La Cité du Vin

Once again, I’m forced to mine recent history for a blog post.  Sorry, folks – not been doing much this year.  So this week, we’re off to Bordeaux to reprise our visit to the city’s newest attraction: the much hyped Cité du Vin.  And this is when my full membership of the curmudgeonly fossil club becomes a matter of public record.  As an honorary member of the Tortola Old Farts (the Fartina), it is but an inevitable progression.  But I digress.

La Cité du Vin.  Stunning building, which people either love or hate.  I think that it’s attractive.  G doesn’t.  However, it is a bit Gehry-samey-copy-catty.  Sort of on the lines of “well, every up and coming city has one of these shiny statement buildings, why not Bordeaux too?”  Fossil point one.  The designers say that the shape is supposed to represent the wine in a glass as you swirl it before tasting.  My more pedestrian imagination says “decanter.”  Oh well.

Fossil point number two stems from the darkness of the foyer and poor signage.  We trailed around looking for the way up to the restaurant before commencing with our tour of the exhibition spaces – with a guest in town we’d decided to make an event of the visit.  Lift found, we rattled up to a vantage point above the city with views over the river and the new Chalmas bridge.

la cite du vin
Stunning architecture is the primary feature of this new “museum.” (it appears that I deleted my restaurant shots!!)  These blobs contained touch-screens that show the vinification process etc.

The restaurant is nicely designed, heavy on the light Swedish wood look.  The menu not vast, but innovative and fresh.  Unsurprisingly, the wine list is extensive, and presented on a small tablet computer.  Good idea.  Except that it was only in French.  You’ve just given me a computer, for heaven’s sake – why not use its power to present the list in multiple languages???  Fossil point number 3?  The tablet didn’t work – but another was quickly provided.  We ended up taking the sommelier’s recommendations for wines by the glass.  Good meal.

So then we went to start our experience of the Cite du Vin proper. Our tickets included a tasting at the “Belvedere”, the topmost floor of the building.  Problem 1: return to the ground floor and get our tickets re-scanned before hurtling in the “restricted access” lift to the top.  I was a little surprised by the lack of interaction from the staff on hand to pour the taster included in our ticket price, and had expected a wider selection of off-beat wines from around the world.  No worries.

Wines tasted, we thought that we could immediately embark upon the tour of the museum, and looked for the corridor that would take us (as we had envisioned) down around the decanter’s neck and into the body.  Wrong!  Get back into the lift and descend to the ground floor CHANGE lifts, and return to the 2nd floor.  Why???  We were provided with mini-tablets with audio sets and on we went.  Z, a real tech-junkie, had already downloaded the Cité du Vin’s app into her phone, so she eschewed their IT and headed out to explore alone.  We had agreed to meet for a glass of wine in a bar we’d glanced close to the main entrance, so Graham and I meandered around on our own.  We should probably have stuck with Z, although we’d have hampered her visit.

La cite du vin
Big AV displays are another part of the experience

Fossil point 4 is the confession that I (being seriously old-school in my education and museum experience) had expected a linear journey through the history and development of wine through the ages.  This is not the case in Bordeaux.  Here, everything is on touch-screens and tablets (some hanging from a wall sculpture that looks like a vine).  As you can see, it wasn’t crowded on the day that we went, and even so we wouldn’t get to much of the information.  Goodness knows what it was like in high-season.  There are some big-screen displays and light-boxes too.  This is a self-guided butterfly-style tour through wine.  I felt, um, disappointed.  That it was essentially shallow and for those with a short attention span.  But maybe it’s just the technology that has made me humbuggy.  I wanted quality information, not just slick design.

la cite du vin
lovely sculptural interiors


la cite du vin
Light-box displays cleverly done.

So, now that you’ve had the level of my grumpy-old-gitness confirmed, I’ll end with a final picture of Z’s best bit of the day…

La Cite du Vin
The wine shop – Z’s happy place at the Cité du Vin


4 thoughts on “La Cité du Vin”

  1. Nothing to do with La Cite du Vin, more of that later. Just think you might be relieved not to be in BVI at this moment!!

  2. Sometimes you wake up in the morning, go to take a shower, look in the mirror and to your horror, on the end of your nose is a huge yellow spot. And you say to yourself, “that wasn’t there yesterday and what did I do to deserve that!” You grab a tissue, squeeze and hunt for the tube of Valderma. It’s gone. Hopefully for good. A lot of modern architecture leaves me with the same feeling. A blot on what was once a perfectly reasonable landscape. It annoys me when architects have to tell me what I’m looking at or what it represents. Wine in a glass as it swirls before tasting! Really!!! I’ve not seen the building so I can’t comment but if somebody hadn’t explained this to us, would we all be in the dark. And does it really matter. The Romans were pretty good at building. Most of their stuff is still standing and doesn’t need any explanation other than WOW and how on earth did they do that. And they didn’t have computers! Just scribes and tablets (not electronic ones that don’t work) and ropes and slaves and brilliant minds.

  3. Hi Rick,

    Thank you for your timely thoughts. It has been terrible to witness the destruction wrought by Irma as she travelled across the northern Caribbean. While the carnage to buildings is easy to evaluate and quickly visible, it is the damage to lives that is so much harder to handle and help. Graham was the manager of the BVI’s largest hotel at the time of hurricane Hugo in 1989. He still has nightmares about the experience, and Irma brought them back again this week.

    Word is slowly trickling in regarding the well-being (make that living) of friends and family, but there are several people for whom we have no concrete news, and that’s just awful. We can but hope that we hear good news soon.

    The important thing for those overseas to be aware of is that the thing that the islanders need now, more than before, is for tourists to return. The debris will soon settle out in the sea, leaving beautiful waters for swimming, sailing and snorkelling; the rustic beach bars so beloved y tourists are inexpensive shacks constructed from small dollops of cement, a few sheets of plywood and some palm fronds. Simple BBQs can be made from old oil drums. Trees will take a long time to grow back, but the lush green associated with the tropics is a faster fill. You’d be amazed by what will have been accomplished by Christmas.

    The people of the Caribbean are strong and resourceful. They will recover well from this terrible event.


    #bvistrong, #resilientbvi

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