When I tell people I live in Bordeaux, the response is “Great wine, but what city do you live in?” Bordeaux is indeed one of the most famous wine regions in the world, but it’s also a city. A gorgeous honey-colored neoclassical city married with the remains of a medieval town…but that’s a story for another day. Bordeaux is a city that rightfully and proudly wears the title of Wine Capital of the World. It’s an indisputable title that is clear from the moment you’re greeted by the biggest wine bottles you’ve ever seen as you await your luggage arrival on the luggage carousel at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. The airport even has its very own vineyard as you step outside its’ door. It’s no wonder that La Cité du Vin, the world’s first interactive wine museum, would want to call Bordeaux home.
As wine travel writers, we’ve been to our fair share of wine museums. And I hate to say it, but they’re usually dreadfully boring. All of them seem to have an ancient wooden press, rusting equipment and little placards filled with technical terms. Once you’ve seen how the Romans made wine once, you get it.
La Cité du Vin is something entirely different though. As it prepared to open in June, the big media sites touted La Cité du Vin as France’s “wine theme park”. I don’t know that I’d go that far to call it a theme park; to us, theme park implies rides and general over-the-top-ness. But it is an impressive, interactive experience designed to engage all wine lovers.
As La Cité du Vin, it doesn’t matter if you’ve completed your WSET certification or just enjoy sipping a glass on a terrace. No matter what your level of wine knowledge, you’re immediately lured in with a stunning video of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. Of course, the rolling hills of Saint-Emilion’s vineyards with its charming chateaux is included. My new home.
And then, our old home: the terraced vineyards of the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano.
You just point your audio guide, which comes in a variety of languages, to an exhibit to activate it. There’s a 3D vineyard where various winemakers from around the world tell you about their region and winery. There globes you can spin and pinpoint any wine region in the world to learn more about it.
But our favorite room is the wine tasting room. Here, the sensory experience of wine is explained through four of the five senses. All that’s missing is the glass of wine to complete the experience, but that comes later. The tasting room is divided up by red and white wines and all their aromas. Adults are encouraged to play, to sniff.
A fun animation teaches wine and food pairing techniques. The right food can really bring out a wine’s notes. And the wrong food can make a wine taste terrible.
There’s movies, actual dining room tables where you can sit down and feel like part of the conversation and animations visualizing wine in art.
La Cité du Vin would be amiss if a little history of how Bordeaux came to be the Wine Capital of the World weren’t included and another interactive game lets you step back in time and in to the streets of this port city.
After the immersive visit through the exhibitions, take your ticket and head up to the eighth floor. The top floor enjoys a 360° panoramic view over Bordeaux and has a tasting bar. Your ticket entitles you to choose from about a dozen different wines from around the world including various Bordeaux and even wines from China or Georgia (the country).
Though you’ve already taken in the view from the eighth floor tasting bar, head down just one floor to the gourmet Le 7 Restaurant. We recommend booking a table about an hour before sunset because Bordeaux has some really spectacular sunsets with the sky turning shades of gold, pink and purple.
You can expect a gourmet experience with executive chef Bruno Grand-Clément, who gained his experience at the Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower and under Michelin chef Alain Duccase, at the helm. The menu features seasonal Bordelais classics and the freshest fish from the Atlantic Ocean, which is just over 30 miles from Bordeaux.
The chef sent an amuse bouche of a creamy cheese mousse topped with a summer truffle, croutons and oh-so-deliciously salty Jamon Iberico from Spain. If the amuse bouche was any indication, we were definitely in for a treat.
The Aquitaine, the region (sort of like states in the US), is the region where Bordeaux is located and also the top foie gras producing region in France. Naturally, we started with the foie gras with red berries. I have yet to have a bad foie gras in Bordeaux and this one was smooth and creamy, complimented nicely with the not-too-sweet nor not-too-tart red berries.
Neither of us had ever had green tomatoes before, but the heimloom green tomato salad with burrata cheese was delicious. The tomatoes were the sweetest variety I’ve ever had and now I’m dying to find some at the market to recreate this salad at home.
The filet of beef followed as our main course. I do have to note that I had to send my filet back. The French do not eat beef well done, which is fine by me since I enjoy my steak medium-rare. My dining companion, however, insisted on a well done filet and both arrived that way. The issue was quickly rectified and my filet was delicious once properly cooked.
As usual by this point in the meal, we were already feeling full. But who can’t find room for dessert? We shared a red berry sorbet in a soup of red berries and wine. It was light and the perfect sweet finish to a delicious meal.
Know Before You Go
Our visit was provided by La Cité du Vin and our meal was provided by Le 7 Restaurant in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.