Bordeaux city officials have announced plans for a 100,000-square-foot wine-culture center they hope will draw more visitors to the capital of one of the world's leading wine regions. Construction of the $82 million center will begin in 2011 on the banks of the Gironde River just north of Chartrons, the historic wine merchants neighborhood. The center is scheduled for opening in 2013.
The city of Bordeaux, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the regional governments of Gironde and Aquitaine, as well as the Bordeaux Wines Trade Board are jointly funding the center. The complex will have its own hotel, restaurant and bar, and will host wine tastings and conferences.
The future center will include exhibitions and activities about wine, with attractions suited to all age groups. Although it is hoped that it will help to promote the region's vintners, the center will not be exclusively dedicated to Bordeaux and its wines. "The complex is going to focus on wine culture worldwide, including the great men and women who have forged its history," said project supervisor Philippe Massol. "There will also be interactive presentations about the tastes, smells and even the tactile sensations associated with wine, that children will be able to take part in, in view of attracting school groups."
Hoping to make a dramatic statement, the center's steering committee, which includes winegrower Sylvie Cazes, president of the Union of Grands Crus and delegate to the city council for economic development in the wine trade and tourism, wants a dramatic architectural design that will draw visitors. "Although the design will be contemporary, we want it to symbolize the châteaus of Bordeaux," said Massol. "We are about to make a call for architectural proposals." A plan will be selected next year.
The center is just the latest urban renewal project by the city as part of a focus on drawing more visitors. UNESCO listed Bordeaux as a world heritage site in 2007, and officials have renovated classic landmarks, beautified the riverfront and built a new tramway in the center of town. The new center's planners estimate it will draw between 200,000 to 400,000 visitors annually and hope it will reinforce Bordeaux's reputation as a leading wine capital. "Bordeaux's assets—culture, tourism and now research, following the recent inauguration of the Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin—allow it to be considered among the world's great wine centers," said Roland Feredj, managing director of the Bordeaux Wines Trade Board.