roxanich winery & design hotel overlooks vineyards of croatia
The Roxanich Winery & Design Hotel, a contemporary development of a 100 year-old Cantina Comunale in Motovun, Istria, right across from Venice in the North-Adriatic, designed by the much-awarded architect Idis Turato, marks a completely new wave in delivering a wholly unique hospitality experience.
Roxanich is at the same time a witness of ancient traditions and an avid promoter of contemporary art and culture, starting from the avant-garde design of the cellar and hotel, all the way to the elegant wine labels. The architecture is defined by Turato’s own thinking about environments and scenes created by our selective memory, his clear vision and open ideology of post-truth societies. A space and time that defines a specific lifestyle, an open zeitgeist, without a trace of nostalgia or fear of the future, cross-pollinated by Roxanich’s own claim of ‘Freedom by Nature.’ The design frames the natural beauty of the location, overlooking the dreamlike scenery of the Mirna River valley, while honoring all the aspects of the rich history of the medieval town of Motovun.
Mladen Rožanić, images courtesy Roxanich Winery & Design Hotel | @roxanich_winery
The Swiss entrepreneur Mladen Rožanić founded his strictly natural winery in Motovun, Croatia, with single estate vineyards in the most sought-after terroirs of Western Istria, and runs it personally with his six daughters, the eponymous Sorelle, with focus on uncompromising quality and biodynamic environmental impact. Roxanich offers an experience effortlessly mixing its design, gastronomic and enological offer, staying and participating in hedonistic activities that this place on beneath the gentle shadow of Motovun, provides. designboom speaks with the founder of the winery and hotel to learn about his practice and philosophies.
view of the Roxanich Winery & Design Hotel
in dialogue with Mladen Rožanić
designboom (DB): The Roxanich Winery & Design Hotel is an architectural masterpiece by the Croatian architect Idis Turato. How does it reflect Roxanich’s own philosophy?
Mladen Rožanić (MR): I had cooperated with Idis, a friend from my youth, on previous projects as well, but this time we wanted to create something truly exquisite and unique, that would become a place for exchange of new ideas, creation of new thinking, a space for events that formulate natural wine and food narratives and messages, which the Roxanich Winery selflessly shares with its guests. We know each other very well. Idis understands my philosophy of winemaking, perceives nature itself and not only wine. Strict natural, biodynamic winemaking is a passion that leans to art.
view of the vineyards and Roxanich Winery & Design Hotel beyond
MR (continued): The selection of the old Motovun Cantina Comunale as place for new wine and food center and hotel for the region, means standing on shoulders of hundreds of years of wine making and fostering communication tradition of this genius loci. Roxanich is therefore not just a wine cellar or hotel with a hedonistic gastro and oenology offer, but by organizing events related to my own philosophy as a specific way of life, also a carefully orchestrated and designed proposition to spread the message of natural winemaking and sustainable, organic living to the world.
The project transformed an ancient Cantina Comunale from 1902 into an eclectic design hotel with thirty-two swanky, luxurious rooms and suites, a new annex, underground parking garage, and five endless floors of wine cellars dug into the hillside. The design is a distinct mix of old and contemporary style, the interiors feature Italian design icons from the 60′, blended with elements reflecting Istria’s own rich heritage. In shape and topography, this complex structure mimics a natural hill, and charts a trail that begins in the vineyard and continues into the house, cellar, hotel – producing an unfolding, uninterrupted flow, passage.
inside the winery
MR (continued): The Chateaux Roxanich performs thus as a specific ‘strada di vino,’ the path of tourist nomads, the path of explorers of the gastronomical and enological offers. Programs and contents are complex and overlapped within a clear spatial flow, precisely scripted through a series of images and environments. Depending on the program, the variable structure and different materials are unexpectedly arranged and shaped appropriately.
