Rabat ODZ boutique winery gets outline permit

The proposed basement winery will include a two-storey wine tasting and restaurant area above the ground

The Far Brettel Estate is made up of a vineyard occupying 33,550 sq.m of land in the outskirts of Rabat
The Far Brettel Estate is made up of a vineyard occupying 33,550 sq.m of land in the outskirts of Rabat

The Planning Authority has approved an ODZ boutique winery that will be built in pristine countryside in Rabat.

The outline permit means that the authority is now committed in principle to approve the full permit when the visual impact will be assessed.

The proposed winery is on the Ta’ Brettel vineyard, part of the Famalco Group, and will cover a 130sq.m footprint. The actual winery will be located in two basement levels. The plans envisage that 850sq.m of land overlying the basement will be paved.

The vineyard occupies 33,550sq.m of land near Ħofrett ir-Rizz in the outskirts of Rabat.

All board members except Environment and Resources Authoirty Chairperson Victor Axiak voted in favour. Opposition representative Marthese Portelli and government representative Clayton Bartolo voted in favour.

NGO representative Annick Bonello, who ultimately voted in favour, expressed concern on the use of the winery for events which could result in noise and light pollution, and traffic.

Bonello specified that if these issues are not addressed in the next stage, she would vote against the full permit.

Axiak questioned the absence of any visuals showing the before and after impact of the development on the area. He also questioned the need to turn the area into an attraction for visitors by including unnecessary frills like observation areas, and parking.

“The proof of the wine is in the drinking,” he said, insisting that while he accepted that a winery had to be situated outside the development zones, extra attractions should be kept to a minimum.

The major stumbling block for this project was the rural policy of 2014 that restricted basements of wineries to the area immediately under the surface buildings, which is not the case with this application. But no board member referred to this aspect and the case officer recommended approval due to no objection from the PA’s agricultural advisory committee.

The PA’s transport unit had objected to the project due to the increase in traffic in the area.

Architect Colin Zammit for the applicant insisted that the winery required a large basement for feasibility reasons and that the winery had to be developed in ODZ land so as to avoid transporting grapes from the site to other locations.  

“Visitors to the site will see the whole vineyard below them from the terrace,” Zammit said, adding that the winery will not be a factory but an architectural attraction that will showcase the entire wine-making process.

When Axiak asked why the upper structure could not have been smaller, Zammit said that any winery needed a visible chateau, to serve as its heart.

Zammit said he avoided using modern architectural treatment as is the case “with very modern structures in ODZ areas in Tuscany”.

The proponents justified building their winery on site to ensure the grapes are processed in the shortest time possible after harvesting, something which is considered imperative in the production of high-end quality wines.

Locating the winery on the vine estate will also result in minimal travel time between harvesting and processing, thus resulting in less carbon emissions. 59 fruit trees will be grown to minimise the visual impact.

It is planned that four ‘tasting’ sessions taking 14 people each will be organised each day. This will attract an average of 56 visitors per day by minibus or private cars.

The winery is being asked to pay €49,876 into an environmental projects fund, as compensation for a permit for the dining area and parking.

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