Dan's Blog


Friday, May 18, 2018

A week ago I was given the grand tour of the amazing d’Arenberg “CUBE”. Wow! I was left in no doubt that ‘Willy Wonka’ has landed in McLaren Vale, as the CUBE is as bizarre as Willy Wonka’s factory is.

This structure is the closest thing to totally surreal that I have ever encountered. It is difficult to know where to start talking about this mental overload.

From the moment you walk through the front door, logic and rational thought are left behind in this extravaganza of mind bending.

The sound you hear as you approach the cube is AI (artificial intelligence) generated sounds of what is happening in the vineyard at the time. On the wet cold day that I was there, the sounds were forlorn and moaning.

Inside the first thing one encounters is a screen which shows portrait images (one after the other), of the four generations of the Osborn family – except that an AI machine creates all sorts of psychedelic colour image patterns in a way that you can still make out whose face it is but other than that it is totally surreal. Next, you go into a room where the wall screen covers 360-degrees of the room, showing abstract images of their wine labels - very impressive!

Everywhere you look there is something winery or vineyard related that is completely out of sane logical order – like a wall made out of various coloured winery hoses, a ceiling made out of wine barrel ends, and so it goes on.

Amongst the dozens if not hundreds of unusual/strange/bizarre items in the CUBE, one that really stood out for me was a dragon made from cutlery. The level of detail and workmanship was amazing. Plus, if you remove the head, it is a functioning barbeque.

The bathrooms on the first floor have to be seen to be believed. The outside walls are all curved and covered in green plastic vegetation with only a smallish sign pointing to them as being the loos and not another art installation. Inside the Gent’s the urinals are big open mouthed faces, with the lower jaw being the actual bowl – amazing!

On the same level is the kitchen with a long glass wall, so that you can watch the staff hard at work preparing the meals for the restaurant on the third floor.  The kitchen is equipped with the latest rage – a 3D printer that produces one of the desserts served in the restaurant. Among the dinning offerings there is an 11 course degustation meal, which can naturally be accompanied by a flight of top-class wines.

The panoramic vista of McLaren Vale from the fifth floor cellar door is brilliant! It even has an open air deck for you to enjoy your tasting on those balmy spring days. The cellar door has several different tasting sections through to the premium professional tasting zone, where you can compare four different single-site vineyards from the different geological areas of the Vales.

Having written about the McLaren Vale “Distinct Districts” project for Winestate Magazine (Sep-Oct 2017 Edition – “Super Serious about Shiraz”), I found the “Geological Journey” tasting absolutely brilliant. The project is ongoing research into the effect that the 19 different geological structure zones have on the flavour of the Shiraz.  As one could just about write a book on the subject – suffice it to say here, that d’Arenberg have been producing Shiraz from four different zones, made in exactly the same way, for a number of years.

The wines currently on taste are from the following zones:

Zone #12: The Blind Tiger 2012

Zone #17: The Sisypheanic Euphoria 2012

Zone #16: The Solipsistic Snollygoster 2012

Zone #10: The Amaranthine 2012

Each of the wines is distinctly different to the other three ranging from tight and austere to blousy and blossomy. You are given an A3 sheet which explains the district the wine comes from, the characters of the wine and even the totally eccentric name that the wine has been given.

Bloody brilliant, as a concept and as an experience! Masterful!

My personal favourite out of all the wines I tasted on the day was the

d’ARENBERG “THE CONSCIOUS BIOSPHERE” 2014 McLAREN VALE PETIT SIRAH (DURIF) AGLIANICO:  This wine has huge depth of red colour, fruity complex aromas with a good dollop of spices. On the palate it has masses of exciting, sophisticated, layered flavours with just the right amount of tannins on the tight, lingering finish. TRULY SUPERB!

It just nudged out the d’ARENBERG “THE ANTHROPOCENE EPOCH” 2017 MENCIA:  A divine, slightly savoury wine that is a brilliant expression of that rare and superb Spanish variety.

Chester Osborn first conceived the idea of the CUBE some 15 years ago and has put an amazing amount of effort and attention to detail in making the whole structure work absolutely brilliantly.

May wineries have enhanced cellar doors with either display works of art or a restaurant to improve the visitor’s experience. However, the CUBE is a unique edifice that is a living, breathing work of art. Oh, and a cellar door and restaurant as well. With changes being made to the “exhibit” on a regular basis, multiple visits are required, as it is impossible to take it all in on just one visit.  UNIQUE and AWESOME! RATING 12/10 or for the lovers of the 100-point system, 120!!