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Friday, September 16, 2016

Huge Changes in Bordeaux

                      Bordeaux was chosen as Europe's "Top Toursit Destination"


I just arrived in Bordeaux.   Although I was here in 2012, this town has shifted completely on its axis.  On my first visit in the early 1990's Bordeaux was a forlorn city scarred by run-down, abandoned warehouses along its vast river.  There was little tourism except for wine business folks who occasionally were forced to overnight at one of the city’s lack-luster hotels.  Even in 2012, the dining scene was equally uninspiring.  Yes, there were a handful of good restaurants, but they were old-school spots that had been serving the same menus for decades.   Today, the warehouses have been replaced by a $90 million cultural center.  A bazillion Euros of tourism monies are now flooding into the once forgotten city.

                        Once delapidated warehouses now house chic boutiques & bistros

“Build it and they will come” is certainly the motto for Bordeaux.  The city’s drastic redevelopment of its entire waterfront now offers a plethora of tourist activities.  The biggest and brightest of all is the Cité du Vin (“the City of Wine”).  Ten years in the making, this museum-cum-cultural-events center contains a series of multi-sensory wine exhibits, along with a wine store selling selections from practically every corner of the globe. There are several restaurants with mind-boggling selections of wine, a wine bar, gift shops, and even a bookstore.  Tourists are in every nook and cranny of the town.  The Euros are flowing, along with the wine.

                             Rooms of the Grand Hotel overlook the tony Grand Theater

Hotels have joined in the town’s major cosmetic makeover. The 5 star Grand Hotel spent nearly $70 million to redecorate.  Smaller properties, equally focused on the sophisticated traveler, have followed.  Luxurious boutique hotels are springing up like morels after a spring rain.  Restaurants are following suit with cutting edge chefs flocking to the town to open temples for a new age cuisine.  Gordon Ramsay arrived in 2015 and already has two Michelin stars.  Tonight I'm dining at a just-opened farm-to-table place whose young chef has received raved reviews.  On today's walk I spotted countless new upscale wine bars, bistros and sidewalk cafes.  Fusion cuisine and food trucks appear to be the new norm.

                                                  This could be Paris, non?

But, the downtown area is not all that is new in the world’s most famous wine district.   Wineries has joined in the revitalization by establishing wine routes for tourists.   More wineries are opening hospitality programs to welcome visitors for wine-tasting.  One of the most compelling change in the wine industry, however, is the quest for new varietals.  Global warming is wreaking havoc in Bordeaux.  Researchers are experimenting with <50 new varieties.


The Wine-Knows' harvest tour begins tomorrow.   None of the participants have ever been to Bordeaux so they won't be able to totally recognize the incredible metamorphosis.  One of my jobs, henceforth, will be to ensure they appreciate the transformation of a once ugly step-sister into a glam-Cinderella.


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