Ever since Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin (City of Wine) opened last year, it has been on my ‘to do’ list. So, when we visited that part of south-west France for a few days recently, we took the 10 minute tram ride from the centre and found ourselves in front of the very striking piece of architecture that was designed and built specifically to house the wine exhibition.
Buying our tickets in advance on line (20 euros each if you specify a date, 5 euros extra for an ‘Open’ ticket you can use any day), we could (and should) have avoided the queues in the foyer. But we eventually made our way to the 1st floor for a fascinating display on ‘Georgia, the birthplace of wine’. Dozens of artefacts, some dating back more than 2000 years, combined with a couple of short films and some very detailed display boards (in English and French) told the story of the early days of wine and highlighted how some ancient processes – like fermenting in clay urns buried in the ground – were still being used today. Sadly, this part of the exhibition is only temporary and will close in early November to be replaced by something as yet unspecified.
One floor up and you move into the main display area – and firmly into the 21st century. Here, equipped with multi-lingual headphones, you are faced with a series of interactive screens dealing with different aspects of the wine world. Click one and you can choose from a number of famous growers and wine makers talking about their wines; another and you join a virtual dinner table with top chefs and sommeliers chatting about food and wine matching. All very cleverly and glossily presented and with admirably little jargon. One problem: there is just so much to see, you need to be very selective – or come back several times.
After a couple of hours here, we started thinking of lunch. There’s a formal restaurant on the 7th floor (pre-booking essential) or the ‘Latitude 20’ wine bar on the ground floor where we can recommend the cheese or meat platters (1 is plenty for 2 people to share) together with a glass of wine from an interesting and eclectic list – the soft and warming Georgian red is worth trying.
Before leaving, be sure to take the lift up to the Belvedere on the top floor where you can enjoy a glass of wine (included with your ticket price) and have a marvellous panorama over the city of Bordeaux.