Bordeaux’s New Wine Museum Is Open for Business

The “City of Wine” is a vino lover’s amusement park

La Cite du Vin's grand opening this week. Courtesy of La Cité du Vin
The "Buffet of Five Senses," where visitors can touch, hear, see, smell, and even taste different elements of the winemaking process. Courtesy of La Cité du Vin
An exhibit featuring the many styles of wine bottles. Courtesy of La Cité du Vin
A video presentation guiding visitors across Bordeaux's vineyards. Courtesy of La Cité du Vin
La Cité du Vin. Courtesy of La Cité du Vin
A simulation of a merchant vessel shipping wine across the ocean. Courtesy of La Cité du Vin

After seven years of development, design and construction, a magnificent museum dedicated to wine is now open in France’s Bordeaux region. The region’s wines have been well-known for centuries, but the brand-new La Cité du Vin (City of Wine) lives up to its name.

The architecturally odd La Cité du Vin certainly stands out among the other buildings along Bordeaux’s Garonne River. The 10-story building looks more like a twisting, mirrored vine than a classical museum—an effect absolutely intended by its designers, Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières. The pair designed the monument to France’s wine culture to mimic both the swirl of wine in a glass, the twisting curves of the grapevine, and the waves of the nearby river, Nick Rose reports for Munchies.

“This building does not resemble any recognizable shape because it is an evocation of the soul of wine between the river and the city,” Legendre and Desmazières tell ArchDaily.

La Cité du Vin might be a museum dedicated to wine, but the wealth of activities inside have led some to compare it to a world fair. Inside of the museum is a two-story wine bar, a 250-seat auditorium for classes and film screenings, as well as 20 exhibits about the process, culture and history of winemaking, Mike MacEacheran reports for Condé Nast Traveler. Some have even called it a wine-themed amusement park, pointing to the museum’s virtual boat ride simulating a merchant ship’s travels around the world and a “tasting experience” that includes moving sets and 3D displays as well as manufactured scents that go along with the exhibits.

“I have said that ‘La Cité du Vin will be my Guggenheim’,” Alain Juppé, former French prime minister, mayor of Bordeaux, and the museum’s founder said in a statement. “It was paradoxical that Bordeaux, with its very special position among the global wine producing regions, did not have an iconic venue paying tribute to one of the key elements that has been creating its wealth for centuries.”

The museum did not come cheap: the unique building and its lavish exhibits cost about $91 million. Officials believe that the museum will pay itself off, though, and expect it to draw 450,000 visitors annually as well as bringing millions of dollars into the local economy, Rose reports.

“We want young people, old people, people who know a lot about wine and people who just want to enjoy the building and the view,” Philippe Massol, the museum’s CEO, tells Roger Voss for Wine Enthusiast. “We will judge our success if they drink a glass of wine with more understanding and respect than before.”

La Cité du Vin officially opened Wednesday, and tickets cost €20 apiece ($22.37). Events like guided wine tastings, workshops and vineyard tours will begin later this summer.

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