That of wine is a story as old as mankind, rooted in the most ancient civilisations, in the myths and heroes sung in poems and legends, in the ancestral religiosity of primitive peoples who saw it as a magical drink, linked to the climate, the influence of winds and lunar phases. For western culture, heir to the Greek culture, its origin is traced back to Dionysus who, playing with grapes in his hands, let the sweetish liquid flow out and, tasting it, was seized by a state of joy and intoxication: he also discovered that, by letting it rest, its quality was improved. Enotria, land of wine, was the ancient name by which the Greeks called the Italic peninsula, a land linked to the farming and artisan traditions of the many peoples who inhabited it. But that of wine is a much more ancient history, enriched over the centuries by discoveries, inventions and innovations that have made it one of the products of excellence of Made in Italy.
A convivial and sensory experience
Sicily is a region of ancient winemaking traditions and on the east coast, in Ragusa, time and people flow, like wine, between stone and wood in a place that speaks of culture, traditions, family: 1954 Cantine Universali is a wine shop where oenology and gastronomy meet to offer a convivial and sensorial experience. From dedication to a job that has become a passion, the need arose for a location to preserve and share a precious history, making the new wine shop an exclusive, elegant, welcoming and informal meeting point.
In the heart of Ragusa
1954 Cantine Universali was born in the historical centre of Ragusa and is articulated between the commercial premises of two distinct buildings, separated both structurally and in terms of construction period, facing two streets at different heights. "Attention to detail, the combination of materials, the balance of forms, the harmonisation of light. These are just some of the ambitions that have accompanied the entire design and construction process in order to create a true wunderkammer in which the guest can experience the most authentic essence of the products, also made up of archaic images, ancestral memories, traditions far away in time, echoes of lived stories," explain the designers of DFG Architetti Associati.
Oak, walnut and local stone
The entrance opens into the premises of the building at the lower level, along the main road, leading to the retail area, characterised by a full-height wooden counter and bottle racks. The labels shine between oak and walnut, on a floor of local stone slabs. "The bottle racks in the entrance/retail area are designed as dense three-dimensional textures. The wine emerges from the pores of an enveloping, strongly structured wooden membrane. The lighting is part of the surfaces of the project, integrated between the compositional elements: it shows, enhances, sometimes conceals, sinuously follows the lines, caresses," the architects continue.
A journey through space and time
The wine cellar unfolds in a succession of irregular rooms carved out of the walls of existing buildings. Slabs of stone on the floor line the entire route through rooms and stairways. From the contemporary, urban, extroverted mood of the shop, one enters rooms that become quieter, more material, introspective. The wood and copper-clad walls are replaced by the stone block walls of the barrel vaults, illuminated by the grazing light of spotlights, which enhance the rough, irregular surface. Wooden furnishings are replaced by slender, sculptural bottle holders made of anthracite-coloured metal bars. From contemporary to antique: the journey through spaces becomes a journey through time.
Texturality between plays of light and shadow
The last room, the old storeroom, is used for tasting and is furnished in an essential manner: minimal tables and chairs in metal weaves reveal the materiality of the vaulted environment. The light on the floor passes through them, casting shadows on the surface of the vault, which shows signs of time and its many alterations. An ancient cistern, reused as a cellar for the finest wines and closed by extra-clear tempered stratified glass, is striking. Completing the composition is the back volume, resolved in the copper-coloured service block in which refrigerated cellars, air conditioning and bathrooms are located, where the dominant material of the room returns: stone in its various forms.
"The most significant intervention from a structural point of view was the creation of the central opening in the retail area, by means of metal hoops, precisely to create the visual connection between all the areas of the project. In this way, it was possible to achieve the smoothest and most linear route possible through the different settings that progressively lead from the contemporary to the antique, from the present to the past, in a succession of changing scenarios," conclude the designers.
Architectural Project, Coordination and Works Management DFG Architetti Associati - Structures Project: engineer Giorgio Scrofani - Installations Project: engineer Donato Blanco / Los Project - Photos: Marcello Bocchieri