A wonderfully surreal chain of events - a Shoreditch evening where I asked a wine-loving francophile friend of mine for Bordeaux recommendations - turned into a invite to explore and stay in a genuine French Chateau complete with acres of vineyards.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Chateau Pape Clement for the evening, but my (very many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily revisit - in fact I would quite love to move in there...
Surrounded by carefully manicured lawns, thousand-year old olive trees, a caretaker group of peacocks and a Gustave Eiffel designed folly, Chateau Clement Pape is rather special. It was also incredibly beautiful (and the soft hues rather Pinterestable...)
Owned by Bernard Magrez, a French wine magnate (with a love for modern art) who predominantly owns Bordeaux wine estates, including 4 Grands Cru classes, and a large number of wine producing properties in other French wine regions and other countries, including Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Japan, Morocco and California. (I did tease his staff slightly at a lack of New Zealand wines so far, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time...)
Château Pape Clément is one of the oldest Grands Crus of Bordeaux. His vineyard - the first harvests took place in 1252 - was implemented in the XIIth century by Bertrand de Goth, younger of a noble family from Bordeaux region. Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Got became Pope in 1305 under the name of Clement V. This is where the Château inherited its name from and its wine became an icon.
To say our stay was a Downton Abbey style dream simply wouldn't give enough credit to the care and attention we were shown. We were greeted by name, taken on a mini-tour of the castle-like Chateau, where Bernard Margrez works each day, and shown to our breathtaking suite of master bedroom, study/second bedroom and marble bathroom.
Once settled in, and invited to enjoy the bottle of red wine (synonymous with the Estate) named for our suite, as the sun began to set. The staff then reserved a table at a nearby Michelin-starred restaurant.
We unpacked and admired our luxurious surroundings, taking a turn through the gardens before running a bath and getting ready for our meal (more details to follow in a later post, don't worry)
Our journey (and woes - it is amazing what a leisurely bath will do for the soul) discarded, we simply enjoyed the moment.
Some treasures are kept hidden, while others cannot exist unless they are shared. Bernard Magrez has thus opened wide the doors of his wine châteaux so that guests can fully appreciate the joys of their experience and one day, over a meal, they will tell the story behind the bottle purchased during a totally extraordinary trip to Bordeaux...
We shared a bottle of the Cotes du Roussillion 2011, named especially for our suite the Mon Seul Reve, and admired the beautifully manicured gardens spread out under our windows.
Every aspect of the opulent Chateau celebrates the ecclesiastical history of the estate - portraits of past owners line the walls, tomes from the Vatican decorate the bookshelves and religious ornamentation lines the antique tables arrayed along the walls.
Did I mention the prettiest breakfast room we have ever broken our fast in, replete with harp?
We never imagined staying in such beauty when we booked our city break to Bordeaux - it's no wonder we fell head over heels for the city. Found on the outskirts of Bordeaux, near Pessac, we learned that the Chateau is known as one of the best-known examples of urban vineyard, and produces a delicious range of red wines - with the occasionally white wine - using a unique combination of new and traditional wine making techniques.
Hand on heart, Chateau Pape Clement is the prettiest, elegant place we have laid our heads. It still feels rather like a dream...