Combining intriguing histories with contemporary opulence, spa treatments and the occasional bottle of Grand Cru, these six luxury château hotels are spilling over with joie de vivre
Château de la Treyne, Occitanie
With a scandalously imposing position high up on the banks of the Dordogne River, Château de la Treyne is a jewel ensconced in a 120-hectare private forest of truffle oaks, horn beams and box trees, where you’ll often find the château’s golden retriever Java snuffling about. Steeped in history, the fortress of la Treyne is believed to date back to 1342 and has been rebuilt and renovated at great expense many times. Today it is owned by Philippe Gombert, international president of Relais & Châteaux, so you’re in safe hands. If the landscape is dreamy, then the accommodation is ethereal, being tastefully decorated with period furniture and lavish wall coverings in the Louis XIV style. There are also two other smaller private châteaux on the estate, should you wish for something more secluded.
As with many luxury French châteaux, the restaurant is a focal point. Here, your palate is at the mercy of Stéphane Andrieux, who has worked at the restaurant for over 20 years. The Michelin-starred chef is renowned for his creative use of foie gras and Quercy lamb, as well as for his pot au feu, but on the incredible menu you’ll also find beef from Aubrac, in the southern Massif Central, and milk-fed Corrèze veal.
For a great many of the inhabitants of Saint-Émilion, life revolves around wine – and bloody good wine at that. So when you come to this stunning part of France, expect to be immersed in a passion for grape growing and cultivation. Such is the feeling at Château Troplong Mondot, a Premier Grand Cru Classé estate, at the centre of which is a stunning stone house that feels like a home from home in character if not in design. That’s because the decor is thoroughly, lovably French, blending modern elegance with the idiosyncrasies of a world-class vineyard.
Accommodation consists of four houses: the Vineyard House, Art Studio, Bell Tower Bedroom and Edouard, all immaculately presented. And while the interiors are beautiful enough to make you never want to leave, the real adventure is outside among the vines, where you can go on a number of different tours to learn more about how the estate’s famed wine gets to table. The best is the “Dive into Harvest” option, which consists of a private tour of the vineyards, where you get to spend time with the harvesting team before tucking into a lunch paired with old vintages from the estate. We can think of worse afternoons.
Château Troplong Mondot has been insecticide- and herbicide-free for many years, and this is the first year that the vineyard has been fully ploughed by its resident horses. If you still feel peckish after a day among the vines, then you’ll find much solace and restoration in Troplong Mondot’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Les Belles Perdrix, where chef David Charrier combines sublime produce from the property’s permaculture vegetable garden with locally sourced meats, creating contemporary cuisine that looks like plated works of abstract art.
For those looking to stay within touching distance of the Côte d’Azur, then just 15 miles from Nice is Château Saint-Martin & Spa, a 12th-century Knights Templar castle. Part of the prestigious Oetker Collection (and the sister hotel of Cap Eden Roc), Saint-Martin is situated on a hillside in Vence, affording some of the best views of the Côte d’Azur, the Alpes-Maritimes region and the local towns of Biot (renowned for its glassblowing) and Mougins, once home to Picasso, whose works are exhibited at the Mougins Museum of Classical Art. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is another joy – a stunning medieval walled city, where the likes of Sartre, Signoret and Chagall all lived.
Château Saint-Martin’s hotel interior has been tastefully designed, incorporating an understated contemporary French countryside aesthetic to complement the impressive stone architecture. Foodies will be blown away by the Michelin-starred Saint-Martin restaurant, presided over by chef Jean-Luc Lefrançois, who uses only local producers and the château’s own kitchen gardens. An alfresco lunch can be had at L’Oliveraie, so called because the tables are arranged in the shade of a beautiful ancient olive tree in the garden. Then, of course, there’s the spa, voted the ‘Best Luxury Spa Destination in Europe’ by the World Luxury Spa Awards. It utilises La Prairie beauty products, which are the closest thing to time-travel that anti-ageing treatments come. The spa menu looks and feels like a bougie coffee-table book, so wellness junkies will feel right at home.
