I am looking at this exciting modern architecture on the banks of the Garonne river in Bordeaux and my imagination runs away with me.
I can’t help thinking that this building reminds me of the Mother Goose children’s story of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, albeit a golden shoe when the sun shines upon it. As in the nursery rhyme, there are even people in the “Shoe” as the building is a hive of activity of visitors engaging with the various exhibits about wine.
In all seriousness, it’s a building with a sense of liquidity, that reflects the curves in the river as the Garonne and then the Dordogne rivers join together as the Gironde estuary and empty into the Atlantic. This waterway has been the key transportation link for centuries between the Bordeaux wines and their thirsty markets abroad, in particular the United Kingdom with its love of claret.
Architects Anouk Legendre and Nicholas Desmazières from XTU Architects in Paris have created this elegant building to showcase the international wine culture which celebrates and explores the place of wine in culture from the time of the Egyptians to the modern day. It is said that not only does the colour of the building change daily and hourly with the weather but also with the changing light of the seasons, in the same way that the leaves on a vine change colour to mirror the seasons.
The mission of La Cité du Vin is to promote and share the cultural, universal and living heritage that is wine with the broadest possible audience.
It’s an ambitious focus but achievable in this beautiful and elegant city of Bordeaux whose very name is synonymous with great wine. Building upon the City’s legacy of greatness, this modern conceptual building reflects the future orientation of the City and its wine industry.
La Cité du Vin is the initiative of the Fondation Pour La Culture et Les Civilisations du Vin. It is heralded as a place of play and exploration – no wonder I recognize the playfulness of a children’s nursery rhyme. All the senses are engaged as a friend and I explore the exhibits on display.
The founding principles of La Cité du Vin are: passing on knowledge interactively, experiencing things at your own pace, learning according to your own wishes. These principles are demonstrated in the accessible way the information is presented.
Progress and technology are demonstrated in the Hi-Tech/Hi-Touch systems used to animate and personalize displays about wine districts around the world. I am delighted to see film footage of the Okanagan Valley In British Columbia as the film illustrates wine areas around the world.
There are many interesting and fun opportunities to learn about wine, wine aromas, wine history, wine in the arts, history – even Thomas Jefferson is present in the name of the Auditorium – and, of course, to enjoy wine tastings, wine and food pairings and even cooking classes. I look forward to experiencing these latter offerings on a future visit.
One of the many great things about visiting Bordeaux is that it is very easy and inexpensive to get around using the modern, clean and efficient, Canadian, tram system. Getting to La Cité du Vin is no exception as there is a special tram station just outside the entrance. In addition, the higher speed TGV train service has started between Paris and Bordeaux, making the journey in just over two hours.
At the end of our tour, which took several hours as there are so many interesting things to see and play with, we headed up to the tasting bar, Latitude 20, which has a spectacular ceiling made of wine bottles. While tasting wine from distant countries, visitors can look out over the city rooftops.
La Cité opened on June 1, 2016 and excited interest and articles around the world. Writers haven’t been quite sure how to describe this endeavour. It’s been called variously: a wine theme park for adults, a museum, a cultural facility, an exhibition park, a museum-theme park hybrid, the Guggenheim to Wine, a cultural centre of wine, a world-beating wine museum, an over-the-top mega project, a playground for wine lovers.
La Cité du Vin is young and offers many opportunities for learning, for fun and entertainment. In a way, it is refreshing that it defies precise definition and labelling. For me, for now, it will just be La Cité du Vin.
La Cité du Vin has an ambitious agenda of showing wine in the context of history, social customs, geography, geology, food and agriculture, oenology and the arts. In this way, La Cité emphasizes all the reasons I am interested in wine as it opens the door to these subjects.
To quote La Cité du Vin text: “…whether mythical, sacred, religious or magical, experience the culture of wine as a formidable epic which has shaped mankind and the way we live, which as been a source of inspiration in both past and present”.
La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux http://www.laciteduvin
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