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Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes

Art of Living: The Bordeaux Wine Region and the Chateau Cordeillan-Bages

Nov. 24th, 2017

Bordeaux. The word, as it rolls off the tongue, brings to mind sophistication, the finest of wines and the French art of living. The Bordeaux region is remarkably beautiful with scenes of winding rivers, French chateaus in the countryside and grape vineyards as far as the eye can see. This is wine’s ground zero, named the Médoc. In the middle of the Médoc near the town of Pauilliac is the Chateau Cordeillan-Bages, a luxurious estate giving access to all of the epicurean riches this region has to offer.

Cordeillan-Bages is a family-owned estate of the Cazes family. The patriarch, Jean Michel Cazes was the pioneer of wine culture tourism over 50 years ago. He wanted to create experiences for Paris’ oenophiles to appreciate Bordeaux wine in the places of its origin. His vision was to create The Art of Living with the love of wine at its core, supported by the accoutrements of good food and posh accommodations as well as art exhibits and exclusive events.  Fast forward a generation and the legacy is the hundreds of thousands of people who make the trek to the Bordeaux region each year. They come from around the world to understand and to experience this product that is such an essential part of French life and culture.

 Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Anne-Emmanuelle Thion

What also makes Bordeaux so beautiful is the handsome chateaus that dot the region’s landscapes. Many of these fine mansions are surrounded by the estate’s expansive vineyards and the winery facilities. Others have been repurposed into fine hotels with traditional French, 18th century architecture and construction of limestone with turrets and black slate roofs; such is the case with the Chateau Cordeillan-Bages.

In 1989, the 18th century chart house was reinvented into an elegant, 28-room country estate surrounded by five acres of vines. Inside this four-star Relais & Châteaux Hotel is a flawless mixture of old and new with antiques and period pieces tastefully matched with exquisite modern art by artist such as Tan Swie Hian, Pierre Alechinsky, Antoni Tapiès, Gérard Titus-Carmel and Emilio Perez.

 Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Anne-Emmanuelle Thion

The accommodations are sleek and ultra-modern as well, with designer furniture, a custom entertainment center, an Italian king-sized bed and engaging objects d’art. The views through large windows are of the manicured grounds. Many units have terraces overlooking the vineyards and others have patios with table and chairs beneath the canvased umbrellas surrounded by pine trees and verbena bushes. The hotel guest also enjoy a heated, 82-foot pool in a garden-like setting; there is also a fitness center and sauna.

 Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Anne-Emmanuelle Thion

The yin to the yang of good wine is good food. The dining experience at Chateau Cordeillan-Bages is a culinary tour de force with the chateau’s restaurant having been recognized with two Michelin stars over the past two decades. The restaurant has ushered in a new era this year with acclaimed Executive Chef Julien Lefebvre.

In the Médoc, there is an irreverent pride in the terroir of the wine that has transferred into the culinary experience, where featuring the ingredients of local artisan producers is essential. You’ll find caviar from Aquitaine, white asparagus and strawberries from Saint Laurent-Médoc, and oysters from the Bay of Arcachon. Chef Julien Lefebvre shares “I believe in the labor of local producers and wish to be the link between their produce and our guests.” The culinary adventure features wine parings from the Cazes estates as well as wines from the Médoc region and beyond found in the depths of their 1,500-bottle cellar.

 Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Anne-Emmanuelle Thion

A 10-minute stroll from the chateaux is the hamlet of Bages. The town center has several buildings owned by the Cazes family dedicated to wine culture. It is also the home of one of the more celebrated wines from the Médoc, the Château Lynch-Bages, grand cru classé of Pauillac, which has been owned by the Cazes family since 1939. The family is now taking the wine experience to a new level with what will be one of the top winery facilities and cellar doors in France set to re-open in 2018. 

The village of Bages is also where you’ll find the Café Lavinal which is a casual restaurant that serves serious cuisine. The bistro has a lively bar as well as a dining area where locals from the wine industry mix with tourists while enjoying haute local dishes.

 Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Anne-Emmanuelle Thion

Also located in Bages is Cercle Lynch-Bages which is a wine institute with education classes for both the novice and the expert. The lecture will walk you through the first steps of understanding good wine as you look at nuances in the color, clarity and aroma, and begin to understand tannins and other taste notes that make wine, and especially Bordeaux wines, unique.  Attendees also learn about the Bordeaux wine tradition and key concepts such as the grand cru classifications of 1855, the significance of the appellations of the region and the mother of them all, terroir.

The Médoc peninsula is the fertile lands between the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, with characteristics of gravely or shale-rich soil and the temperate, salty air of the sea. Because of these characteristics of the terroir, it is the preeminent appellation (distinct land area) in the world to grow cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes whose blends make the top Bordeaux wines. Terroir is the concept that the land itself, the fruit that grows there and how its produced, is unique to only that place and thus gives it an inimitable character. That is why Bordeaux is matchless and deemed to be unsurpassed because of its terroir which cannot be recreated anywhere else in the world.

Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Jerome Mondiere

You’ll want to try out your new knowledge of wines with wine tasting and this is the place to do it. The Médoc is dotted with the prestigious wineries that produce the best red wines in the world—some of which you may have already experienced from the wine list at a fine dining restaurant.

A short ride away in Saint Estèphe is the Château Ormes de Pez which is a lovely winery with a charming bed and breakfast chateau also owned by the Cazes. The wine tour takes guests through the nearby vineyards, shares the process of how the wine is made and includes a visit to the barrel rooms. The tour completes with a wine tasting of their exquisite wines from the various labels owned by the Cazes Company.

Bordeaux Wine Region
Photo Credit: Famille JM Cazes / Jerome Mondiere

A few miles away from Bages in the town of St Julien, is the famed Château Léoville Poyferré, which is one of the grand cru wines of Bordeaux and founded in 1638. On the two-hour visit of this state-of-the-art facility, guests have a short lecture on the history of the chateau followed by a tour of the wine processing facilities, barrel rooms and a tasting of several vintages. 

Jean-Michel Cazes said it best: 'Wine and gastronomy are the very heart and soul of Médoc lifestyle. Every bottle and recipe embodies the geography and history, the fruit we have nurtured, the climate, soils, tradition and 'savoir-faire' as well as friendship and the pleasure of sharing.'

A stay at the Chateau Cordeillan-Bages is more than a stay at a hotel. It is a chance to experience “art de vivre” in the middle of where the best wines emanate from and where wine is a way of life.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 95 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and often exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)