Gone are the days when Bordeaux didn’t ‘do’ tourism. Whether it’s a week getting closer to nature among the vines or a weekend break surrounded by the splendour of a classed growth château, with an intimate wine tasting thrown in, Sophie Kevany’s black book is bursting with ideas...
Château accommodation in Bordeaux has in the past lagged behind wine regions such as California or Tuscany, but that is changing. Bordeaux’s Tourism Office director, Nicolas Martin, estimates that in the last five years châteaux accommodation has increased by about 10% annually. ‘Château owners have realised there’s a demand from visitors who want to “live the château life” and that rooms they have are underutilised,’ he says.
There are now about 320 accredited châteaux that welcome guests in Bordeaux. More are expected to open over the next few years, with two projects already underway in Sauternes – currently one of the sparsest areas of Bordeaux for luxury accommodation.
For those considering a trip, the suggestions below are based on both their attractiveness for wine lovers and their renown. The cost range given is based on the lowest low season price, up to the highest in high season. In most cases breakfast is not included.
Cos d’Estournel’s Chartreuse
rentable as entire chartreuse only, 8 doubles
€20,000 (£16,980) per night, all year round
no website; booking enquiries via email to email@example.com, or call +33 5 56 73 15 50
Yes, the price is correct. A night at the chartreuse (manor house), which sits in the middle of the Cos d’Estournel vineyard, includes the use of two suites, six bedrooms and all the staff you require. Guests can also use the library, dining room, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gym and steam room. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included, with lunch and dinner prepared by the on-site chef and accompanied, of course, by various Cos d’Estournel vintages. (Given the price, you can probably have wine for breakfast too.) An in-depth tour of the vineyard and gravity-flow cellar is followed by a tasting of more of the estate’s wines.
La Table de Beychevelle
About 80% of Beychevelle’s guests are in the wine business, and the rest are serious amateurs, according to the hotel’s director, Christine Pinault. Pinault lives at the château, and she and her team take care of visitors and all their individual wants. ‘What we do best here is provide a family welcome in a luxury setting. We’re also really good at organising bespoke itineraries and spend a great deal of time helping guests arrange what they would like to do and see.’
The highlight here is a wine dinner organised by Pinault and general manager, Philippe Blanc. This takes place at the family dining table and revolves around four wines: a St-Julien white; the estate’s second wine, L’Amiral, and two vintages from Beychevelle – one recent, one older. The conversation, no surprise, also revolves around wine, with Pinault and Blanc joining diners to discuss aromas, flavours, vintage conditions and winemaking styles. Beychevelle also offers helicopter tours of the local vineyards and visits to its brand-new winemaking cellar.
Le Pavillon, Villemaurine
5 doubles or entire property (no children under 12)
€250-€350 (£210-£300), or €1,000- €2,000 (£849-£1,700) for entire property
Known for its extremely discreet cosseting, it’s not unusual for guests to plan visits to Le Pavillon up to 18 months in advance, all in deep consultation with owners Nikki and Julian Garofano. Originally from the UK (Nikki) and Italy-Australia-England (Julian), the couple have spent 17 years in the region, running their own vineyard for 10 of those, before moving to St-Emilion.
‘Guests come mainly from America, Australia, Japan, Brazil and the UK, but lots of other places too, like Hawaii. It’s like “spin the globe” in here some days. They’re all food and wine lovers like us, so there’s lots of common ground right away,’ says Nikki. ‘We’ve even had food parcels. Barbecue rub from Texas, chocolate-covered crisps from Japan.’ Other attractions include private wine tours, tasting lessons and guided walks. Book well in advance and have a full list of your needs to hand. They will be met.
Château Prieuré Marquet
5 doubles, with 6 more available on request and an English bus that sleeps 4
€230-€350 (£195-£300), entire castle also available; the bus is €50 (£42.50) per night per person
Opened last year, the estate welcomes families, art lovers, car enthusiasts and anyone else looking to loll about in impressive, comfortable, arty, vinous surroundings. Visitors to the 15th-century chartreuse will find extensive ‘trompe l’oeil’ paintings, art exhibitions, a heated pool, billiards, a baby grand, fishing, woods, a heliport, recently overhauled winemaking facilities and, of course, vineyards (currently being replanted) that produce the estate’s red and rosé wines.
