For those who enjoy pairing fine wines with a sojourn in a castle, such opulent indulgence awaits at the utterly unique and super-luxurious five-star property close to the medieval settlement of Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region.
Perfectly positioned to prestigious vines and an hour’s drive from the cultural town of Bordeaux itself, this is the home to some of the famous wine-producers in the region and where better to stay than the 19th-century Château Grand Barrail Hôtel and Spa in Saint-Émilion?
This magnificent château is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) collection. It offers astonishing accommodation split between the main building and its equally impressive outbuildings.
Surrounded by a seven-acre park, with the Dordogne river running alongside the property, this breath-taking property has 46 guest lodgings ranging from superior rooms to the royal suite many with an uninterrupted view of Saint-Émilion’s rolling vineyard. Furthermore, it is a family friendly resort as one child up to 12 can stay free of charge.
Superior rooms feature bold, yet tasteful, decoration, with curtains and sofas upholstered in wool tartan, plus views over the extensive vineyards with adjoining rooms for family stays.
In addition to the Château accommodation, there are two neighbouring mansions, La Maison du Bien-Etre with its county charm and La Maison du Vignoble – which boast jaw-dropping panoramic views over the vineyards.
Whichever accommodation you choose, one can wake up each morning to a delicious continental breakfast served in the chamber and 24/7 room service. This means guests needn’t even leave their room and a complimentary cheese and cold cut platter is also available throughout the day.
Food and drink
For those who do want to experience eating in the hotel, a buffet breakfast is served in the Grand Salon restaurant while lunch is served from a ‘Bistronomique’ menu, with all meat, produce and caviar sourced in France and fish and shellfish from neighbouring European Union countries.
Each evening, guests can enjoy a gastronomical experience at the Château Grand Barrail’s gourmet restaurant run by chef Quentin Merlet who serves inventive, mouth-watering cuisine. Fayre ranges from a fillet of duck to fried scallop and all courses are matched with carefully selected Bordeaux’s fine wines from attentive sommeliers.
For an unforgettable experience, diners can opt for the more lavish Mauresque dining room, which was originally constructed in 1902 and continues to keep its luxury ambience today. The combination of its stunning stained -glass windows, antique style mouldings and Viollet Leduc-style paintings give all who step into it the feeling of going back into a more elegant time.
Step into the Rotonde breakfast room which has been restored to its original state and features unique features such as mirrors and spectacular chandeliers inspired by the Petit Trianon Palace. Browse the menu of refreshing cocktails and fine wines as you relax in the comfortable armchairs or enjoy relaxing and playing games in the cigar bar which is decorated in an English gentleman’s club style.
Whilst at the resort, there is ample time to unwind at the hotel’s Spa Saint-Émilion with a relaxing back massage or facial. This spa uses natural products from the French brand Cinq Mondes and Five Worlds – inspired by recipes from around the world.
The smells of these products send clients on a sensory adventure with the combination of a treatment to calm the senses and help you forget the world. In keeping with its wine association, it also offers some grape-based treatments. Moreover, there are saunas, a hot tub, a fitness room and an outdoor swimming pool for use during high season.
Friendly and committed staff are always on hand to cater to every need. The helpful concierge service gives information about the various excursions to châteaux and wine-tasting sessions and transfers to Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion Airport and the train stations.
Just down the road, Saint-Émilion is a picture-postcard medieval village and a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to Europe’s largest monolithic church. Much time can be spent leisurely wandering the cobbled streets and ruins, perusing shops and even biking to the world-class vineyards that stretch out from the settlement’s walls. There are many bars and restaurants in which to relax and sample wine from the region.
Château Grand Barrail Hôtel and Spa is perfect for a two-night stay while visiting Saint- Émilion, neighbouring towns within the Bordeaux region and one of the nearby wine estates. Saint-Émilion is one of Bordeaux’s 65 wine appellations and could be the oldest as it has a history that hails back to the ancient Romans. Indeed, it was once the home of the famous Roman poet and wine lover Decimus Magnus Ausoniu.
Travelling to wine regions is one way of increasing one’s skill at tasting. Many wine producers offer tastings of their wine and this is very much the case in Saint-Émilion, which claims to supply the ripest, reddest wines in the Bordeaux region. There are numerous wine tours to book, which include lunch and sometimes travel by bike or car to one or several nearby vineyards.
Wine tasting at Château Dassault
Nearby Château Dassault can organise a private wine tour. Owned by Dassault Wine Estates, it started out life under the name of Château Couperie, when the wine producer was created in the mid 1800s by a member of the Fourcaud family who are best known for creating Chateau Cheval Blanc. All that changed in 1955 when the Bordeaux wine estate was purchased by Marcel Dassault, whose family fortune in fact comes from the airline industry.
In 1969, with its promotion to the rank of Grand Cru Classé, not only did Dassault completely renovate the entire Saint-Émilion estate and its vineyards, as well as improve the drainage system, but he also renamed the property after the Dassault family. Today Laurent Dassault, Marcel’s grandson, oversees the vineyard’s investments, working closely with Laurence Brun, who runs the property.
Château Dassault reigns over a vineyard of 24 hectares on the northern slope of Saint-Émilion, visit the vineyard and wine cellars to learn about the wine tasting process. The vineyard is planted to a density of 5,500 vines per hectare which includes 70 per cent merlot, 25 per cent Cabernet Franc and five per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. Planted in soils that are clay, sandy and chalk, the vines average 35 years of age, although there is a two-hectare parcel of older vines.
The wine of Château Dassault is aged in French oak barrels for between 14 to 18 months, depending on the vintage. The vineyard produces close to 5,500 cases of wine per vintage year. Approximately 120,000 bottles are produced across the estates annually. By visiting the winery, you will gain a good knowledge of the winemaking process, learn about various grapes and get to taste some of the wine. You can leave with your own Château Dassault vintage to savour this once in a lifetime experience.
Getting to Saint-Émilion
Fly from London to Merignac airport in Bordeaux direct with British Airways or Ryan Air or take the Eurostar from St Pancras, London to Saint-Jean, Bordeaux (approximately six hours). Upon arrival take a train from Bordeaux St Jean station to Saint-Émilion, which is approximately 40km away.
Alternatively, if you want to include a trip to Paris, fly from London to Charles De Gaulle with British Airways or EasyJet and then take a 25-minute shuttle to Orly – Paris airport flying to Merignac in Bordeaux.
Rooms can be booked from £350 per night. Arrange your wine tour directly with Dassault estate.
Address: Route de Libourne – D243, Saint-Emilion 33330
Phone: +33 5 57 55 37 00
Hotel photography courtesy of La Grande Barrail.