the winery’s cellar. Lars Nicklas does not specialise in buildings for the wine sector. He had to start by getting a feel for this world. He joined Thomas Hensel on visits to multiple wineries with new-builds in order to obtain insights into how several practical requirements were dealt with. The two men then worked together to develop a building that was specifically and uniquely tailored to the Hensel Winery. The new-build is all about transparency. A nine-metre-wide, floor-to-ceiling glazed frontage virtually brings the vines into the interior.
Half of this frontage can also be opened. “I wanted to make the showroom clearly visible from the outside. Everyone can see inside and everyone can step inside”, says Thomas Hensel. “This alleviates any fears visitors may have about entering. Buying wine is a matter of trust. And the best way to gain people’s trust is through openness.” As well as through clarity. “We aim to express the clarity of our wine and the viticulture process through our winery’s architecture”, says the 46-year-old owner. The materials play a role in this. The pavilion walls are simply rendered, the floor is made of ceramic tiles and the ceiling is clad in cement bonded wood-wool insulation panels. Everything is very clean and minimalist. The building structure, design and contents are in perfect harmony, with a flowing transition between the exterior and the interior. In recent years, over 100 new wine shops have been established in Rhineland-Palatinate. The showroom at the Hensel Winery is definitely one of the most impressive. “Viticulture and architecture have always belonged together”, explains Thomas Hensel. “You just have to think about the magnificent châteaus in the Bordelais region, which still shape the image of Bordeaux wines today.”
What the Hensel Winery has in common with BORA is that its owner and chief winemaker Thomas Hensel also endeavours to veer off the beaten track, rethink processes and pursue innovative directions. In doing this, top quality is naturally a constant. It is therefore no surprise that the excellent wines are also served on the BORA Revolution Tour. Hovering 30 metres in the air in a glass cube while drinking heavenly wines with names that translate as ‘Upwind’, ‘Icarus’ and ‘High-altitude flight’ – a partnership could not be more perfect and packed with enjoyment.