I saw its swirling shape shimmering on the horizon from the train as I arrived in Bordeaux from Paris. A giant shiny coil on the landscape, futuristic and fabulous.
What to see at the Museum of Wine Bordeaux
La Cité du Vin is the first place I visited when I arrived and dumped my luggage off at my holiday rental apartment. After a short walk to Quinconces, the central square, the biggest in Europe, from where you take tram line B, I alighted at the new Cité du Vin stop (about 10 mins).
It’s even more impressive up close. Staring up at this giant wine glass wiggle shape leaves you temporarily speechless. How on earth did they manage to build this curvaceous monument to Bordeaux’s most famous export? It really is like the swirl of wine being poured in a glass.
From concept to completion it took just 10 years. If you think a wine museum sounds boring – fling out your preconceptions and prepare to be wowed. I have to say when my friends in Bordeaux told me to allow three hours there I thought, hmmm, you’ve got to be kidding, that’s way too long. Wrong. I was kicked out at closing time.
So, what did I love about it so much? First and foremost the innovative displays aren’t like anything else I’ve seen anywhere else. They are quite simply superb, different, witty, pretty and very clever. I learned a lot about wine but it wasn’t dry and stuffy at all. On two huge floors you’ll learn about the origin of wine making, where wine is made, how it’s made and its history up to the modern day, in Bordeaux of course, but also around the world.
Witty, pretty museum innovations
I loved the stunning boxes on the wall that came to life when you pushed a button, appearing to be full of animated tiny people living out the wine life. The sexy nymphs and randy zephyrs and Georgian lords and ladies falling in love with claret from Bordeaux were very entertaining. I sat in a booth to face a video of a man telling me about wine. It’s so realistic you feel yourself nodding back and smiling at the video, it’s very odd.
There are tables laid for dinner and the chair backs suddenly burst into life as hologram dinner guests start talking as if they are really there. The Laughing Cavalier comes to life before your eyes and there are things to sniff and touch. It’s interactive and a lot of fun, and at times a tongue in cheek view of the sometimes pompous world of wine. It’s a mesmerising exhibition and will leave you feeling you’ve just visited somewhere very special and utterly unique.
Wine tasting and a fabulous restaurant at the Cité du Vin Bordeaux
A visit to the museum is almost certain to make you thirsty. Lucky for you, included in the ticket price is entry to Le Belvedere on the 8th floor. Here you can do a wine tasting with amazing views over Bordeaux.
You might think wow, that sounds great – but there’s more. On the 7th floor is a brilliant restaurant and place to stop for a glass of wine, tea and cake, lunch and dinner. Magnificent views over the city can be enjoyed from a terrace that runs around the outside of the curly swirly building.
The food is fantastic, and as you’d expect, the wine is nothing short of stupendous. I know absolutely nothing about wine except I like it and I like red best. The wine waiter asked me what I wanted. “Erm, red, not too dry, fruity is what I like” I said. He asked me a bit more and then picked a wine from Languedoc. It was one of the best I have ever had. He knew who produced it, what was in it and why it was I liked it – something to do with the terroir, the grapes, the fact it was matured a particular way. With the delicious gastronomic menu – it was about perfect and not pricey.
I was surprised by how many locals were there, I guess they always find the best places! The staff all speak English, they all are happy to help you. The wine master’s choice for me blew me away – that red wine was me to a tee. Details: le7restaurant.com
Workshops at Cite du Vin
If you’re just wanting a quick coffee or snack, there’s a cafe on the ground floor where they have a 2-course menu with a drink for less than 10 euros. On the ground floor is where you’ll also find a wine shop and gift shop with all things wine related.
Book at the reception if you fancy doing a workshop. They hold several at Cité du Vin with themes like wine pairing with chocolate or wine and tea (available in English). For the real wine buffs among you there’s a reference library of 1500 books and magazines about wine.
You can get an audio guide available in 8 languages. Not just for wine lovers and fans, it’s actually pretty fabulous for everyone (including children). And, with the train taking just a shade over 2 hours from Paris, it’s an easy day trip destination.