The massive concrete structure of the cellar, dark spaces of specific humidity and temperature suitable for wine ageing, define a space with a clear character created by the combination of a cave and a generic production hall. The spaces of the archive and the wine warehouse are also used as an active gallery space, where curated exhibitions and performances, thematic gatherings, tastings, lectures and education related to natural wine production, cellaring, viticulture are programmed and held.
view of the vineyards
DB: Roxanich is recognized as an extravagant and original brand, and it seems you intentionally lead the disruptive change to the prevailing style in wine and hospitality, even from the design aspect.
MR: The thoughts we have, the wines we make and drink, and the art we enjoy, responsibly reflect the world we want to live in. The Roxanich world offers guests to look beyond mainstream values and venture into uncharted territory. While I am personally devoted to awaken the guests’ perception of long aged, natural wine, understanding it as nature intended it, my daughter Petra, as the family artist, showed her full character in the art images for the new wine labels.
Inspired by such a family philosophy, the Swiss branding agency Brand New World has embarked on the challenging adventure to align the new ‘Wine Awakening’ identity, design, labels, websites, narrative and 360 degrees communication of the Roxanich brand. Celebrating the experimental styles, the brand is so famous for, Brand New World created three distinctive wine collections: ‘Philosophy,’ ‘Sorelle’ and ‘First Roses.’
inside the winery
MR (continued): These enigmatic ranges have been brought to life with ornaments by Petra Rožanić, with bespoke die-cut elements featuring Motovun hill’s isohypses, and a bold minimalist aesthetic. Petra’s sophisticated iconography depicts the wine-making essence of the nature surrounding and influencing the Roxanich wines, enriching the often-monochromatic world of wine with the expressiveness of color coding, sending a strong message about the explosion of taste that awaits wine lovers inside each Roxanich bottle.
In this same breath, Lara Rožanić, my first daughter, is managing our entire wine business, and Sara Rožanić our hotel. We are keenly awaiting the finalization of Mara Rožanić’s education, the youngest of the first four grown-up daughters, to rejoin the family business, propelling it to new heights. And the two underage Sorelle, Zara and Tara Rožanić, are already busy in the kitchen, the wine cellar and at our events, eyeing the proper entry for themselves. We thought that this organic family thinking and development of the six sisters should form the essence of our communication. We don’t style ourselves; we live and work it 365 days a year, following natural rules.
a selection of Roxanich wines
DB: Speaking about the laws of nature, you are a follower of Rudolf Steiner, a 19th-century philosopher, spiritualist and the father of biodynamic agriculture. How do his biodynamic principles affect your winemaking?
MR: Both the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and the work of Maria Thun had a profound effect on our winemaking philosophy, giving root to the natural and honest winemaking practices we adhere to. Steiner is the father of biodynamic agriculture – a type of organic farming, guided by the principles of sustainability of the planet Earth, adherence to the rhythms of the cosmos, and balance. He is the father of anthroposophy. Maria Thun expounded on Steiner’s philosophy, put it to practical use and developed a moon calendar, detailing the suitable days for each activity. An invaluable asset to natural winemakers. In the Roxanich vineyards, picking is based on organoleptic assessment. Attention is paid to moon phases and days which dictate when to plant, prune and harvest, following Maria Thun’s calendar.
Roxanich produces natural wines from both indigenous and internationally recognized grape varieties, in line with highest ecological standards, growing and cultivating the grapes using traditional methods of yield control, practicing minimal intervention. In the vineyard – only natural elements like copper and sulphur are admitted in minimal quantities, and in the cellar – sulphur only symbolically when needed.
labels feature artworks by Rožanić’s daughter Petra
DB: The main slogan of the Roxanich brand is ‘Freedom by Nature.’ What does freedom mean to you? How important is freedom in today’s society?
