Ah, where to begin. The hotel, the location – the romance. I may have a long list of hotels I plan to visit over the next few years, but there was one in particular that I just couldn’t banish from my mind – Les Sources De Caudalie. Nestled within the vineyards of Bordeaux’s Saint-Emilion and just a short drive from the centre of Bordeaux itself, this truly has to be one of the best hotels in Europe I’ve visited in some time. Not to mention it being squeezed between not just vineyards, but also lush green forests.
From the moment you arrive you can already tell this hotel was born from passion and has a story to tell. Owned and run by the Caudalie family, the hotel sits within a stones throw from Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte – one of the most highly regarded Chateau’s in the world. The hotel, established in 1999 was inspired by the “French Paradox”, discovered over 20 years ago and refers back to a study proving that the French diet and lifestyle, particularly in Southwest France, is a way of good health.
Our time here was spent in mid-December and admittedly it was an incredibly chilly one – but that was all part of the of the experience. Knowing a bubbly hot jacuzzi was on hand for sipping a few too many glasses of Champagne and the crisp mornings which shroud the entire property in a thin layer of ice and a blanket of fog were on offer. Everywhere you look here it’s utterly beautiful and we can all thank its architect, Yves Collet who created this hotel from scratch using recycled local materials which are in tune with the surroundings.
The moment we arrived, we dropped off our bags and in true Foodaholic fashion I’d succumbed to my guilty pleasure – hot tub and Champagne. Located in the grounds of the Caudalie Spa it most certainly didn’t disappoint. Indulgence and relaxation within the middle of nature and Europe’s wine growing epicentre. It doesn’t get much better than this.
After a little pampering we set off to explore some of the hotels grounds where a gorgeous lake sits at the centre of the property, surrounded by bronze sculptures and a honeymoon suit of dreams which looks out over it all – decorated by a new designer every year. An upscale gypsy wagon sits at the back of the honeymoon suite with large bronze bear guarding it from passers-by. It really is a magical place to stay and the perfect room to pop that all important question before dinner.
A kitchen garden, decorative wooden boats and a rather peculiar tree which seemed as though it couldn’t wait for its Winter nap. The morning we arrived its leaves were on the tree and by dinner every single one was laying on the floor and the branches were bare.
Inside the hotel it is just as pretty. Feeling as though its been here for much longer that it has been, the property was built in 1996 – yet it’s already settled into it’s grounds and surroundings perfectly. A cosy bar, elegant reception area and a rather grand entrance all sets the scene.
Before dinner we went back to explore our room. Staying in one of the hotels grand suites our room had a sumptuous mixture of shabby chic luxury paired with all the mod cons such as a Nespresso machine and a Bluetooth speaker system which really tested our technology expertise. Washed exposed wooden beamed walls, autumnal colours, relaxed lighting and a balcony which looks out over the vineyards.
Our room, Tribord was full of treats on arrival too which we couldn’t resist before dinner. Fresh fruits, sweet grapes, toasted caneles and a bottle of 2013 Les Hauts Des Smith – drinking beautifully right now.
Our balcony was no ordinary balcony either. It set the scene for which I made my engagement proposal, was a place to sip wine and watch the sun set and a magical place to see the stars. Light pollution is non-existent here and the only noises you’ll hear are that of the night-time birds and insects.
During the evening you’re spoilt with two choices for dinner and a bar for pre-drinks, the latter of which is a place you must not miss. Acting as both a wine bar and a shop which serves an irresistible selection of charcuterie and wines by the glass. Opposite you’ll find the hotels two Michelin starred restaurant, La Grande Vigne from renowned chef Nicolas Masse and the cosy bistro, La Table du Lavoir.
We decided on spending our evening in the sumptuous Le Table du Lavoir. A restaurant which looks as though it had been solely designed for Winter in mind. It’s incredibly festive and cosy inside, feeling reminiscent to a restaurant tucked away in the alps. They also serve a menu which is just as rich and decadent as the decor is. A must when staying here at Les Sources De Caudalie. Read all about my full dining experience at Le Table du Lavoir.
The next morning we woke up to an icy air and as the sun breaks through, the fog clears and ever so slowly revealed the property. You really need to visit this hotel in Winter, solely to experience and witness such an unveiling of beauty. Wrapped up into what probably looked like a duvet on me, we set off to once again explore the morning grounds in this different winter guise, heading from our room down the wooden walkways, passing the other suites.
Warm air from the chimneys fills the air with mini clouds and the smell of smoke from the roaring fire can be enjoyed throughout the grounds. The lake in the morning is barely visible even when at its waters edge. Robins hunt for worms and even the kitchen garden waits to melt off its frost before being plucked by the chefs for that days menu.
If it’s much too bitter outside, then head to the heated indoor pool for an early morning dip. It’s absolutely beautiful. A swimming pool quite unlike anything I’ve come across. Exposed beams, peaceful ripples from just the water and a green leaf tiled base to the pool which make the water change colour depending on what angle you look at it from.
Breakfast is held in the main restaurant and looks out over across the lake. A very French affair full of cheeses, hams, cakes and some of the best parties and freshly squeezed juices around. The only danger is not to get carried away. Something I’m never very good at doing.
Before our departure we of course had to visit the vineyards and winery of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. Acres of vineyards, manicured gardens and climbing the Chateau’s tower which offers panoramic views across the estate.
Wondering the pristine wine cellars, exploring the winery to find out how these wines are exactly made and matured – even visiting the cooperage who has the lengthy and strenuous task of hand banging and putting together the barrels used for the ageing. Each wine-making process is completed on site, making for a very small carbon footprint.
Before finishing the tour we even met the brains behind the wine, Daniel Cathiard who kindly gave us a tutored tasting of the Chateau’s wines and revealing his secret under floor cellar. Daniel combines the most modern wine-making techniques and age-old methods to create wines which are now regarded as being some of the best examples in the world and tasting them here where they are made, means they taste even better still.
Our stay at Les Sources Des Caudalie was nothing short of extraordinary and we really didn’t want to leave. I’ve stayed in my fair share of hotels in my life. but rarely do you come across ones as unique as this. Understated luxury to the max, an authentic French stay with all the modern necessities and above all – it’s a foodies paradise. If you’re looking for French glamour in a modern guise then look no further. Les Sources Des Caudalie has it all and more.
Les Sources De Caudalie
Tel: +33 5 57 83 83 83
NB: I was invited to review and my stay was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.