La Cité du Vin opened on June 1, 2016 and I visited a few short weeks thereafter after drooling over Bordeaux’s “wine amusement park” on Condé Nast Traveler! Not quite an amusement park in the traditional sense, La Cité du Vin is a wine museum dedicated to the history of wine and the wine cultures of the world. And it was plain amazing!! Per la Cité du Vin’s own website, the wine museum’s mission is to “promote and share the cultural, universal and living heritage that is wine with the broadest possible audience,” with a focus on emotions, sensations and imagination, and the museum certain did a good job of that! We allotted about 3 hours for the museum and lunch and could have spent so much longer (and everything wasn’t even open yet since the museum had just opened)! Plan accordingly!
The building will certainly be your first introduction to la Cité du Vin and is quite the spectacle itself. Set right on the Garonne River just outside of Bordeaux’s main tourist area, la Cité du Vin is a modern addition to Bordeaux’s skyline, meant to “evoke the knotted vine stocks, wine turning in a glass and the swirls and eddies of the Garonne River.” The building was designed by architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières and was only recently completed, which is currently the subject of the temporary exhibit on the first floor!
Rez-de-Chaussée (Ground Floor)
Every tour starts with check-in on the ground floor. We pre-bought time sensitive tickets online before we left, although I do not think that this is necessary, and check-in consisted of showing our tickets and picking up a map. In addition to check in, the first floor houses an over priced wine boutique, a crazy wine cellar, a wine tours desk and a restaurant – Latitude 20. Latitude 20 actually consists of two restaurants -a sit-down wine bar and a very casual snack bar that also serves wine. Since we were tight on time, we had breakfast and lunch (and wine) at the snack bar. The food was quite good.
1er Étage (First Floor)
When we visited, the only temporary open was on the First Floor. The temporary exhibit was Isabelle Rozenbaum’s photography of la Cité du Vin while it was under construction. The photographs were excellent and much more interesting that I anticipated. The was also a miniature model of the building. La Cité du Vin plans to host more temporary exhibits once everything is open and running as normal.
I also noticed what appeared to be a tasting room on the first floor, but it was not yet open for business! In addition to the tasting room, the first floor is planned to have an education center, an auditorium, a multi-sensory space, a reading room and several reception rooms.
2nd Étage (Second Floor)
After visiting the temporary exhibit, we moved to the permanent exhibit. The permanent exhibit at la Cité du Vin is absolutely amazing and certainly invokes all of your senses! When you arrive to the permanent exhibit, you are given an audio guide, called the Travel Companion (loads of languages), for a self-guided tour of the permanent exhibit. There is no set order of the permanent exhibition and the Travel Companion allows you to peruse as you see fit, skipping anything that doesn’t interest you and focusing on what does. If you want to see and do everything in the permanent exhibit allow at least 2 hours just for the permanent exhibit!
We started our tours of the permanent exhibit with a video of different wine regions througout the world. Very interesting and gave me some good travel ideas! Notice how interesting the interior of the permanent exhibit is behind the screen.
While there is no order in which you must tour the permanent exhibition, the next logical portion of the museum is a series of rooms telling the history of wine – from ancient Egypt to prohibition. This section was very well done and felt more like a history museum than a wine museum. This portion also had some games to keep the non-wine enthusiast entertained.
After the history portion, I checked out the below wall, which features modern trends throughout modern history. This was also really interesting!
Next up, a smell portion! Squeeze the ball and get a scent of a particular type of grape!
And a surprisingly fully video about wine, featuring famous historical figures. I loved this!
Next: wine table etiquette.
The permanent exhibition finishes with huge wooden “bottles” spotlighting various categories of wine.
As you can see from the picture below, the entire permanent exhibition is very modern and reminded me a lot of a Scandinavian museum! In addition to the above, exhibits include a “meet the wine experts” portion and a section on Bordeaux, among others.
The floors between the permanent exhibit and floor seven were not open when I visited. I am interested to see for what those are used…
Seventh Floor – Le Restaurant 7
The seventh floor is the nicest restaurant in la Cité du Vin – Le Restaurant 7. We did not eat here, but it looked very nice with 360 degree views of Bordeaux. Definitely upscale.
The Eighth Floor – Wine Tasting in the Belvedere
The standard Cité du Vin tour concludes with a complimentary glass of wine on its eighth floor wine bar, the Belvedere, which reminded me very much of the bar at the Guinness storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. Like the Guinness bar, the Belvedere is located on the top floor of the museum with 360 degree views overlooking Bordeaux. All visitor are allowed one glass of wine of your choice, and there were options from all over the world! Since we were in Bordeaux, I went with a sparkling wine from Bordeaux! The wine bar is decorated beautifully with wine bottles hanging from the ceiling. There is also an area to step outside and view Bordeaux and its surroundings, although you cannot take your wine outside! The Belvedere offers specialty grape juices for those who do not drink wine.
All in all, we spent a great morning at la Cité du Vin and I would love to go back and spend more time, especially once everything is up and running! I highly recommend a visit to la Cité du Vin if you are in Bordeaux, even if you are not a wine enthusiast!
STEAL OUT TRIP
La Cité du Vin: 150, 134 Quai de Bacalan 1, esplanade de Pontac, 33300 Bordeaux, France. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. T: +33 (0)5 56 16 20 20. Open daily 9:30 – 19:30 June – August, slightly shorter hours the remainder of the year. Easily accessible via Tram B, Cité du Vin stop. Tickets to the permanent collection and other events, tastings, etc. can be purchased online or at the museum. Oddly, it bears mentioning that la Cité du Vin offers left luggage services at the front desk.
ON A BUDGET
The cheapest ticket to La Cité du Vin is €20,00. This ticket includes entry to the permanent collection and a glass of wine of your choice on the 8th floor tasting room. I think the cost is worth the price, as the museum is very well done and occupied hours of my time.