Reading wine labels is sometimes travelling unto itself – we may not know what we’re getting into when we pick up an Australian wine versus a Chilean wine versus a Spanish wine – but each has its own flavour respective to its appellation and terroir. Our spontaneous grocery store selections may even come to inform where we travel to – ahem, Napa Valley. And, with millennials on the path to surpassing Gen Xers as the largest fine wine consuming generation by the year 2026, specialty bars are seizing this opportunity to stay spatially relevant and keep the wine industry on a positive trajectory.
That’s not to say every Instagrammable haunt has to focus so intently on aesthetics they forgo attention to the wine. Take Orvay, one of Barcelona’s newest wine bars, for example. Spain is an appropriate setting to help launch the changing face of wine: the country has a bar for every 165 people, 280,000, to be exact – the highest ratio in the European Union, according to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization. Wine is drunk by 20 per cent of the population, and the 32 million tourists that visited the city last year undoubtedly helped to bump up the rapport Barcelona has with the beverage. In the Mediterranean region famous for sparkling Cava and punchy reds, one hardly has to be a sommelier to appreciate the experience.
So, when Isern Serra and Sylvain Carlet began designing Orvay, they had a simple mission: create a place to taste wines, one where the space could activate an immersive setting that could become a metaphor to the typology of wines offered. Three colour zones define the bar: an earth tone to refer to the geography of the wine, a green one to lead the imagination to the vineyards, and pink to evoke images of the grape – the crux of the wine’s personality. Serra and Carlet wanted to create an honest, sophisticated environment reflective of the wine itself: false ceilings were taken out and they decided that they would leave the structure of the building uncovered, medieval walls and arches and all. Natural oak wood floors and white marble pause chromatics, but make the colour even more meaningful.
It isn’t easy to modernise seamlessly in such a historic location: Orvay is situated just in front of Santa Maria del Mar, a beloved 14th century Catalan Gothic church. Wooden doors open wide to the locale, revealing natural stone and the colourful palette, not a detail out of place despite the updated aesthetic. Circular lights by Michael Anastassiades for Flos and neon fixtures are critical for creating an ethereal ambiance within the space, both day and night. The simple geometries feed into the winemaking narrative, implicative of our circular, ancient relationship with wine – it almost goes without saying that the medieval environs only assists in creating this mood.
Macabeo, Parellada, Monastrell, Tempranillo: next time you hear their names, think of Catalonia – think of Orvay – and how your local wine bars spatially express their story of the grapes you’ve come to love.
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