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It is no surprise then that the Chateau has taken a step further into the world of art, opening a new 'Land Art' installation - The Forest of the Five Senses. This new venture is hidden away in ten hectares of woods between Château Smith Haut Lafitte and neighbouring Château Le Thil, acquired by the family in 2012 and now a 'guest lodge' for clients of Les Sources de Caudalie.
It is designed as a walk through the woods, accompanied by local artists whose pieces are installed here. It takes about two hours to wander through, especially if you pay attention to all the surprises. The park of Château Le Thil, with its classified collection of old trees, can be seen at the end of one alley, a contrast to the contemporary pieces.
These include 'The Vortex' by Durante and Segond; a giant spider web of stainless steel hanging between two trees and the creations of le Piez on the singing island, which uses your sense of hearing as well as sight (and balance to get across on the little ferry). He has also created an ear trumpet installed above one of the little streams that amplifies the sounds of bubbling water.
Its not all new art, tucked away are old vestiges; a witches seat from an old tree, the old drainage channels, what looks like the remains of a chapel above a spring.
There is also a 'palombiere', the traditional hide built by hunters to catch the seasonal doves; they are too eco friendly here for hunting but it showcases the old skills using wood and bracken to create a dwelling that is perfectly hidden away.
And they have nothing if not a sense of humour; Gulliver’s Skis by Cyrille Menei is a nod towards the past career of M & Mme Cathiard as ski champions and talking of giants there's an enormous footprint created by the gardeners. With the goats, lamas and chickens in the farmyard and the majestic working horses used to plough the vines, there is something for all ages, guaranteed to bring out the wonder of nature and the child in us all.
There is a nod to wine of course, as well as being a showcase for young artists, it is also a shop window for the Cathiard's respect for the of biodiversity in their vineyard. Towards the end of the walk, there is a cottage 'The Tisanerie', where the herbs and wild plants, used in biodynamic preparations for the vines, are dried and stored. Close by is an aromatic garden planted with herbs and flowers that represent the different aromas found in their red and white wines as well as some of the ingredients used in the creation of the Caudalie cosmetics.
So successful, and so original, is the visit that Château Smith Haut Lafitte won the Gold Best of Wine tourism award for Bordeaux. Then, at the recent awards ceremony in Adelaide Australia, it took the top 2019 International Best of Wine Tourism Award competing against 384 international entrants and 62 local award-winners.
The Land Art forest of the senses is a peaceful antidote to the rush of everyday life, and a welcome change of pace from more classic cellar tours and chateau visits, although of course you will enjoy a wine tasting at the end of the visit!
By Wendy Narby