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The Modernist Wine-Tasting Complex That Has Oenophiles Flocking to Australia

Fourteen years in the making and with a price tag of more than A$14 million, historic South Australian winery d'Arenberg has finally opened their much-hyped Cube, a five-story interactive tasting and dining complex where reality blurs. By ELOISE BASUKI. Photographs by LEIGH GRIFFITHS.

Published on Mar 13, 2018


WINEMAKER CHESTER OSBORN isn't afraid to confuse you. Beyond the cryptic label names of his d'Arenberg wines (for example, The Cenosilicaphobic Cat, named after Osborn's teetotal feline named Booze), the fourthgeneration winemaker has opened the doors to his most puzzling project yet, the d'Arenberg Cube. Looming over the original 1912 McLaren Vale winery, just a 30-minute drive from Adelaide and an iconic piece of South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula, the multi-level cellar door, restaurant, function center and interactive gallery is designed in the shape of a Rubik's Cube.

The d'Arenberg Cube.
The d'Arenberg Cube.

"The building comes from the idea that our label names are such a puzzle to work out, and wine is such a puzzle to work out. So, what's the most iconic puzzle? A Rubik's Cube," says Osborn, who designed the five-story building himself. The Cube's exterior is wrapped in another geometric mind-twister, while the building's mirrored bottom layer reflects the surrounding Mourvèdre vines, conjuring the effect that the Cube is floating.

It's an experience from beginning to end. The pathway is lined with six speakers that play soundscapes created from the local weather station; Osborn has built the very first automated natural winemaker, so you can smell wine maturing as you enter the door; peep holes peer into a six-hour film of the winemaker having a party with his friends; Osborn's personal art collection is on display under a rooftop of red plastic balls, making it feel like you're in a barrel of grapes; the 360-degree cinema room tells the d’Arenberg story and the history of its labels; and an aroma room covered in plastic fruit has smelling jars filled with aromatics such as cherries, cloves, honey and oak—notable characters in d'Arenberg's wines.

"The whole gallery is an alternate reality. We've turned the weather into sound, there's the reverse perspective art as you walk in and the peep show that isn't actually there," Osborn says. "It shows how your senses can be changed just by the environment you're in. When you drink one wine and have another wine straight after it, you're going to be altered by that."

The gallery's red light emulates a wine barrel.
The gallery's red light emulates a wine barrel.

Above this Willy Wonka–like gallery, there's room for sophistication, too. The third floor reveals an open kitchen helmed by South African husband and wife Brendan Wessels and Lindsay Dürr, who cook modern tasting menus for the softly lit dining space above. The top level has a state-of-the-art tasting room, with endless views of McLaren Vale's rolling vineyards and the sparkling blue waters of the Fleurieu coast. "The tasting room at d'Arenberg has been full for the past 13 years," Osborn says. "Something bigger like this has been in the back of my mind for many years. It offers a completely different experience." Puzzles like this are a joy to work out.


d'Arenberg winery;; cellar door open daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; cellar door entry is A$10 per person and includes a standard tasting; restaurant open for lunch, Thursdays–Sundays; tasting menus from A$150.





Off Piste 4WD Tours
Jump into McLaren Vale tour guide Ben Neville's four-wheel drive as he leads you through the best local secrets of the region. His Fork and Grape tour includes a picnic in the Onkaparinga Gorge, behind-thescenes cellar door tastings and a drive along the pristine Sellicks Beach.; eight-hour tour A$299.

Fishing off Sellicks Beach.
Fishing off Sellicks Beach.

Sliding authentic Italian pizzas from their woodfire pizza oven, the Mitolo family's pizza house is now an essential lunch stop when touring the Vale. The family's Mitolo & Sons wines are available exclusively to drink here, and don't leave without trying nonna Mitolo's tiramisu.; mains from A$20.

Blessed Cheese
Serving all-day breakfast and an excellent coffee, this popular café is the starting point of the McLaren Vale Cheese and Wine Trail, a progressive picnic that matches local cheeses and gourmet produce to four of the region's best cellar doors.; mains from A$14; Cheese and Wine Trail hampers A$25 per person.

Willunga Farmers Market
Every Saturday more than 80 farmers and producers gather at the Willunga Town Square to sell their best Fleurieu fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, homemade sauces and fresh pastries. Bull Creek Bakery's venison pie, and Lavender brownies from Fleurieu Lavender are popular picks.

The Willunga Farmers Market.
The Willunga Farmers Market.



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Endless vineyard views from the restaurant.
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