Savouring the French art de vivre among the vines
TEXT: KATIE TURNER | PHOTOS © GRAND BARRAIL CHÂTEAU HOTEL
“The family loved staying here so much, they bought it!” says Benjamin Robic, the director of the Grand Barrail Château Hotel. “You don’t get much higher praise than that.” The family in question is the Guillard family, who were regular guests at the hotel until the beginning of 2019, when they became the new owners.
The Guillard family already owned the neighbouring Fonroque vineyard which produces one of Saint-Emilion’s famed‘grand crus’, as well as the first organic and biodynamic Bordeaux. Whilst overseeing the renovation of Fonroque estate, they fell in love with Hotel Grand Barail.
“We want to put the region’s finest vintages at the forefront of what we do, but in the right environment,” says Robic. “We very much wanted to keep the identity of this historic château, showcasing the way we enjoy the finer things in life in France, like food and, of course, wine.”
The Grand Barrail, which is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, has a colourful history. Built by brewer René Bouchart in 1902 in the typical Bordeaux style, it was originally intended as a gift for his wife-to-be, but ended up as a house for his mistress. It was then converted from a family home to a hotel in 1992.
The hotel aims to make guests feel welcomed with thoughtful touches which make them feel truly at home. “When you stay, I am your host,” explains Robic, “Guests should be able to put a face to the hotel they’re in. You can travel to the ends of the earth, but if you have no sense of warmth or real human contact, what’s the point?”
There is also an emphasis on savouring the French art de vivre and the Grand Barrail’s restaurant focuses on quality local cuisine, accompanied by some of the world’s finest wines.
You can also relax at the spa, which includes a hammam, sauna and hot tub, as well as a range of ‘Cinq Mondes’ treatments. If you fancy working out, there’s a fitness centre or a heated outdoor pool.
The château is surrounded by vineyards on all sides, “In some bedrooms, you can pick grapes right off the vine from your window if you like,” Benjamin smiles. “And if you’re missing a little hustle and bustle, we’re just five minutes from the centre of beautiful Saint-Emilion.”