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City of Wine

Escape to the heart of Bordeaux, where the magnificent Cité du Vin carries you away on a multi-sensory adventure.

Dubbed a 'Disneyland for adults', France's Cité du Vin - recently opened in Bordeaux - is dedicated to the history of wine. But instead of tea cups and roller coasters, at this wine 'theme park' you'll get your thrills from wine glasses and drink coasters. Costing a budget-busting 81 million Euros ($AUD 116 million) and taking more than two decades to become reality, the multi-storey Cité du Vin is a truly impressive temple to viticulture.

The building itself (designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières from the Parisian agency XTU) is an architectural triumph. Featuring thousands of glass and metallic glazed panels, the imposing aluminium structure is all shimmering curves. Evoking the swirl of wine moving in a glass, its sculptural form also reflects the undulating Garonne river, which the building overlooks from the city's left bank.

This mecca for wine-lovers is not just aimed at connoisseurs; the Cité du Vin hopes to make the vinous tipple accessible to everyone via a playful, hands-on journey of discovery. It claims to be the world's largest wine museum, offering visitors an immersive experience through the world's wine culture and its universal heritage.

"I don't like to call it a museum," says Sylvie Cazes, president of the Foundation for the Culture and Civilisations of Wine, "because the word suggests a bunch of dusty collections. This is completely interactive and unlike anything seen before."

That goes for its wine collection too, which doesn't limit itself to the Grands Crus of Bordeaux.

"When the project started some 20 years ago, there was a Bordeaux focus," says Sylvie, "but over time it evolved to include wines from everywhere." The ground floor wine boutique houses more than 14,000 bottles of 800 different wines from some 80 countries. There are even drops from unlikely destinations such as Ethiopia, Indonesia and Tahiti.
If you're not ready to splurge on a bottle, some wines can be tasted (for a corkage fee) at the bar.

 

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However, it's on the upper floors of the Cité du Vin where the real fun starts. Go beyond a wine's taste to discover other aspects of its character during one of the workshop sessions. These take place in sleek, multi-sensory spaces featuring 360 degree projections, sounds and a scent diffusion system. 
Far from being straight-up wine-tasting classes, the experience is casual and convivial. "They're focused on the spirit of sharing, as everyone has a different relationship with wine", says Sylvie.

Meanwhile, in a bid to keep the local clientele coming back, the Cité du Vin shows temporary exhibitions in the Salle des Colonnes, and all year long, the 250-seater Thomas Jefferson auditorium plays host to concerts, film screenings and debates.

 

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The headline visitor attraction is the permanent exhibition, where the interactive multimedia experience is a real feast for the senses and a glorious celebration of every facet of wine.

With 19 themed sections, the Cité du Vin has all bases covered, from the lands that produce the grapey goodness, and winegrowers around the world, to wine's influence on thousands of years of society, and its connection to the arts. Each display is fascinating, thanks to the clever use of 3D imagery, aroma diffusion, or video game technology. Not forgetting punters not yet old enough to enjoy wine; the Cité du Vin reaches out to younger visitors with fun, age-appropriate displays.

The museum's highlights range from giant video screens looping mesmerising vistas of the world's winemaking regions, and the 'getting to know you' feature with (virtual) winegrowers from all corners of the globe, to the 'meet the experts' panel where you can seek one-on-one advice from wine professionals (again, in virtual form). Whether you listen to a Michelin-starred chef or a respected sommelier, their answers on how to buy wine, how to serve wine, and whether wine awards mean anything, may surprise you.

Refuelling takes place on the 7th floor where Le 7 restaurant offers sweeping views over the Garonne and the Port de la Lune. Chef Nicolas Lascombes rustles up his brand of world cuisine with a French twist using seasonal and regional produce. Wash it all down with your choice of 500 wines from 50 countries.

Indeed, la pièce de résistance is the Belvédère, the rooftop wine bar, which boasts a stunning panorama of Bordeaux. This is where you wrap up your visit (only those who have paid museum entry fees can access it) while sipping on a glass of wine included in the ticket price. Soak up the views from the 10 metre-long oak bar, or gape at the 4,000 glass bottles suspended from the ceiling. Tasters can choose from a regularly rotating selection of five Bordeaux wines and 15 from around the world.

