No Compromise for Immersive Tasting Room Experience

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When DOWIE DOOLE were developing their new immersive tasting room experience in 2019, they were as uncompromising with the design of the space as they are with the quality of their award-winning wines. Aesthetics, sustainability and functionality were all important considerations in the design but they were unwilling to compromise on acoustics and authenticity. This complex problem required a sophisticated solution … and Acoufelt had the answer.

Established in 1995, DOWIE DOOLE has always been focused on making authentic McLaren Vale wines of high quality, but in more recent years has established a reputation as being the McLaren Vale experience of the best of the Australian lifestyle. A key initiative in trying to consistently live up to the expectations of the customer, DOWIE DOOLE undertook a project in 2019 to open a new, world class, immersive tasting room. The new sustainable tasting room was set in the middle of the 35-hectare DOWIE DOOLE Estate Cali Rd vineyard, which is primarily planted with classic McLaren Vale varietals including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and bush vine Grenache – the hallmark varietal of the McLaren Vale and vines that are over 50 years old.

The new tasting room is an immersive wine tasting experience with knowledgeable staff guiding visitors through the DOWIE DOOLE wines. The vineyard sits on a prime geology for giving wine a character unique in the world. Old vines on a terroir 650 million years in the making. Yet the tasting room is an example of contemporary sustainable architecture.

This is what makes South Australia unique in many ways – it is transformative. Old and new comes together to create something special. Here in South Australia we have a tradition of building on the old, adding new ideas, drawing from different cultures, welcoming diversity and coming up with something that is unique: something special for the rest of the world. The new tasting room has been developed as a living expression of this idea.

The tasting room was built on a site in the vineyard described as a “disturbed site”, previously being used as a location to store rock and rubble from the property. One of the principles of sustainable architecture, however, is to build on an already disturbed site rather than disturb an untouched natural location. Right from the start, sustainability has been front of mind for the South Australian architect Oli Scholz of Scholz Vinall Design who was commissioned to undertake this project.

Even the structure of the tasting room talks about regeneration and transformation. Old rusty shipping containers transformed into a space that features extensive external decking moves through to wide opening doors making a seamless transition from vineyard to tasting room. The container arrangement allows for a gentle flow from outside to inside public space that then effortlessly becomes a private tasting room at the rear of the development.

The continuous flow of the design, the desire for authenticity and the use of old containers presented the architect and DOWIE DOOLE Managing Director, Chris Thomas, with some complex issue upon which Chris was unwilling to make any compromise. The acoustic environment inside the metal containers was one such issue.

Acoufelt applied its Acoustic FWC™ philosophy in order to identify the most cost-effective way of addressing acoustic design in the tasting room. The Acoustic FWC™ philosophy looks at all spaces as a box with six potential surfaces, one floor, four walls and a ceiling, for absorbing unwanted noise. Usually the most cost-effective surface for absorbing noise is the floor, which can be applied with QuietBack™ acoustic carpet tiles. However, because the new facility had a number of areas designed to have a seamless integration of internal and external areas, carpeting the interior areas would create a virtual boundary that would work against the seamless transition in the design.

The next step was to consider the walls. Although many of the walls had been converted to sliding glass doors and hatches, there was a large feature wall originally designed to be covered with wine-stained oak barrel staves recovered from the wine making process. The architect and the client considered replacing the wood feature wall with Acoufelt’s WoodBeQuiet™ product. WoodBeQuiet™ removes the compromise between acoustics and aesthetics; allowing for design that caters to the ears as well as the eyes. Through the Acoufelt QuietPrint™ capability, the surface fibres of each acoustic plank are coloured with precision, ensuring air-gaps in the porous material remain open to absorbing noise. In effect, we have a surface with the warmth and beauty of wood, yet it is quiet.

This is where integrity became an issue. For the sake of acoustic design, DOWIE DOOLE initially considered removing genuine oak staves used in the wine making process and replacing them with an optical illusion. Chris Thomas asked Acoufelt if there was an alternative. Thankfully, Acoufelt has a solution for “all six sides of the box” and the ceiling provided the answer.

Acoustic treatment of the ceiling be expensive and intricate, having to be installed around lighting, security and air-conditioning infrastructure. As a result, it is often the last surface to be considered in the Acoustic FWC™ philosophy. However, for DOWIE DOOLE, it presented the perfect surface solution given the specific design features of the space. Solid AP12 acoustic panels in ‘Piano Black’ cut to fit around lighting infrastructure provided exactly the right amount of absorption to achieve a great acoustic environment. The overall finish now sets a new benchmark for immersive wine tasting experiences in Australia – and the perfect expression of the very best of the Australian lifestyle to be found in the heart of the McLaren Vale.

On 18 November, 2019, the new DOWIE DOOLE immersive tasting room was opened by His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia. His Excellency spoke at the event talking about the exceptional food and wine culture that defines South Australia – a food and wine culture that is the envy of every other state in Australia. He said that every visitor to Australia who has a genuine interest in food and wine should come to Adelaide and they should have the McLaren Vale as a priority to explore the exceptional Fleurieu food and McLaren Vale wine.

When people take his advice and come to the McLaren Vale, they visit DOWIE DOOLE for an immersive tasting experience in a space that was built without compromise – and they can see how the application of the Acoufelt Acoustic FWC™ philosophy has played an integral part in delivering this uncompromised experience.

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