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New mega wine cultural centre for Bordeaux

BORDEAUX – The 10,000-square-metre centre, a decade in the pipeline, will grace the mouth of the city’s tiny pleasure port just north of the historic Chartrons wine district where a new bridge will cross the Garonne river.

The development marks a new step forward for an urban renewal plan to transform the once sleepy city into a flourishing tourist destination with a tramway system, renovated river front, parks, bike paths, a botanical garden and clean facades.

The ambitious wine centre project stakes a claim to not only the region’s historical dominance but its future position among the world’s wine capitals.

"The center of the world of wine is Bordeaux," said Sylvie Cazes, president of the Union of Grands Crus and delegate to the City Council for economic development in the wine trade and tourism.

Wine is France’s number two export after aeronautics, and France is the number one tourist destination. Bordeaux, both a city and a wine, intends to capitalize on that connection.

Amid the current economic woes striking the wine business, many are hoping the project will help secure the region’s livelihood. One in six jobs in the region is in the wine business and five percent of the population works in tourism.

The historical city, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007, sees 2.5 million visitors annually, and Juppe believes the city can deliver the 400,000 visitors needed per year to make the center a success.

Project leaders promise an architecturally impressive edifice that will also be convivial, lively, and create a positive image of wine. "We want to demystify wine," said Cazes.

Visitors will learn about making, selling and enjoying wine throughout the world as well as the idiosyncrasies of Bordeaux wine.

Architects will compete with their designs in 2010, a winner will be chosen next summer, and the doors will open in 2013.