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Wine and wellness is very much in vogue and Bordeaux has been a leader since the opening of the Caudalie Spa at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in 1999. The Chateau now includes the natural environment in their approach to wellness. Their 'Forest of the Senses' wine and art experience leads visitors on a journey to explore all their senses including touch, sound, sight as well as smell and of course tasting. Wine tasting can be a meditative experience; wellness is about the mind as well as the body after all. Observing the hue, intensity and density of a wine, the aromas from the bouquet and the taste and feeling on the palette you can get lost in the moment. An experience that Bordeaux wineries are only too happy to share with their visitors.
Could this relaxed approach be the key to improving your tasting skills? Find out with the Sophrology classes at Chateau du Payre. Once in required a state of relaxation you will be invited to taste the wines of the property. Don't worry if you are too relaxed to leave afterwards, you can always stay in one of their charming guest rooms for the weekend.
A Zen attitude often goes hand in hand with a sense of environmental responsibility and respect of the nature; such is the case at Chateau Climens. At the heart of sweet white wine country, biodynamic producer Bérénice Lurton, harvests wild herbs to create the concoctions she uses for the treatment of her vines. These are dried in the attics above the winery. Join her here for a meditative evening yoga session, breathing in the aromas of these herbs, preparing yourself and your sense of smell for the tasting of the wines to follow.
Chateau Boutinet, near Saint Emilion, is another family vineyard where they are both proud and protective of their biodiversity. Currently in conversion to organic agriculture, they have built a yurt in the vines to create an eco-friendly environment for receiving guests for lunches and tastings. You can also try an hour of yoga here where all levels are welcome. After 45 minutes of yoga poses and 15 minutes of mediation your mind, your palate and your chakras will be open to the tasting experience of the wines.
Wellness is not just about relaxation; you might need some action to work up a thirst. Chateau Boutinet can help with that too. Owner winemaker Nathalie Escuredo accompanies visitors on walks through the vineyards that are so much more than a gentle stroll. Nathalie shares her passion for the natural environment as she guides you through the footpaths of the Fronsac Region, explaining the history and unique biodiversity of this region overlooking the majestic Dordogne River. These discoveries finish by tasting the wines with home made tapas and other local specialities.
Fancy working your neurons as well as your muscles? Then head to Chateau Marquis de Terme. Here, on their Ampelography cycling tour, you will learn about the grape varieties and how they are adapted to the different soils of the chateau, all coming together to make the unique blends that are the signature of the property.
For explorers with a sense of adventure how about an escape game? The beautiful Chateau Rayne Vigneau dominates the landscape of Sauternes, where using codes and clues left by the absentee owners, you will be challenged to discover the secret behind the quality of the wine. A secret buried deep amongst the precious stones found in the vineyard. Will your powers of observation and deduction be enough to earn you a tasting of this delicious nectar?
You can choose to observe all this activity from a birds eye view, supervised by a professional tree climber, climb (with a little help of a rope and harness) the magnificent two-hundred year old cedar tree in the grounds of the Chateau and sit at a suspended table, sipping the delicious sweet wines of the property.
If you really want to go up, up and away Chateau Venus has to be your next port of call. Here in the Graves, Emmanuelle and Bertrand Amarts have two passions, wine and flying and they are happy to share both with you. They have brought the vineyard of Chateau Venus back to life since 2005, and taking off from their runway at the Chateau they will show you how. Choose from seven different flight paths to discover the region from the air. Seeing the vineyards from above you start to understand the lay of the land and how the great mosaic of the vineyards of Bordeaux works. Coming back down to earth enjoy a tasting of their wines alongside their partners at the beautiful classified monument Château de Cérons, one of the many vineyards you will have discovered underneath your flight path in this historical heart of Bordeaux.
Exhausted after all that excitement? Call in at Chateau Lamothe Bergeron and relax in the shade of one of the century old trees in the park of the Chateau. Providing cushions and rugs, they encourage you to settle in and take your time to sip on your glass of wine. This experience is called the 'Sieste de Bacchus' so, should you nod off at the end of a long summer day, no one is going to come and disturb you - unless it's to refill your glass!
By Wendy Narby