La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux: a new showcase for French wine culture17-06-2016
On June 1st Bordeaux opened its new iconic venue dedicated to wine and wine culture.
The sheer impact of its architecture and the originality of the experience within will help bolster wine tourism in France both regionally and nationally, and give France a significant boost worldwide. The Fondation pour la culture et les civilisations du vin, tasked with steering the project until 2028, is predicting 450,000 visitors over 12 months; of which 90% from individual entries and 10% groups.
Bordeaux now has a new platform to drive tourism and its wealth of wine culture. After many years maturing in Bordeaux’s Town Hall, the idea has finally come to fruition. The building gleams from the tip of its 55-metre tower, along the contours of the river, to the extreme northern reaches of the city. “The landmark venue, backed wholeheartedly by the city of Bordeaux, was to be devoted to wine, such a powerful, evocative symbol of the city”, explained Olivier Kollek, the Fondation’s Sales and Marketing Director. The venue serves as both a cultural centre and hi-tech museum, allying a rich diversity of scientific content with the very latest whizzy technology to wow the public with information. Aesthetically, the structure is a showstopper, reminiscent of a flickering flame, or the swirl of a wine in a glass. “It can be whatever you want it to be,” emphasises Olivier Kollek, though he goes on to elaborate on the creative work of architect duo Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazieres: “They were inspired by two elements: the shape of a gnarled vine, and the movement of wine as it swirls in the glass.” And incidentally, it is said that its unique shape all began at a tasting of Chateau Hosanna, a 2009 Pomerol.
This landmark structure, sometimes likened to the Guggenheim, aims to attract a diverse audience. The paying, permanent tour comprises 20 themed modules, where the focus is quite intentionally placed on fun, interactive and immersive content, to engage even the most casual wine drinker. In addition, many other spaces are free for all, such as the function rooms, communal areas, shops, and reading room. Throughout the year, a series of temporary exhibitions, cultural events, wine tastings and a rich and varied programme of events is planned.
A cultural beacon boosting tourism in Bordeaux and France
40% of visitors are expected from outside France, essentially from the UK, North America, Spain, Belgium, and Italy. And specifically with these visitors in sight, La Cité du Vin has laid on a carefully signposted trilingual tour in English, French and Spanish. Reception staff are bilingual at the very least, usually with an additional language up their sleeve, such as Russian or Chinese. The trump card is what Olivier Kollek refers to as the “compagnon de voyage”, which is no mere audio guide, brimming with information available in 8 languages, and ready-equipped to cater for the next wave of visitors.
The foundation, together with regional and local tourist boards, as well as the wine industry, are pulling out all the stops for foreign visitors. The results speak for themselves since the world press did not miss the opportunity to talk about the rise of La Cité du Vin from the banks of the Garonne. Communications also have a strong digital focus:
“We are implementing various activities on site. In July, in partnership with an airline company, visitors from 10 European destinations will have La Cité du Vin emblazoned on their e-tickets. And on social media, free tickets are also up for grabs.”
This Bordeaux edifice will certainly enhance the cultural image of the city, indeed the whole region, while at the same time conveying the refreshing, modern face of France to foreign clientele, worthy of its tasting legacy. The destination stands out too for its uniqueness. It is the only one of its kind to devote itself to wine cultures around the world and their distinctive character. It’s also a “wine wonderland” theme park and a state-of-the-art museum. For visitors, it’s certainly a new experience guaranteed.
A giant leap for wine tourism
Wine tourism in France is seeing an explosion in popularity and this new wine icon can only serve to promote further growth. La Cité du Vin has introduced a number of tools to take this even further. “We have installed an « information, route du vin » feature intended to structure all the attractions under the wine tourism umbrella available in the Bordeaux vineyards” explains Olivier Kollek. In this way, La Cité du Vin is assisting in the development of Bordeaux Wine trip, a digital app that facilitates booking visits to Bordeaux vineyards on line and in real time, though La Cité is also keen to direct visitors towards other French vineyards. “As a result of these digital tools, we can equip tourists with much more information relating to vineyards and regions across France”, points out Olivier Kollek.