A giant UFO sponsored by Bacchus himself landed in Bordeaux! – Meanderings through France n° 92
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Right on the quays of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garonne River, a kind of architectural UFO landed last week. For some local ufologists, it could only have been send there by an ancient God of Wine, Bacchus (or maybe Dyonisos).
In fact this round shaped building, that somehow looks like a giant snail, shelters the brand new “Cité du Vin” – the City of Wine- that was inaugurated on May 31st, by the French President François Hollande and Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux and great organizer of this project.
For centuries the city of Bordeaux has given its name to famous wines that in return offered a worldwide fame to the city. So at first, one could believe that the City of Wine is a wine museum dedicated to the promotion of Bordeaux’ wines. That’s totally wrong. First of all this project purpose is the world of wine, and not a specific wine region. Furthermore the City of Wine is not a museum like any other museum, since there is no permanent collection.
“Far from being a museum, La Cité du Vin is a cultural centre devoted to wine” said Mrs Laurence Chesneau-Dupin, the manager of cultural activities at the City of Wine. It’s a site where wines from across the world could find their own place. It’s a centre for initiation, discovery and knowledge enhancement about wine. There are almost twenty different workshops showing wine in all its aspects, its history, its whereabouts, its production, its trade and even the secrets of wine tasting.
The access to the ground floor is totally free. There you will find a library dedicated to wine, a snack and a wine bar serving tapas, both with outside terraces for sunny days. There is the fabulous cellar set in a huge cylinder that shelters at least 800 different wines coming from the whole world with a stock of over 14.000 bottles. There, visitors will also find the direct access to the 7th floor where the panoramic restaurant “Le 7” is open everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Furthermore you’ll find on the ground floor the Wine Tours desk, the gateway to interesting excursions to vineyards in the region by boat or by road. Some of the boat tours will directly start from the private pontoon of the City of Wine
The heart of the City of Wine is on the second floor: the Parcours Permanent (Permanent Tour) is an open space occupying around 3.000 square meters, and close by the temporary exhibitions rooms. To optimize the Parcours Permanent each visitor receives a cutting-edge digital device specially created for the City of Wine: a light headphone working with a kind of smartphone, called Compagnon de Voyage (Travel Companion) that gives access to all the multimedia applications and contents during the visit. With an option of eight languages translation (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese) each travel companion is automatically connected to the multimedia devices when the visitor approaches them. There is no pre-established record. The travel companion immediately interacts in real time with the thematic activity in progress. For kids the travel companion gives specific comments and provides special approaches, including fun programmes in several areas. This new technology truly is impressive while being very easy to use.
The tour is not fixed so everyone can wander at its own pace, choosing the areas where he wants to stay longer. The visit averages two hours, but with the wide range of nearly twenty areas, some of the visitors will surely stay longer.
Each visitor is the actor of his own tour: you can be a spectator in front of the “world wine tour area” and its fabulous landscapes or be very active at the “buffet of the five senses“, then be a passenger of a ship carrying wine barrels through different historical times in “on board“, sit in the little theatre and watch the “banquet of famous men“, wander in the “gallery of civilisations“, stand by the “table of terroirs” or look at the ceiling turned into a big screen lying down on a huge round sofa for “Bacchus and Venus“. The visitor is immersed in the world of wine with rewarding experiences.
Finally, when the tour is over, it’s time to take the elevator to the 8th floor to the Belvedere. Like a watchtower, the Belvedere with its glass walls offer a 360° view over Bordeaux and the river. The huge room is magical with its 10-metre-long oak counter and a roof decorated with thousands of glass bottles. This is the perfect place to admire the landscape with a fine glass of wine chosen among a regularly updated range of 20 wines from the best wine regions of the world. This wine tasting -only one glass per person- is included in your entrance ticket. For the young ones -those under 18- a range of grape juices has been especially selected.
Coming to the City of Wine from the Bordeaux city centre is very simple, the easiest way is to take the tramway (1€50) that travels on the quays, passing a long line of beautiful stone mansions and buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The admission fee is 20 € for one adult, and 50€ for a family ticket (2adults and 2 kids). With 450.000 visitors expected the first year, booking in advance for weekends and summer holidays will help you spare any annoyance. With the e-ticketing system, visitors choose an available time slot to enter La Cité du Vin.
To get to Bordeaux, easyJet has direct flights from London Gatwick and Luton, Bristol, Glasgow and Liverpool. Ryanair has flights from Edinburg and London Stansted, while FlyBe connects Birmingham and Southampton with Bordeaux.
more info at:
Text and photos ©Frederic de Poligny