A futuristic-looking swirling aluminium and glass structure that is shaped like a wine decanter, shimmering in hues of gold and blue, rises 55 metres high on the banks of the river Garonne in Bordeaux.
Cité du Vin opened in 2016 with the full intention to become the world’s largest and most important cultural centre devoted to wine. It’s safe to say, it has kept this promise. There is certainly no other wine museum that currently could rival the experience offered by Cité du Vin.
In fact, this is much more than the usual wine museum where you normally can expect to see old wine-producing machinery and images of vines, vineyards and wineries.
The structure boasts 3,000 sq m of exhibition space, divided into a permanent exhibition and visiting exhibitions by guest curators which are changing every couple of months.
An audio system provided at the entrance of the permanent exhibition offers a whole new way to engage with the various topics.
The permanent exhibition area is divided into twenty different themed areas that provide lots of information and opportunities to learn more about wine, its history and the whole winemaking process around the world.
One of the interactive sections allows you to connect with winemakers via a large screen, listening to their stories about the passion and dedication to make wine and the wineries and regions they come from.
Then there is a visual tour that includes twenty different wine regions across the world that shows vineyards and wine making procedures in the vineyard from a helicopter perspective.
A large counter teaches visitors about different wine flavours and aromas. It is called the ‘Buffet of the Five Senses’ and it is quite fun to explore.
The ‘Gallery of Civilizations’ highlights how wine played a role in many different times from ancient Egypt to modern times.
Another area is dedicated to paintings from various eras that include wine, displayed like a modern slide show.
There are also various films displayed, including the ‘all aboard’ tour where you seem to be on board of historic boats making different journeys delivering wine for example from Bordeaux to England or across the Mediterranean.
Included in the entrance fee for the permanent exhibition is a wine tasting (one glass of wine) in the museums wine bar on the 8th floor, called the Belvedere. Here you can choose from twenty different wines from across the world, obviously including local Bordeaux wines but also more rare locations like Moldavia, Romania or even Bali. What specific wines and regions are on offer is changing constantly.
The room spots an amazing ceiling made of hundreds of wine bottles. The view from the outside viewing platform over the Port of Moon (the harbour of Bordeaux) and in particular the city centre silhouette in the distance is really amazing.
Aside from wine tasting included in the permanent exhibition ticket, the museum runs serveral wine workshops and wine-related events throughout the year.
For example, there is a multi-sensory workshop taking place on a daily basis where you are to identify the origin of four different wines that you will be tasting. While you taste, there will be images from the country of the wine’s origin and the room will additionally floated with the aroma of a typical national dish of this country to help you get an idea about the wine region in question. It is quite an unusual fun way of tasting wine.
Other regular workshops include sessions of wine pairing such as ‘wine and chocolate’ or ‘wine and tea’.
In case you want to stock up your wine cellar, the Latitude 20 wine shop on the ground floor – outside of the exhibition areas and freely accessible – is stocked with 800 different wines from Bordeaux, the rest of France and elsewhere in the world. In total, there are some twelve thousand bottles from around seventy different countries.
However, before you head to the wine shop make sure to set away some time to enjoy food and wine at the museum’s restaurant located on the 7th floor. Aptly names ‘Le 7’ it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food there is spectacular in its own right, in addition it offers equally spectacular panoramic views over the Port of the Moon and the city.
The restaurant too offers a large range of wines from around the world including some 500 different wines and more than fifty countries. So here too, you can choose from fairly exotic places although the Bordeaux wines on offer pair perfectly with the restaurant’s delicious French food.
La Cité du Vin
134 Quai de Bacalan
Open daily 10am to 7pm