Nicknamed the Guggenheim of Wine, the €83million Cité du Vin is more than a colossal advertising billboard for Bordeaux’s wine industry – which is worth €4billion a year and 50,000 jobs – as it celebrates wine across the world and across the millenia, with its exhibition looking back 6,000 years.
The eight-floor building beside the Chaban-Delmas lifting bridge is said to look like wine being swished around in a glass and was designed by Paris architects X-Tu. The curvaceous building stretches to a 55m high tower covered in glass and golden aluminium panels to reflect on the river.
This is carried through inside where the 3,000m2 permanent exhibition space was created by London agency CassonMann, for a “ground- breaking multimedia experience” said chief designer Gary Shelley.
“It is probably the most amount of media used in a museum – there are hardly any objects, it is all multimedia. That, with the architecture, makes an exciting space visitors will never have experienced before.
“Everyone uses a digital guide with headphones that translates a lot of the audio-visual – even the French will need it as not everything is in French, it is all in the language of the wine-makers to emphasise that wine is a global business.”
It uses 3D images for a world vineyard tour, touchscreens to show grape-growing methods, aroma diffusion to describe the sensory elements of wine and even a ‘hangover’ chair where writers talk about excess.
On the river, a pontoon allows access for cruise ship passengers and boats will leave from there on tours to nearby vineyards.
The tower has a panoramic restaurant and the top, the Belvedere, has views over the Unesco heritage city. The bar here is lit by the world’s biggest chandelier, made from thousands of bottles. This is the tour’s final stop and a chance to finally taste wine.
Mr Shelley admitted they “did have lots of tasting sessions” but away from the four bars and restaurants, no wine is available to swish, sniff or glug as French law bans alcohol advertising for health reasons.
The Cité du Vin could only start publicity after the government gave a “public interest” exemption to “protect, develop and communicate the cultural value of wine”.
Business sponsors raised 19% of the funds and US backers paid for the €1m Thomas Jefferson Auditorium, named after the president who introduced wine to the US while ambassador to France.