Like everyone else in Bordeaux, I was keen to try out the Cité du Vin as we’ve heard so much about it over the last few years. The first thing you notice, outside the building, is the architecture, designed by XTU, it’s not for the faint-hearted. On the banks of the Garonne River, the whirlpool shaped building is reminiscent of wine tumbling around in a glass; it made me think of a giant friendly snail whose golden shell is shining in the sunlight. You can access the building from the quay if travelling by car or tram or from the river by boat. The boat journey adds a touch or romance and excitement.
There’s no audio guide, but there’s someone on the trip to help you and he speaks eight languages. Everything is interactive. Either a presentation starts automatically when you enter a particular area, or there is a button to press to start it. There is no set way to go round, you can go wherever you want to and come back on yourself. The world vineyard tour, near the entrance is spectacular, wine growing landscapes from all around the world are projected onto three giant screens and onto the floor. The landscapes table where 50 winegrowers talk about their passion is really informative. The six giant bottles made of wood representing the different categories of wine are also educational. They surround a round touch-screen table, where you can move things about to find out a range of facts. With a whole host of famous people to hear from, I chose Voltaire, Napolean 1st and Colette and they told me about their tastes in wine.
On the historical route, there are replica amphora and other objects linked with wine that can be touched as you look at miniature scenes in little wooden boxes. For the more technical, the changes that wine goes through are described on screens which are inserted into designer coloured stainless steel or wooden rounded, turbulent structures. I thought the boards in complete darkness, where I found myself face-to-face with Hélène Darroze, the chef, explaining how she views life were really interesting. It felt like she was speaking directly to me. Other famous people are also introduced in the same way.
The thing I found most entertaining was the ‘five senses buffet,’ where there are large glass bells, each housing objects, – a leather glove, liquorice, old papers, coffee, lemon or honey- whose aromas can be found in wine. You press on a pear, place your nose into the copper pipe and the aroma comes to you. It’s a really fun way of training your sense of smell. There are a whole host of other themes to discover at Cité du Vin, including the history, culture and progress of Bordeaux wine. To finish my trip I went up to Belvédère which has a ceiling made entirely of bottles and offers a fantastic view of Bordeaux.