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.
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.
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.
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…