“From 1935 until here…. Who would have imagined this?” These are the words of Xavier Fornos, director of the Museum of Wine Cultures – Vinseum, in Vilafranca del Penedès. And he makes this comment after briefly explaining the history of the Museum, from its beginnings until today. Many things have happened throughout this period of time, and it has gone through different stages. The museum was an initiative from before the Civil War which was paralysed by this war, and it was consolidated in 1945, already in full dictatorship, as the first Wine Museum (Museo del Vino, at that time), of the Spanish State, and probably of Europe too. In this first stage, the museum was basically local cultural facilities that tried to bring together not only all kinds of wine heritage, but also historical and artistic heritage. Little by little, the material collection of the museum was expanded thanks to private donations: “A museum of museums” says Xavier.
In the 1990s, both the facilities and the internal organisation of the museum were old, and a transformation process began under the direction of Monserrat Iniesta, who took over the museum. The main objective of the new management plan was for the museum to be consolidated as a tool for conservation, restoration and promotion of cultural heritage, as well as promoting collaborations between the associative, cultural and business fabric of the territory.
A project which hasn’t stopped at that point, but which has also marked a much more ambitious challenge for the future that seeks to meet the needs of modern museum facilities with national vocation. The intention is to turn the Vinseum (name given to the museum since 2007) into a different wine museum, taking advantage of the diversity of collections it has and, above all, explaining its added value, and its cultural, social and historical legacy that marks the identity not only of Penedès, but also of a much wider territory such as Catalonia.
The museum that was located in the old medieval palace of the kings of the Crown of Aragon, in order to be registered in the official museum register of the Government of Catalonia as a museum of national interest, needed some improvements to its infrastructure and facilities. For this reason, and driven by the spirit of improvement, they started a new project funded by all the governments (local, regional and state governments) and European funds. A huge investment that has served and will serve to completely renew the project, providing it with a new stable exhibition space of more than 3000 m2.
This new space has a large reception area, “a covered agora,” as Xavier describes it, where two large-scale works will be exhibited: a press from Cunit dating from the eighteenth century, and a mural painted by the local artist Pau Boada showing the cycle of the vineyard and the wine, and which was relocated, which meant a relocation of great technical difficulty.
In addition to this, there will also be a large model of Catalonia locating the different wine-growing areas of the country.
The tour of the museum will explain the world of wine from a previous exhibition dedicated to the roots of the area, focusing on Penedès as the nerve centre of wine. The main exhibition, dedicated to the wine cultures of Catalonia, will occupy the three upper floors of the new building, and one of the historic one. It will make “a marked reference to the wines of the country (…) talking about the wine cultures of Catalonia from their origins until now, from an anthropological, social and cultural point of view…” explains Fornos.
The first floor will be dedicated to complementary cultural activities. “The space is and will be full of activity all year round”, says Xavier Fornos. Besides, the architectural project has managed to communicate in a very organic way the old space with the future space, and it allows the visitor to pass from one building to the other without realising it. It has also recovered old medieval walls and alleys of Vilafranca, and they can be seen perfectly integrated into the modern space.
The transformation process is nearing completion as they plan to open the doors in the last quarter of 2023, if all goes well. At the moment, the museum is closed to the public, and you can only visit an exhibition located in the Gothic chapel of Sant Pelegrí (next to the new building). The space was rehabilitated as a temporary exhibition hall, but it is also a space with a lot of history, since the chapel was burnt down in 1934, transformed into a monument honouring the dead of Franco’s side and, finally, rebuilt in the 1980s. At the moment, the exhibition “Raise a glass”, which can be visited now, explains the new project of the museum, and it invites the visitor to leave a glass in the room to raise it on the day of the inauguration of the new space.
After all this, we are impatient to see this new project in action, and we are convinced that it will be very faithful to the project described and written (“paper can wait” its director rightly says, but your work also makes it possible). We will raise a glass with you!
Thank you for welcoming us, and for doing what you do with such passion and professionalism.