There’s a new architectural wonder in South Australia, and on a fleeting day visit to Adelaide I had to stop to visit it. But it wasn’t what I expected.
The Cube is a new five level museum/restaurant/tasting room in the D’Arenberg winery. Modern, futuristic and unexpected, at some angles it creates an optical illusion of appearing to float.
‘What’s up Skip? You really have to check out the toilet?’
Yep, that’s right. The TOILET.
Well, I think of myself as a bit of a high-class woman so toilet humour is not my thing. But after walking up to the Cube, through the eerie music echoing through the vines that made me think I was approaching an alien landing, all the visitors coming out had a big grin on their face. And all of them had the same piece of advice. ‘Pay the $10 admission – and go and see the toilet’.
I’ll get to the loo, but first let me be a bit serious for a moment. I last visited D’Arenberg in 2003. I like their wines a lot – especially their sparkling reds and full bodied red shirazes and red blends. I love their quirky labels. The winery, founded in 1912, has in recent years embodied innovation. But I must say a lot had changed since I had been there last.
You can still go to Polly’s Restaurant in the old house. And there is a fine dining restaurant in the Cube. Since we literally only had a few hours on land on our cruise visit we didn’t have enough time to linger. But if you do, go to the Cube for lunch first and then the $10 a head fee is waived.
Not everyone knew about the entrance fee, so there was a bit of a crowd milling at the entrance to the Cube. Some choose not to go forward. Some followed the toilet advice, or were just curious. We went on a Monday and it was already busy. If visiting on a weekend expect that there will be a lot of people.
There is an app that accompanies the Alternate Realities Museum on the first floor. Perhaps due to technical incompetence, I couldn’t quite get it to work. If you want to get the full benefit of your experience, download the app first.
The first room was a small, cramped antechamber that made me wonder if I was stuck in a Halloween exhibit. Centre place was a multimedia Picasso-like portrait. ‘Is this a horror exhibition?’ I asked one of our guides. ‘Ah, no. It’s a contemporary portrait of all four of our founders.’
Then into the next room – one wall was decorated with flowers and the others with fruit (think Carmen Miranda). Old fashioned fragrance bottles hung around the walls and you could squeeze and sniff – lemon, pineapple, coffee, pepper – all the wine descriptions you hear in swanky reviews, they were all there.
Then a 360 degree movie, in cartoon, about the winery’s history. We didn’t stay too long, but long enough to appreciate that it was quirky and irreverent. The family clearly didn’t take themselves too seriously.
Nor were the family members big on words. In the museum session, the original founding father writes to tell his fiancé that he had quit his job (I’m sure she was overjoyed at that!) and bought land on which to start a winery. Another letter to family members, written by a later generation, announces that his partner is carrying their child.
Then up to the tasting room on the fourth floor. Wow, what a view!
The wine list for tasting was extensive. They had a recommended list of five, or you could knock yourself out and try anything in their several pages worth.
I like a good sparkling and enjoyed their Polly.
This was originally called DADD in reference to the four generations of winemakers. But, it kind of looked like G.H. MUMM champagne and well, they didn’t like it very much so it has now been rebranded as Pollyanna Polly after the winemaker’s mum. This is a lovely drop for a special occasion.
We tried their rosé. We prefer a sweeter variety – most in the McLaren Vale area are drier – so it wasn’t our thing.
The label is a play on words – it sounds like a wine producing area in France (the guy serving me forgot which – doh.)
Stephanie and friends were lurking in the garden just in front of the Cube – cool, hah? I just loved their glasses.
I was interested to try this Cincault wine. Usually it is one of the grapes in the rose blend, but here it strikes out alone. Interesting.
Then down to the first floor to the toilets.
My husband and my father-in-law were about to head into the men’s toilets. The door opened and a woman came out. That was totally not what we expected. ‘Don’t worry luv, there’s no men in there doing a pee. You should go in and take a look – we all are!’. And sure enough, there was another lady behind her. My mother-in-law charged in, and I followed as curiosity got the better of me.
Are those urinals? And is that winemaker Chester Osborn whose long flowing gold curls are adorning one of them?
I went to the ladies room, which while interesting, wasn’t quite as full on. The mirrors in the powder room were, however, stunning. It was, however, a tad confronting to open the door only to find myself being videoed by a tourist. A male Asian tourist. He then went in for a sticky beak as well.
Meanwhile, my husband Neil retreated to the (more private) unisex and disabled toilets. Sometimes you just need a bit of privacy.
I loved the quirkiness, authenticity and just sheer fun of the D’Arenberg Cube. I want to come again -for longer. If you are visiting Adelaide, it I well worth the 40 minute drive south. It is a beautiful area, great wines – and if you need a loo stop this is the right place to come.
Oh wow! Something for everyone, wine drinkers and non-drinksers alike!
Michele, that’s one way to look at it! Actually, my in-laws weren’t big wine drinkers. They like a sweet wines (sometimes), but that’s it. So the full-bodied red wines that D’Arenberg are famous for are not their thing. But they still got a kick out of the visit.