The Daily Telegraph - Travel
A bright idea for Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the wine capital of the world. You name a reasonable rival and we might discuss it, but I can’t think of one. Naturally, the river city offers more than wine. The 18th and 19th-century elegance of the monumental centre articulates a faith in the rightness of colonial riches. Alongside, in the old town, the message from medieval churches dissipates fast through low-lit narrow streets that throb with restaurants, bars and an international conspiracy of pleasure-seekers.
And a couple of decades of energy have spruced the place up no end, reclaiming the river frontage, buffing up classical buildings, threading trams throughout and giving the impression that Bordeaux faces forward as well as back.
But wine remains the city’s sphere of excellence. You cry “Bordeaux!” and people say “wine” as, when you cry “Eccles”, they shout “cake”. Underlining this status, the muchheralded, £63million Cité du Vin opens next Wednesday on the banks of the Garonne, just in time for the 10th Bordeaux Wine Festival (see panel, overleaf). Now, the Cité may look like the shiny foot of a cartoon character – “swirl of wine” is the official line – but it is a world-beater; certainly the best wine centre I’ve encountered.
Granted, competition is not intense. Most wine museums are dreadful. I’ve spent some of the most godforsaken hours of my life looking at old wine-presses and vinespraying equipment. The appalling standards are attained because wine museums tend to be created and managed by wine people, the folk least qualified for the job. They are thrilled by coverage of tannins and soil types, as normal people are not. They bore on an Olympian scale.
Thus, the Cité’s inspiration has been to bring in (alongside scientists, historians, oenologists and that sort of person) proper professional popularisers. The scenographers – London design agency Casson-Mann – have a track record of making stuff interesting. Digital and interactive elements burst out all over the place. It’s head-turning. Meanwhile, director Philippe Massol arrived not from the vineyards but from Poitier’s Futuroscope theme park – with the idea that, even if you don’t like wine, can’t tell a Margaux from a
The best-known wine region in France now has a superb museum dedicated to the grape. Let’s drink to that, says Anthony Peregrine