Today’s post comes from ACCENT Paris Study Center Director Melissa Smith-Simonet, who recently visited La Cité du Vin, a new museum in Bordeaux specializing in wine. La Cité du Vin teaches us about wine’s history, its cultural significance, its creation, and the art of wine tasting.
When one hears ‘Bordeaux’, one immediately thinks not only of the city in the southwest corner of the Aquitaine, but of the world class wine of the entire region. Bordeaux has been shaped and defined by the wine trade and traces of this history are visible today in its many wine cellars, shops, and trading houses, as well as its vineyards and chateaux throughout the region.La Cité du Vin is a new museum in Bordeaux that allows visitors to discover the history of wine from the Romans to modern Bordeaux. It is an exploration of the winemaking region, its landscapes, its grape varieties, and its appellations.
However, La Cité explores much more than just France and French wine: it introduces us to ten wineries and regions all over the globe. They walk us from wine country in France (Burgundy, Alsace, Loire) to Japan, Turkey, Chile, and Napa Valley. They truly explore the world of wine, across history, climates, and continents, presenting wine as a universal treasure.
The museum is highly interactive and tactile. You are guided by a hand-held device with headphones and you merely click on exhibits or subjects that are of interest. You wave your hand over a table and it lights up with moving images, information, and sound.
La Cité brings wine down to a level you can understand easily, with a whole section on everyday smells and aromas identifiable in the wines we drink. It is a common belief that wine experts have an extraordinary sense of smell, and that for us non-professionals aromas can be difficult to recognize. However, with the sniffs and whiffs we were able to enjoy at La Cité, we learned how to easily identify notes of tobacco, leather, citrus fruits, raspberries, chocolate, and even books!
Continuing with the tasting portion of the tour, there is a section that encourages visitors to engage with wine and learn how to discuss its qualities. Wine is examined as a cultural and social practice, but above all as a pleasure for the senses. Touching, smelling, and examining different wines provides a fun and interesting way to explore the panoply of colors and aromas, and allows visitors to learn about the different textures of red and white wines. There are also quizzes and games to improve your wine knowledge, and further portions of the museum that offer professional tasting tips and wine vocabulary.
The visit to La Cité du Vin ends with a tasting of the wines explored in the exhibit. The 7th floor tasting room has beautiful panoramic views of the city, the Garonne river and port.
~Melissa Smith-Simonet, ACCENT Paris
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