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Bordeaux to open first American-style wine tourist center

A Bordeaux negociant and winemaker will open the region’s first US-style wine center in March, in a bid to tap into the lucrative wine tourist market.

La Winery, a 26ha wine tourism complex in Arsac-en-Médoc, boasts exhibition areas, park and picnic land with water features, an amphitheatre, restaurant, tasting rooms and 1,000 square metres of retail space.

The complex is Bordeaux’s first such operation and is due to open on 1 March this year.

Negociant and winemaker Philippe Raoux has invested €12m in the complex – Bordeaux’s first such operation. It is due to open on 1 March.

La Winery was inspired by visits to tourist-friendly wineries on five continents and heavily influenced by California’s wine tourism infrastructure.

‘La Winery is unique,’ said company secretary Yves Bontoux. ‘There are many wineries that focus on one particular region. But this is the first venue that will feature a significant number of foreign wines as well.’

Over 40,000 bottles (from €3 to €2000) will be on offer in La Winery’s boutique, which is being managed by Arnaud Plard, former sommelier at the Michelin-starred Cordeillan-Bages restaurant in Pauillac.

In addition to free tastings, there will be ticketed tastings including Bouchard Burgundy dating back to the 40s, and verticals of Sassicaia and Vega Sicilia.

Visitors will also have the chance to find out their ‘wine sign’ – a Zodiac-like reading of their preferences and tastes showing which of six categories (such as sensualist, esthete, gourmand) they fall into.

Bontoux is convinced Bordeaux is ready for such an operation.

‘The Bordelais cannot continue to be so insular,’ said Bontoux. ‘We have the most prestigious wines on the planet, yet the majority of wineries do not open their arms to visitors. It’s not normal.’

‘We have seen the professional, organised operations in America, and we want to emulate this – but in our own way. But we will not be offering a Las Vegas-style experience.’

Raoux owns several Bordeaux chateaux, including Margaux cru bourgeois Chateau d’Arsac, and runs Marjolaine, which claims to be France’s first mail-order wine company.

La Winery expects 80,000-100,000 visitors a year.

Written by Maggie Rosen

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