As to why the Cité du Vin would open its doors in Bordeaux, it couldn't have happened anywhere else, says Sylvie. "It's a big city with the most famous wine-producing region in the world, and the biggest producer of AOC wine."

The founder of the Cité du Vin, Alain Juppé, who is also the mayor of Bordeaux (and a 2017 French Presidential hopeful) has called the museum his 'Guggenheim'. An ambitious claim, but it's certainly gone some way to cementing the World Heritage listed city's status as the unrivalled world capital of wine.

 

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Take the wine theme all the way with a luxurious stay at Les Sources de Caudalie, an intimate, five-star boutique hotel nestled in Bordeaux wine country.

Indulge your tastebuds at one of three on site restaurants, including the magnificent Michelin-starred La Grand' Vigne.

Take a guided tour of the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte , just steps from the hotel, or borrow a bike for a leisurely ride through the sun-dappled vineyards. The cherry (or grape) on top is the spa offering exclusive vinotherapy wine-based treatments.

Book at sources-caudalie.com , rooms from 240 Euros.

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Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
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The Granite Belt: Beautiful One Day, Perfect Wine The Next
Words by Paul Diamond on 8 May 2017
Cool climate wines from Queensland – if that sounds strange, head to the  Granite Belt wine region  and you’ll find plenty! It’s well established that the first ‘official’ Australian wine region was Farm Cove NSW, planted by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. But what about the second? If you assumed it was in South Australia, Victoria or even Tasmania, you would be wrong.  It is, in fact, Queensland’s Granite Belt, planted in 1820, preceding Victorian and South Australian regions by 15-plus years. Given most of Queensland is hot and tropical, we usually associate it with beaches and reefs rather than grape vines. However, the Sunshine State has a rich and varied agricultural history and people are now starting to favour the Granite Belt’s cool climate, Euro-style wines. Three hours south west of Brisbane on the southern Darling Downs, the Granite Belt is situated around Queensland’s apple capital, Stanthorpe. 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A trip to the Granite Belt is not complete without a tasting with Mike, including his standout expressions of  Fiano , Lagrien, Gewürztraminer,  Petit Verdot  and Reserve Shiraz. www.symphonyhill.com.au/ TOBIN WINE Adrian Tobin’s wines are a strong philosophical statement, reinforcing the notion that wine is made in the vineyard.  Since establishing Tobin Wine in 1999, Adrian has been deeply connected to his vines and produces a small amount of high quality Sauv Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet. All of Adrian’s wines are named after his grandchildren and are collectables.  www.tobinwines.com.au/ GIRRAWEEN ESTATE Steve Messiter and his wife Lisa started Girraween Estate in 2009. Small and picturesque, it is home to one of the region’s earliest vine plantings. They produce modest amounts of Sparkling wines, including Pinot Chardonnay along with Shiraz, Rosé and Sauv Blanc. Their table wines include Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet.  www.girraweenestate.com.au FEELING HUNGRY There is no shortage of good food in the Granite Belt, but a trip to  Sutton’s Farm  is essential. An apple orchard, it’s owned by David and Roslyn Sutton, who specialise in all things apple, including juice, cider and brandy. Their shed café also pays homage to the humble apple with the signature dish being home made apple pie served with Sutton’s spiced apple cider ice cream and whipped cream. For breakfast, try  Zest Café  located in town, where the coffee is fantastic and their baking game is strong. Their breakfast will definitely see you going back for seconds.  A delicious choice for lunch or dinner is the  Barrelroom and Larder , lovingly run by Travis Crane and Arabella Chambers.  Attached to Ballandean winery, the Barrelroom is casual in style and fine in output. Everything that Travis and Arabella cook comes from within a three hour radius and if it doesn’t exist in that area, they don’t cook it. A fantastic way to spend an afternoon is with Ben and Louise Lanyon at their  McGregor Terrace Food Project . Based in a Stanthorpe, this neighborhood bistro with a gorgeous whimsical garden offers cooking from the heart with the surrounds to match. Whether your choice is a Granite Belt alternative ‘Strange Bird’ or a more traditional varietal, take it along to Ben and Lou’s Food Project, sit out the back and you’ll feel like you’re in the south of France. You will, in fact, be in Queensland, thinking that it is a pretty cool place to be; literally and figuratively.     
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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