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La Winery (Bordeaux)

La Winery (Bordeaux)

Georges Rouzeau - 2007-10-31

In the immediate vicinity of Bordeaux, La Winery combines, with originality, wine tasting and purchasing, gastronomy and contemporary art. Its modern glass and stainless steel architecture contrasts sharply with the traditional Medoc chateau.

The world of French wine is crossing a serious crisis. The wine-making universe is a victim of competition from New World wines and new consumer habits. People are drinking less and less, especially youths who are abandoning wine for trendier alcoholic drinks.
 
Philippe Raoux, whose grandfather pioneered wine sales by direct marketing decided to react. He has just opened La Winery, a modern facility where wine, gastronomy and art – without forgetting business – combine harmoniously after two years work and an investment of twenty million euros. To create La Winery, Philippe Raoux drew inspiration from the Anglo-Saxon models he discovered admiratively 30 years ago in Nappa Valley. This wine-tourism attraction is an attempt to revisit the art of tasting by connecting it with the world of art... 
 
The logo of the venue, which the visitor arriving from Bordeaux sees from afar, is a fifteen metre high red steel sculpture. A startlingly new sight in the conservative Medoc landscape. This Sun Tree by the Japanese artist Susumu Shingu pays homage to the natural elements: wind, sun, ocean and tides – so present in Medoc. 
After the Sun Tree, you are greeted by a giant bronze tortoise by Jan Fabre. Another magnificent work by this Flemish artist, entitled The man who measures the clouds, has been located behind the restaurant: the changing Medoc sky makes a perfect setting for it. Inside the restaurant, Roy Lichenstein's lithographs grace the walls.  
 
La Winery has been created from scratch. The understatedness of this glass and steel structure may shock. According to its designers, it is an inside-out greenhouse with man inside and nature outside. Alas, a watering system failure has slowed down the growth of the wisterias and other climbing plants housed in the hollow structures of the metallic frame. Eventually a Pacific jungle should totally cover La Winery and especially a cloister-forum lending the site the feeling of  a contemporary monastery. 
 
A work of art chateau
 
It's not the first time that Philippe Raoux has made a stir in the cosy little world of Medoc chateaux.  In 1986, he bought Chateau d’Arsac, then no more than a Napoleon II style ruin. It was the Bordelais, Patrick Hernandez, future architect of La Winery, who restored the place in an ultra-contemporary spirit:  the tattered roof was replaced by a glass dome while a steel beam by Bernar Venet pierces the facade. The fermenting room also underwent radical transformation to become the chateau's identity: it is painted electric blue, like a monochrome painting by Yves Klein, a colour recalling the well-known 'bouillie bordelaise' fungicide protecting vines from parasites. Some time afterwards, the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation hung part of its contemporary art collection in the chateau. Philippe Raoux's passion for contemporary art then took a novel turn. Purchases (since 1997, Chateau d'Arsac has bought a monumental sculpture each year which is then sited in the chateau grounds or amidst the vines) and an annual exhibition are now an integral part of his activity. Today, the vats room houses a sizeable collection of works by Nikki de Saint Phalle, Bernard Pagès and Claude Viallat.
 
Wine cellar shop and restaurant
 
La Winery, is primarily a gigantic wine shop selling 40,000 bottles and 2,000 references, from 8 to several thousand euros a bottle. Drawing on his relations in the wine producing world, Philippe Raoux also sells vintages you can't find elsewhere. The wines are chosen by a democratic tasting committee including of course an oenologist and a cellar master, but also a mere layman. To their eyes, 'a prestigious label does not systematically guarantee a good wine'. 
 
The star attraction at La Winery is known as the 'signe oenologique': these tasting sessions allow participants to gain a better awareness of their wine profile and they receive a personalised guide afterwards helping them find wines to their liking. Several types of tastings exist, from an initiation to wine to a comparison between grands crus. Thematic tastings are also organised every month. 
 
Le Wy, the gastronomic bistrot at La Winery, is managed by Olivier Garnier, who formerly worked at Hotel du Crillon as right-hand man to Dominique Bouchet and then in charge of receptions under Jean-François Piège. The impeccable service highlights the well prepared gourmet cuisine like, for instance, young pigeon with foie gras cream. Wine, of course, has a place of honour and dishes and wines are paired in a set menu. The wine waiter does a remarkable selection job of choosing little known wines with an excellent quality-price ratio. Vintages are also available at prices 40% lower than those practised in other establishments.
 
Menus 1,2,3 for 23 € and discovery menu for 63 €: from Wednesday to Saturday lunchtime; discovery menu for 63 €.
 
INFORMATIONS PRATIQUES
 
La Winery
Rond-point des Vendangeurs
Départementale 1
33460 Arsac-en-Médoc
 
From Bordeaux:
Rocade (ring road) exit 7 or 8, Départementale 1 – Take the direction of Le Verdon to the roundabout 6 km before Castelnau-de-Médoc.
 
From the coast:
Départementale 1 – Take the direction of Bordeaux to the roundabout 6 km after Castelnau-de-Médoc.
 
Restaurant Le Wy
Open from Wednesday to Sunday lunchtime
Reservation on 05 56 39 04 91.

In the immediate vicinity of Bordeaux, La Winery combines, with originality, wine tasting and purchasing, gastronomy and contemporary art. Its modern glass and stainless steel architecture contrasts sharply with the traditional Medoc chateau.

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