The award-winning Domaine Les Crayères lies among the vineyards of Reims, the beating heart of the Champagne region, only 45 minutes from Paris on a TGV. Nestled discreetly in a verdant seven-hectare park, this former house of the powerful de Polignac family oozes sophistication. Inside, the decor riffs on French Classicism thanks to some genius work by interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, with elegant floral motifs and marble fireplaces overlooked by gilt-framed period portraits.
Naturally, most people come to Reims for one reason, champagne, which leads to another – cuisine. But even the staunchest oenophiles might want to flip their priorities and head straight to Le Parc restaurant. Before getting sozzled on Reims’ finest bubbles, you’d be wise to stay sober enough to appreciate the food of Philippe Mille. The two-Michelin-starred chef has constructed some incredible menus for passionate gourmands, and if you’re here for a week, forget about getting into ‘those trousers’ before the season is out. While here, you should also visit Reims Cathedral, one of the most important and impressive Gothic structures you’ll find anywhere in Europe.
Anyone who has visited Saint-Tropez in peak season will know that the charming coastal town can quickly lose allure when overpopulated with tourists eager to emboss every pink-hued corner digitally on to Instagram for some sort of posterity. Of course, you could just hide away in Hotel Byblos between being driven to Le Pampelonne, but where’s the fun in that? Far more refined is shacking up at Château de la Messardière and viewing all the splendour that the South of France has to offer, but at arm’s length (the rooms at the top of the main house have the best views). With a modern yet understated decor that nods to elements of Provençal design, the château is très élégant by anyone’s standards. There are two glorious pools, one for show and one with lanes for starting that fitness regime you’ll never stick to. Who are you kidding?
If dinner with a panoramic view of the Bay of Pampelonne sounds good, then skip down to the terrace at Matsuhisa Saint-Tropez and watch the sun go down with a heady smugness of incredible flavours. And if all that doesn’t reinforce the fact that you’ve done pretty well for yourself, you can hop on board one of the hotel’s Rolls-Royce Cullinans to take you down to its private beach, and finish off the day with aperols at Jardin Tropezina, the château’s beach restaurant.
Oenophiles should read this while in a comfortable, seated position, because a sojourn at
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, in the highest part of the village of Bommes, is almost a religious experience. A Premier Grand Cru Classé since 1855, and with the revered Château Yquem as a neighbour, the château’s 18 hectares of vineyards are on the third terrace of the Sauternes appellation, producing the world’s very best dessert wines. People pay eye-watering prices for the Sauternes of this tiny appellation, but far better to try them at the source.
The château itself – built in the 13th century from stone mined in Bommes – is now under the ownership of Silvio Denz, CEO of Lalique. Naturally then, you’ll find stunning glass exhibits everywhere. The decor is that perfect balance of colour and structure, with wooden beams and polished dark-wood cabinets as the canvas for all the glass curiosities.
The two-Michelin-starred restaurant is something to behold, too – a glass Cubist dream designed by Mario Botta and set among the vines. Look up and you’ll see 120 gold crystal Semillon leaves casting a warm glow across the room. Chef Jérôme Schilling has created two tasting menus, the Terroir du Sauternais for vegetarians, and Le Grain Noble for omnivores, with Sauternes playing a starring role in each. But all this pales into insignificance once you have entered the cellars, home to more than 350,000 bottles of the finest wine known to man, or at least one man, Silvio Denz. Here, you can sample his personal collection, which boasts a full range of Premier Grand Crus, including Châteaux Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion, as well as Pétrus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Angélus and Pavie in rare vintages. That’s before you even get started on the Sauternes Crus Classés: Yquem 1895 (the oldest in the cellar), Château Climens 1921, Château Rieussec 1945 and not forgetting 60 vintages of Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. When the apocalypse comes, head straight here, grab a pitchfork, and defend the château with your life.
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