Le Relais de Franc-Mayne

January 10, 2009


Château Franc-Mayne stands sentinel over six hectares of classed growth vines on the Saint Emilion côte at the edge of the famous village. Contemporary sculpture, cubist topiary and Japanese-inspired water gardens create a fusion of tradition and modernity not at all at odds with the 18th century building’s clean lines.img_6858

Hervé and Griet Laviale have transformed this ancient Girondine into a sumptuous boutique hotel and ultramodern winery. From the reception area in the vaulted roof space of the winery you look down on the immaculate vat room and first-year barrel cellar. Filling the cathedral-like space are rows of new barrels and great tanks in stainless steel and oak. In the vineyard, the vines sink their roots into the limestone hillside under which last year’s vintage matures in vast subterranean caves. Oenologue Laurence Ters produces a rich, elegant wine, with bags of fresh, aromatic complexity.  A stunning place to stay; a superb wine.


Château Franc-Mayne Grand Cru Classé, Saint Emilion.

Bellevue on the broad Gironde

January 10, 2009

Several centuries after the Romans planted the first vines here this hill was occupied during the Arab incursions and the vineyards still bear the name Gazin, a corruption of ‘Saracen’. Anne-Sophie and Alain Lancereau came here in 2003, transformed the wine of Bellevue Gazin, and created a charming chambres d’hôtes in the turn-of-the-century house where they entertain wine-lovers, artists and gastronomes.

Fifteen hectares of Premières-Cotes-de-Blaye vineyards cover the west-facing côte that slopes down towards the village of Plassac. Yields are low and chemical treatments are kept to an absolute minimum. The wines are modern and clean with a delicious fruit, silky tannin, and a subtle, aromatic oak.

img_7037A short drive away are the towns of Bourg and Blaye; each a fortified seaport, the latter’s impressive 17th-century citadel built by the Marquis de Vauban was recently named a UNESCO world heritage site. Also at Blaye is the ferry known as le bac which takes cars and passengers across the broad Gironde to the Médoc and the high-duned beaches of the Atlantic coast.


Chateau Bellevue-Gazin, Plassac.