As soon as I heard about the existence of a wine museum in France I knew I had to visit. Wine and I have been getting along just fine for a couple of decades now. In fact I think we have grown up together. Gone are the student days where I glugged down Beaujolais Nouveau or a dirt cheap Sauvignon Blanc. These days I like to savour and appreciate subtle flavours and understand the history and story behind the wine I drink.
Over the years I have visited many wine regions around the world and learnt about the process of wine making and the importance of terroir. I thought my wine knowledge was sound. Could a wine museum be the ultimate education on all things wine?
The ultimate wine experience
Bordeaux is the spiritual home of wine in France, a country whose culture is inextricably linked to the production and enjoyment of wine. So it is not surprising that La Cité du Vin is more than a museum. It is a celebration and interactive experience exploring all aspects of wine – from the history of winemaking to the processes involved and its place in cultures around the world and especially in France.
Opened in June 2016 the building itself is an ode to wine. Designed by architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, both the exterior and interior of the building takes inspiration from the history, properties and experience of wine. The distinctive exterior represents wine swirling in a carafe or glass.
We explored the permanent exhibition on our visit but there are seasonal exhibitions and events on throughout the year.
Permanent exhibition highlights
On entering the second floor exhibition area you are presented with a headset and multi media guide that you use to interact with the displays. We had a few small issues getting used to how the technology worked but there were plenty of staff on hand to assist.
Each display has been thoughtfully curated – a fascinating mix of old and new techniques. I liked the use of puppets in the ‘All aboard!’ animation exploring the export of wine around the world. Testing our sense of smell in the ‘Buffet of 5 Senses’ was a clever way to introduce the concept of aromas and perception of taste and smell.
Sweeping views of the famous wine regions of the world
Meeting the winemakers and learning their stories
Mixing historic art and new technology
Trading ships ahoy! We felt like we were right on deck
Putting our sense of smell to the test
The dangers of drinking to excess
La Cité du Vin is located at 134-150 Quai de Bacalan 1, esplanade de Pontac, Bordeaux. It is an easy 10 minute tram ride from the centre of Bordeaux on line B.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Christmas and New Year’s days with extended hours during summer.
Tickets are €20 for adults and include a glass of wine. Discounts apply for concessions. Children under 6 free.
Free lockers are available for a €1 refundable deposit
For more information visit La Cité du Vin website
Visiting La Cité du Vin with children
Perhaps the most surprising thing for me was how much our 3 year old twins enjoyed their visit. We came armed with all sorts of other distractions in the event they got bored (as 3 year olds tend to do) but we didn’t use them.
La Cité du Vin has put a lot of thought into how to educate the wine drinkers of the future. There is a separate audio guide for children and some exhibits are deliberately aimed at a younger audience.
Even some exhibits that were not specifically designed for children were popular. The use of augmented reality technology transformed a theaterette into a “pirate ship” and they loved discovering the aromas of various substances in “The buffet of the five senses” section of the exhibition. Older children will be interested in all the different ways technology is used throughout the exhibition which I think is fascinating in itself.
The final word on visiting La Cité du Vin
Bordeaux’s wine museum is a great experience for wine, culture, design and history lovers . The ticket price is a little expensive however I think there is plenty of value to be had exploring the permanent exhibition and beyond. The entry price also includes a glass of wine.
We visited La Cité du Vin for over 2.5 hours and were unfortunately not able to visit the temporary exhibition or the Belvedere viewing platform before closing time. I would allow at least 3 hours for the full experience.
On the way out you must visit the incredible wine store – ‘La Cave’. This circular room is cladded in a 2 storey wall of wine from all over the world right the way round its circumference. Over 14,000 bottles are held at La Cave – a wine lovers dream.
La Cité du Vin is more than a museum of wine – it is a truly interactive experience. If you are visiting Bordeaux you most likely have more than a passing interest in wine. I guarantee you will learn something new or become inspired to visit new wine regions after a visit to La Cité du Vin. Bring the kids along too and hopefully the museum will inspire them to a more refined palate than my student tastes.
As for me, my love affair with all things French, and especially wine, continues after experiencing the ultimate wine education in Bordeaux.
Disclosure – I was kindly given a complimentary ticket to La Cité du Vin. All opinions are my own and honest. Please review my disclosure page for more information.
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