In my last post, I talked about the city of Bordeaux as a whole. Now I want to introduce you to La Cité du Vin (The City of Wine), one of the most intriguing sights/sites in the region.
There are two ways of approaching this iconic structure: from the city or the river. I chose the river, to experience sailing on the wide brown stretch of water which feels more lake than river. We boarded the boat at Quinconces. The esplanade is worth a visit in itself, for its huge tree-lined square and Monument aux Girondins.
The boat sails up to Les Hangars, a redevelopment of disused docks, transformed into shops, restaurants and a lively new quartier all its own. But we stay aboard for the next stop, La Cité du Vin. A shape like nothing else, it stands out on the horizon, quite different to the gothic spires and regal uniform rectangles of 18th century façades.
The very distinctive shape of La Cité reconnects it with its muses: wine swirling in a glass, the eddies of the Garonne, gnarled vine stock, every detail evoking the soul of wine and liquid elements. – Anouk Legendre, of XTU Architects
Inside, the first three floors are open to the public. It’s the second floor I have come to explore. This is the permanent exhibition, where one can spend hours discovering the development of viniculture all over the world, its influence on our culture, society, art, religion and love.
The design flow of the exhibition begins with lowered lights and video explanations of how wine-making began and spread across the globe. Interactive facilities are everywhere, so you can follow 6000 years of wine influences, the vital roles of water transportation, trends in taste and hear recordings of experts in their field.
Each section is quite different and as well as offering edification, the occasional sit down is more than welcome. Some took it still further. In the Bacchus and Venus section, one can lay back on a comfortable circular sofa and watch a compilation of images depicting the role of wine in love. By the time I left, two people were fast asleep.
My favourite section was le buffet de 5 sens (the buffet of 5 senses). Here you can test your recognition of smells and refine your language of textures and tastes. The story of Bordeaux in history and its struggle against war, invasions (human and insect), its cooperation with neighbouring regions and its current high standards held me in thrall.
Eventually, we handed back our multilingual headsets and made for the 8th floor. There, one has the option of choosing a glass from a huge range of wines, then step onto the balcony for unparalleled views of the city.
Tram B provided us with the perfect return journey, taking us past many key monuments, shopping streets and a fascinating city side view.
On La Cité du Vin as a wine museum: … it is a world-beater; certainly the best wine centre I’ve encountered. – Expert Anthony Peregrine