Foster + Partners’ new Saint-Emilion showstopper

Norman Foster has designed the new Maltus winery – yet another coup for the rock-star winemaker, says wine insider Tom Harrow

The tasting room at Le Dôme, with its 360-degree panorama across the vineyards
The tasting room at Le Dôme, with its 360-degree panorama across the vineyards

Winemaker Jonathan Maltus is excited. He recently bought a triptych of Dick Polak photographs of Mick Jagger and has just installed them in the dining room of his Chelsea home. For fans of his wines, however, there is greater cause for excitement: Maltus has revealed plans for a new winery in the heart of Saint-Emilion. Le Dôme is being built to house his single-vineyard grand cru wines and has been designed by Norman Foster

Le Dôme is in the heart of Saint-Emilion
Le Dôme is in the heart of Saint-Emilion

Maltus may own Château Teyssier, one of the appellation’s three biggest marques, but he is renowned for his Burgundian approach to winemaking, preferring to vinify small, individual plots on the elevated Right Bank slopes of Saint-Emilion and thus better express the differences in terroir. Some 2,000 cases of Le Dôme are made in a year (production levels on Bordeaux’s Left Bank regularly exceed 20,000 cases), and this will also be the case with the single crus vinified in the new winery, from the 2020 vintage onwards. “Having a facility north of the track [the railway line that divides Saint-Emilion] makes an appropriate separation between the plain and the côte,” says Maltus, alluding to the higher quality of wines from vineyards in the latter area.

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The winery is Foster + Partners’ first such project since it undertook the renovations at Château Margaux in 2015. “The views and the landscape have always been the primary protagonists of the design,” says Foster, adding that the top-floor tasting room has a 360-degree panorama across its vineyards and those of its illustrious neighbours – Châteaux Angelus and Canon (Maltus shares renowned consultant Thomas Duclos with the latter). “The winemaking is taken to the heart of the building and the upper level provides a flexible area for people to gather and taste the wonderful wine of the terroir.” 

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It is Foster’s personal interest in the project that is helping bring it to fruition (Maltus’s budget, it transpires, was barely sufficient to cover the firm’s typical design costs, let alone the full build); the architect may well have been swayed by the best-yet reviews for Maltus’s 2018 vintage. The 2019 harvest is also set to be well favoured, and since renovations at Château Teyssier are on track for completion next year, and the swish new winery is now under way, those with a Maltus or two tucked away in their cellars should be excited indeed. And my advice to those that don’t is to buy now.

Tom Harrow is a fine-wine commentator, consultant and presenter. His Grand Crew Classé is the ultimate invitation-only club for fine-wine enthusiasts, with exclusive access to rare bottles and events around the world. Follow him on Twitter: @winechapUK.

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