La Cité du Vin: A highly recommended visit.

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Taking advantage of a few days’ holiday in the French Basque Country, one of the things that the family suggested we do, given my links with the wine world, was to take a trip up to Bordeaux, one of the world’s "wine capitals".

Who doesn’t know about the wines from Bordeaux? I think that everyone, whether a wine connoisseur or humble consumer, has, on occasion, heard about, or mentioned, the wines from this famous French wine region.

But the purpose of our trip to Bordeaux was not to visit its vineyards (which we will do next time), but to pay a visit to the fledgling "Cité du Vin" (the city of wine).  I say “fledgling”, because it was only just over one year ago, on 31 May 2016, that this wine centre, with its somewhat psychedelic, wine decanter- shaped design, was opened by the then President of the French Republic, Monsieur François Hollande.

The fact that this centre is located on the outskirts of the city (perhaps too far out, in my humble opinion) has not prevented it from attracting a considerable number of visitors, both domestic and international.  According to the organization behind the Cité du Vin, around 425,000 visitors from 150 different countries have passed through the Centre’s doors in its first year, which gives you some idea of ​​the universal appeal of wine.

Of the total number of visitors, 27% of them came from outside France, which augurs well for the future of the Centre.  And, just to finish this section on statistics, these foreign visitors have come primarily from the UK (14%), the USA (11%), Switzerland (9%) and Spain, with a more than respectable 8%.

I could go on spouting statistics, but I don’t want to bore you, and instead I will talk about the visit itself, which is what is of most interest to you, dear Selectus Wines reader.

The “wine city” is located a little outside the city centre, as I already mentioned, but it is well connected, which facilitates access.   A well-organized reception area means that the queues are not too long, but I would nevertheless recommend you buy your entry tickets online before your visit.

The Cité du Vin is set out in a series of different spaces that obviously correspond to different “inputs”: there is a large conference room, where the inaugural speech took place, tasting rooms, a library, different themed areas, a shop, etc.  In some of the spaces, the visitor can interact with different types of materials and in return, experience different sensory impressions (special mention must go to the aromas exhibit).

It has to be said that the exhibit designers have done a really good job, ensuring that the visitor "lives the wine" in all its facets.   The space in which the history of wine and its importance in life over the centuries is explained, complete with holograms, was, for us, one of the highlights of the visit but, above all, we were impressed by the way in which they explain it all, in a highly instructive and non-boring manner.  I would also mention something that will interest families with children potentially interested in visiting this "wine museum": they have done everything they possibly can to ensure that children are able to follow the visit "at their own pace", i.e. there are special headsets for children and headsets are also available in 8 different languages.

Over the past year, in addition to the permanent exhibitions, they have held events, cultural activities and presentations on various themes or dedicated to wines from other parts of the world.  Visitors can also pre-book a basic wine tasting session at set times.

To round off the visit, there is a Belvedere in the upper part of the building, where you can try various wines from different wine-producing countries.  The room has 360° viewing gallery and, on a good day, the visitor can enjoy a panoramic view of Bordeaux’s Gironde area.

You should allow 3 to 3.5 hours for a quick visit, in order to (more or less) see all the spaces that can be explored in a standard visit, but this is not long enough if you want to really make the most of the experience or to explore a particular topic in greater depth.  No, if it’s a full and complete visit you want, then you should basically plan to spend the entire day at the Cité du Vin.  If you are considering this option, then the Cité du Vin also has one or two restaurants where you can dine and try some wine (mainly French, naturellement!)

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