The “City of wine” – Bordeaux

By | Category: Travel destinations
the swirl that is the City of Wine

the swirl that is the City of Wine

More than a museum, the recently open “City of Wine” wants us to explore all the facets of wine through space, time and civilisation. It is housed in a resolutely modern building especially constructed on the Garonne River.

With its fluid, round lines the building is reminiscent of the way wine swirls in a glass. It is built of glass, metal and wood overlooking the Garonne and Bordeaux that hasn’t stopped its beautifying boost undertaken during the last ten years. In the Bordeaux area one job out of six is in the wine activities and it was natural that this unique cultural space arose there.

No less than 114 different international architectural firms competed in a difficult contest that was finally won by the French agency XTU. To build the “City of Wine” was a true challenge: 300 piles from 50 to 120 cm in diameter were sunk 30 metres down to support 574 wooden custom-built arches, 9,000 cubic metres of concrete, 1,000 cubic metres of steel and the amazing façade made of 925 glass and aluminium panels. With its 55 metres high tower rising from a large waving loop it looks like a big lighthouse on the Garonne.

in one of the themed areas

in one of the themed areas

Interactivity is the key word and the guiding line throughout your visit. Every visitor is given a “travel companion”, a new generation of audio guide providing in eight different languages, a total control over the twenty different thematic activities of the permanent tour, located on the second floor of the loop. The British agency of scenographic design, Casson-Mann, has created this huge exhibition space under the superstructure made of bending wood pillars looking like the flying buttresses of a cathedral or like the upside down hull of a big wooden boat.

Wearing a high quality headset and holding an interactive remote control as thin as a smartphone that sets off the media content of the 19 thematic areas, the visitors have a total control over their visit from the touchscreen of their “travel companion”. This device will also allow you to relive your visit on line later on. Each visitor, child, teenager or adult can build his own route and personal experience.

the "senses" workshop

the “senses” workshop

Several big globes, once again interactive, help you discover vineyards and wine economy around the world. Six huge wooden bottles unlock the secrets of different wine families from different countries. Next, you can test your nose by smelling a wide range of wine aromas coming out of graceful copper cones. In another area virtual characters will tell you why and how they enjoy wine: Churchill, Napoléon, Voltaire, Maria Callas…will share their knowledge of wines with you.

On board a boat-like cinema you will follow all the sailors who crossed seas and oceans to deliver amphora, barrels or bottles of wine, sometimes risking their lives. On your own or with friends, standing, sitting or half lying down watching a movie projected on the ceiling you can spend hours at the City of Wine to discover all it has to offer, (a visit averages two hours).

on board a sixteenth century ship

on board a sixteenth century ship

Your tour will end at the “Belvedere” a wine bar set on the 8th floor of the tower from where you will get a wonderful view over the city of Bordeaux, the Garonne and the surrounding vineyards. A glass of wine is included in your entrance ticket and you will have to make your choice among wines from all over the world with the help of skilled waiters. Then get out on the balcony that turns around the “Belvedere” and slowly sip your wine while enjoying the view.

Several areas are accessible without having to buy a ticket allowing tourists and Bordeaux inhabitants to make the “City of Wine” a lively and enjoyable place. The library is like a pleasant reading room with dozens of books and magazines. There is another wine bar on the ground floor where you can snack and taste one of the 800 wines of the wine list. What a dilemma!  There is also a gastronomic restaurant, “Le  7”, set on the seventh floor where you can have lunch or dinner while enjoying the panoramic view.

The shop is like a circular wine cellar where you can buy wine. No less than 14,500 bottles from all over the world are on sale here and you suddenly realise the immense diversity of wines’ world and that one life just isn’t enough to understand it all.

the last stop - the cellar

the last stop – the cellar

On the river bank boats can berth at a long pontoon. This is the starting point of the “Routes des Vins” (the Wine Roads). After booking a tour at the information desk inside the City of Wine you can get on board a boat that will take you to one of the close by vineyards where you will meet wine makers, visit the vineyards and the cellars and taste the local production.

The City of Wine is easily reached from Bordeaux city centrein just a few minutes using the new tram that goes to it along the riverbanks.

Several airlines companies provide direct flights from UK to Bordeaux. (a direct flight from London to Bordeaux takes only 1 hour and 35 minutes).


For more information, click here or go to


Text: ©Annick Dournes

Photos: ©Frederic de Poligny


If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , ,