An enormous aluminium and glass vinestock dominates the shore of Garonne river. It stands as a monument to innovation, to a glorious past, to the future awaiting us; a tribute to all the wines that have been poured from ancient times to nowadays; a shrine to man and nature and their most beautiful fruit: wine. La Cité du Vin is a place that interacts with the city; indeed, it is the fairest and wisest museum that this city might have, a necessary tribute to its vocation.
“Seamless, intangible, sensuous roundness”
With these words, the designers Anouk Legendre e Nicolas Desmazières of the Parisian studio XTU described the building. They didn’t reveal any hint about the shape of the building, although its architecture clearly evokes a decanter that changes its appearance as daylight changes and that reflects the river on its glass covering. The Cité du Vin is a “watery” place, where the visitor feels to be guided by the tide of an expositive path that flows smooth from the entrance to the highest floor of the building, the Belvedere, where one can appreciate a beautiful sight and enhance the mental experience of the visit.
Here you can be inebriated even without drinking.
Architectural glimpses of the building
Within the varied, tidy European environment of the city of Bordeaux, La Cité du Vin stands as the greatest artwork man could build here, as a city within the city and as a universe of knowledge. An entire week is not enough to watch every video, panel, every interactive support that the museum features. The Cité is place where the visitor is not a passive spectator and can feel mentally and physically involved in an immersive experience: an example of Human-centred-design place. The aim of museum’s didactic lies in making contents accessible at every level, from children to adults, from unexperienced to experienced people. This is a museum developed to create the perfect combination person-environment: the characteristics of the environment meet everyone’s attitude and knowledge. At last!
…is divided in six sections (wine and regions of the world, from the wine to the glass, Bordeaux, wine and civilisation, wine and the imagination, wine and you) and does not require an established route. The architectural structure allows you to walk freely without the risk of getting lost. The audio guide system is well organized. You can tune the videos on your language by getting your device close to the barcode on the installations.
Let me tell you about the path I had
- The world wine tour: at the entrance, three screens plunge the visitor into an amazing tour of the vineyards of the world between stories and stunning landscapes.
- The worlds of wine: Environmental and climatic impact on the cultivation of the vine and the consequent expansion of wine in history and in the different areas of the world.
- The terroir table: screens are divided according to the world areas, from Chiantishire to Argentina; exciting stories told by important winemakers.
- The gallery of civilization: an “archeological promenade” telling the story of wine in the antiquity. Immersive and perfectly developed!
- The Trend wall: herethe panels showlabels designed by artists, where wine is analysed as a status-symbol; the wall explores themes as brand-reputation, advertising, labelling aesthetic, the winemakers’ reactions to the speed of change and other issues that have produced social transformations in 21st century. It looks like a contemporary artwork installation. The video about wine collecting is remarkable.
- The buffet of the 5 senses: Crucial. A journey through the senses and the secrets of tasting techniques. Several glass cases contain aromas, from primary to tertiary scents, that are revealed by squeezing a hand pump. Useful for training the sense of smell and discovering the quantity of flavours wine contains. The colour-quiz is also very funny: the installation panel asks the visitor about different colours. One can push the button to match the definition of a colour with its appearance.
- The Epic Tale of Bordeaux: a very-well created travelogue, where real actors tell the story of Bordeaux and its vocation as a wine-city for 2000 years. I watched it twice.
- Wine portraits: Many interactive screens help the visitor to explore 6 great bottles through discovering different types of wine, grape varieties and lands of production.
- The metamorphoses of wine: Discover vinification techniques by putting yourself in the winemaker shoes, from the vat to the bottle.
- Other attractions that make the exhibition: Bacchus and Venus, a cyber-overview of artworks of amorous iconography. Divine wine, a virtual display of artworks involving wine in the great religions. The banquet of legends, a video dedicated to great historical characters fond of wine who dialogue with each other, from Voltaire to the kings of France, from Napoleon to Churchill. Drinking at the darkside: a video about the threats of alcohol for human’s health. Wine over water, a documentary about the strategical importance of the shipping routes and big rivers in the wine transport: a tribute to export management over the centuries!
A video similar to the previous one: All aboard! In a room designed as a ship we had a virtual journey with great merchants who made wine-history (I must confess, I skipped it for time reason, a tasting was waiting for me soon after).
The art of living, dedicated to service-lovers: from slavery to the modern Sommelier.
It is also worth taking time for Meet the Expert, where bespoken chefs, sommelier, philosophers and critics reveal their secrets (those they can reveal), market and consumers’ trends. Everything you always wanted to know but you were afraid to ask. Then (but I didn’t dwell upon it), Bordeaux: the city and its wine, a video presentation about the relationship between the city and wine. Last but not the least: E-Wine, the meanders of wine told through the patience of winemakers: grape varieties and domestication over centuries.
Estimated time of the path? Spend at least 3 hours, time flies!
Perhaps, you are now more exhausted after reading this article than I was during the visit.
My apologies, but I won’t stop here!
We are going to the eighth floor to visit the Belvedere, included in the ticket we bought.
An elevator takes to the last level for a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. Here all the sensations described at the beginning come again: we were in a place of modernity, tradition and excellence. While enjoying the view you can taste a glass of wine, of your choice, among bottles from all over the world. Described it this way, this may seem an attraction for tourist; however, the dialogue, established in the name of wine, between La Cité and Bordeaux makes the Belvedere tasting one of the most significant and immersive experiences never experienced before.
Time to get off, I booked a Bordeaux wine workshop. The first floor is entirely dedicated to the classrooms where the staff holds interesting workshops lasting one hour each about different themes. The explanation on the categories of Bordeaux wines is very clear and the final blind tasting is pleasant. Furthermore, temporary exhibitions on the world wine areas are organized. At that time there was an exhibition dedicated to Argentina, but we would have had to return the next day to avoid the risk of too much information and emotions.
All other information can be retrieved from the website.
All emotions can be recovered be going there.
Therefore, have a good trip, if I succeeded in arousing the urge to take a plane and visit the extraordinary world of the Cité du Vin and the beautiful city of Bordeaux.
Bordeax is beautiful. It is beautiful not only because it is elegantly and traditionally French. Bordeaux is itself in every corner: from its medieval core, to the squares of the cafés that make it a Paris in miniature, in the harbour area, wonderfully redeveloped, that so much resembles London Southbank: you feel the pressure of an expanding city, of a metropolis where you can feel yourself in the midst of the greatness of its spaces.
Then there is the great life of the river that has made the prominence of trade activities and that has brought Bordeaux wines all over the world. In my opinion this is the modernity in which it is worth setting one’s life in today’s world. A perennially qualified and expanding cultural heritage.