I am happy to admit that I like the good things in life (my Spa Spy name is, after all, Sybaritic Spy) so my ideal spa offers good food, good wine and, of course, good treatments. Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux fits the bill perfectly: it sits in the middle of a vineyard, has a wonderful restaurant with not one, but two, Michelin stars and offers an extremely impressive spa.
When the owner’s daughter discovered that grape seeds contain PCOs (procyanidolic oligomers), which have anti-ageing properties, she used the by-products of her parents’ vineyard to create a beauty product range free from nasties such as parabens, phthalates and animal ingredients. The first dedicated Caudalie spa opened in 1999, with branches now open in Spain, France, Portugal, Istanbul, New York and Toronto.
What’s on offer
Les Sources is a French manor house with vineyard views and several wooden buildings dotted around large grounds. The rural chic of the outside contrasts nicely with the elegant rooms – think oak wood floors, chandeliers and antiques. Our room had its own sun terrace overlooking an outdoor pool lined with bull-rushes. Here, we watched a pair of nesting moorhens take turns to sit on their eggs, and enjoyed endless cups of French coffee and freshlybaked croissants.
The spa building at Les Sources reflects its vineyard origins: high ceilings have wooden vents to let the breeze in and a large hydrotherapy pool bubbles gently in the centre. There’s a good-sized steam room and an infinity pool with floor-toceiling windows overlooking the vineyards, too. Huge wooden doors open onto a sun terrace where several loungers offer spa guests a dose of Vitamin D.
The Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard (which surrounds Les Sources) adopts an intriguing mix of traditional techniques and modern technology to produce its wine. They make their own wine barrels and use horses to work the land, yet rely on drones and satellites to determine when grapes are ready to harvest.
Tell us about the treatments
Unsurprisingly, the treatment menu centres on wine, with a Crushed Cabernet Scrub and a spa-style bath enriched with red grape pomace on offer.
My spa partner and I were both booked in for the Beauty Elixir Ritual (110 minutes, £230) using products made from grape skins. I half expected to smell like a wine bar, but the products are light and fresh, with a hint of ‘green’; more walking through a garden after a rain shower than a glass of red.
The treatment began with a shiatsu style massage which involves firm holding, stretching and the use of pressure points. Laetitia, my therapist, used her forearms and weight to gently stretch my spine. The next step was some deep work on pressure points over my tense muscles. I know my shoulders are tight, but I was surprised to learn just how tight my calf muscles were.
Caudalie's Beauty Elixir was then painted on my skin and lightly massaged in. While oils often sit on the skin, these lotions were absorbed quickly and easily.
The facial began with a foaming cleanser followed by a scrub. Laetitia then applied a rich mask, wrapping my skin in a muslin cloth which felt a bit like a shroud; Laetitia’s arm and hand massage kept me from feeling claustrophobic.
The treatment finished with some very lovely rich cream on my face which I later realised is much-loved Premier Cru The Elixir. I left feeling more like a vintage wine rather than an exhausted, much travelled Spa Spy!
My spa partner had the same massage and facial which can be challenging as he is bearded and moustachioed. His usual ‘outdoor’ face (code for rough and ready) appeared out of the treatment room looking smooth, evenly toned and quite smart.
Les Sources grows its own vegetables, fruits and herbs in the pottager garden; chefs in their whites often coming out to select items as they cook – you can’t get much fresher than that. Come evening, we opted for La Grand’Vigne restaurant’s five course menu which began with appetizers of oysters smothered in crème fraiche and cucumber. We devoured this while sipping a glass of Champagne.
The meal began with Nasturtium flowers stuffed with langoustines, followed by sea bass with tiny mushrooms and then pigeon. The grand finale of strawberries with mint consisted of semi frozen strawberry cream hidden inside a fine eggshell of spun sugar. Tap it with your spoon and let the luscious creamy filling ooze out.
All meals can be paired with wines from the Haut Smith Lafitte vineyard. We tried a light white made from three grapes: Sauvignon, Semillon and Semillon Gris, and a fruity red made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all, of course, grown within a few hundred feet of where we were sitting.
In the morning, ask to take breakfast beside the pretty lake and watch pristine white swans float by. The good life? Absolutely.
Who would like it?
Food and wine lovers will feel right at home here. Les Sources’ well revered cookery school is worth signing up for, too.
Fans of natural beauty – all Caudalie products are free from parabens and aren’t tested on animals.
Looking at the stars with the local astronomy club as your guides.
The estate offers several wine tours with tasting sessions at the end, or why not have a nose around the estate next door?
Active types can do yoga, play tennis or hire bikes and cycle around dedicated wine trails