MR: For me, freedom is the most important thing in one’s life. Freedom to think and act honestly leads to a genuine, simple yet authentic way of understanding life and balance of mind, body and spirit. I am dedicated to exploring the role and reliability of thinking in the formation of knowledge. I became free when I realized the strength of my own personality. The beauty of life is in growth and development. I was not the same person in 2000, neither in 2010, and especially not now. My skills and routines have changed. We can apply this on wine as well. I never try to repeat the taste of the previous year. I try to give my interpretation of the vintage.
views overlook the Croatian vineyards
MR (continued): Our claim ‘Freedom by Nature’ is the essence of everything Roxanich stands for in front of customers and partners. Based both on our own strictly natural winemaking practices, as well as my personal beliefs that my six daughters and me are building the whole family business on, ‘Freedom by Nature’ is more than just the sum of its parts. It’s a strong philosophical statement inspired both by Rudolf Steiner’s teachings about nature and personal freedom, as well as an authentic, intimate historical background the Roxanich family, with our ancient Venetian heritage from the 1200’s.
The Roxanich brand stands firmly behind our family values of being an honest proposition for independent people, wishing them to form their own, highly informed and cultivated opinion about natural winemaking, and discover new frontiers in life as ultimate expressions of personal freedom.
the dining area inside the design hotel
DB: You have achieved recognition all over the world, even if you are a self-proclaimed disrupter, almost outsider in the wine business. What do you owe your success to?
MR: I am mechanical engineer by profession and a self-educated winemaker. My passion towards wine and a will to start vinifying the grapes was born in 1998 when I was in my forties. Actually, 1998 was the first vintage I had vinified on my own on a private garage level, and from then on, the challenge took me over completely.
I believe the secret of my success is thinking honestly but big, so I try to create equally honest but big wines. I pursue a new vision for winemaking. I try to complete the vision of earnest natural wine, created with love and minimal intervention, using long forgotten and neglected, ancient vinifying skills, and the public sometime happens to recognize that effort. If you are doing something honest from the heart, your efforts will find the way to the like-minded people and wider public. Mind you, natural winemaking is still a small niche worldwide, and still not known and spread well enough, both on producers’ and consumers’ sides.
inside the design hotel
DB: Roxanich connects like-minded individuals and businesses. You are recognized as global leader, innovator and a man of uncompromising vision and passion, who said mediocrity had no place in his basement. Is the ultimate goal for you reaching perfection or something else?
MR: I don’t yearn after formal perfection. I am obsessed with the soul of wine. Each of the wines develops an own narrative, and plays a different role. The wine remains unsharp and unfinished by intention. I create spaces for delicate and elegant taste-jumps, unified in one single glass of wine. That’s because I pursue a new vision for winemaking. To achieve that, I need to change the awareness of wine lovers. Why should winemaking always promise the ideal interpretation of reality, and not depict the reality itself? My wines are honest, raw yet delicate, as nature itself.
inside the design hotel
MR (continued): I realized that time plays a significant role in all natural processes. In the cellar, we give the wines as much time as they need to harmonize on their own. We do not touch up our wines and make them uniform. We wish to give you the taste of each particular vintage. We practice the art of bringing all influential elements together that frame that particular year. This way, you can taste its whole journey in each sip.
Mladen Rožanić’s daughters, the six sorelle (sisters)
DB: How do you define wine? Could you distinguish any particular wine label as your favorite?
MR: Wine for me is one media that can tell you a lot of stories, so we should take time to enjoy wine. Enjoying wine doesn’t mean simply consuming an alcoholic drink. It’s part of a lifestyle, part of a pleasure path that you share with your best friends and family. I put the same label of love in every vintage I vinify, so I cannot have the favorite one. Just like with my six daughters.
Mladen Rožanić inside the winery
DB: Roxanich wines are known as connoisseur wines for very special evenings. Do you agree with this opinion?
MR: Our selection of more than twenty strictly organic wine labels, that range from crisp whites to honeysuckle rosés, to long aged and macerated whites, orange as well as deep, dark and rich reds, is too plentiful to be offered only to the distinguished palate of a wine connoisseur.
Among them one can find the appropriate Roxanich wine for every occasion. A good wine is only the one you like, and I believe both connoisseurs and non-expert as well will have no difficulties to find their personal favorite Roxanich wines.
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