Lovers of the combustion engine can book the 1969 Silver Shadow Rolls Royce for train station collections, or arrange for a drive around the grounds in the 1957 Willys Jeep. Alternatively they can repair to the dining room to eat alongside a classic Fiat 500 (fondly known by Italians as topolinos) or catch a night in the retired English bus – number 007.
Asked to provide his own description of the place, owner Bernard Canonne says simply, ‘It’s pretty singular, as well as being elegant and refined. But the best thing to do is come and stay with us.
Château Le Pape
Tranquillity is the watchword at Le Pape. Opened in 2015 by Robert Wilmers, the owner of Château Haut-Bailly, the 18th-century country house is set in nine hectares of vineyard. Included in the price is breakfast, bike rental and a tasting at Haut-Bailly. Guests can also take a dip in the pool, then saunter to the wine library for a few fortifying glasses.
On-site manager, Hervé Audibert, can arrange any other comforts required, such as a private table in the main Haut-Bailly house, or a low-key lunch in Le Pape for those too relaxed to leave the grounds. Private tables require a minimum of four people and prices start at about €170 (£144) per person for four to six guests and about €150 (£127) per person for eight to 15. The menu is designed around three wines: one vintage of La Parde, the estate’s second wine, and two of Haut- Bailly. Vegetarians are welcome and all produce comes from the local market.
La Chartreuse du Château Le Thil
La Chartreuse was opened in September 2015 by the owners of the well-known Les Sources de Caudalie, Alice Tourbier and her husband Jérôme. But where Les Sources, by comparison, is larger and livelier, with restaurants and a bar, Le Thil is an oasis of calm. The 18th century mansion is perfect for those bent on reading, writing, thinking or simply communing with nature, glass in hand.
The garden is classed as a ‘Jardin Remarquable’ and visitors can follow signs along the two-hour, ‘five senses’ walk, stopping to touch, smell, listen, hear, and finally, taste the nature around them. The walk costs €25 (£21.25), wends through the vineyards and takes in the new underground cellar where the estate’s second wine, Les Hauts de Smith, is made. Walkers will be able to view the interior via a periscope (shortly to be installed) before moving (thirstily) on to the tasting at Smith Haut Lafitte.
In keeping with the atmosphere of deep peace, there is no restaurant at Le Thil (although breakfast is available). Visitors can walk or bike to Caudalie, which is only one kilometre away. Alternatively, Le Thil can be booked for private lunches or dinners.
A comfortable bed and breakfast, perfect for ‘pudding wine’ lovers and Toulouse-Lautrec fans. The artist is buried nearby and visits to Château Malromé (once owned by his mother, the Countess Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec, and where he often stayed and painted) can be arranged at the flick of a can-can skirt. On your return, Pascale and Didier Galhaud, who own and run La Sauternaise will, if desired, have a Sauternes tasting awaiting. Didier works at the nearby Château Guiraud (an organic premier cru Sauternes), so bottles of that are often available. Tastings at nearby châteaux (d’Yquem, de Rayne Vigneau, Suduiraut, Filhot and Guiraud) can also be organised. Breakfast is included, while lunches and dinners can be found in two nearby restaurants, Auberge les Vignes and Le Saprien, both of which can be reached on foot. Cycling is also an option. For those who prefer to do less, each room offers either a sauna, hammam, spa shower or jacuzzi.
Lalande de Pomerol
The 19th-century Château Siaurac is classed as an historic monument and the garden here is another ‘Jardin Remarquable’. The rooms are filled with family furniture, paintings and objets d’art belonging to Paul Goldschmidt and his wife Veronique, the majority owners of the estate. A smaller slice was recently sold (via the Artemis Group) to French businessman, art collector and the owner of Château Latour, François Pinault. The emphasis here is on beautiful things (and those with active children might want to bear this in mind), both in the rooms and on the walls. Even lunch and dinner are (carefully) served on antique plates, which were designed by 19th-century Bordeaux ceramicist, Jules Vieillard. The menu is fixed (and depends on what’s best from the local market), allowing diners a few moments of delicious, twice-daily speculation as to what the chef might have prepared.