Bathe, scrub, exfoliate… but don’t drink
Wine. Most of us like drinking the stuff, many like cooking with it but few of us have thought of bathing in it, let alone scrubbing and exfoliating with it. However, there are plenty of spas serving up wine in massages, facials, baths and pedicures. Vinotherapy, as it is called, has been part and parcel of the spa experience for over 30 years.
Its origins are, of course, in Bordeaux – and it was at chic Château Smith Haut Lafitte that the discovery of an underground hot spring, coupled with observations about the softness of the cellar master’s hands, set husband-and-wife team Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas thinking about spas and wine therapies.
The vineyard is owned by Mathilde’s parents, so they were able to observe and conduct research on site. A meeting was arranged with a professor from the University of Montpellier who was an expert on polyphenols. His feedback put Mathilde on the road to opening the world’s first vinotherapy spa and producing what is now the top skincare product in France: Caudalie.
Polyphenols are antioxidants that are said to protect the skin against the ravages of ageing, pollution, sun and poor diet. The research at Montpellier showed that the sap from grape stalks helped reduce dark ageing spots on the skin.
The spa, Les Sources de Caudalie (sources-caudalie.com), was an instant success and now has eight siblings in hotels and vineyards worldwide. At these guests can enjoy treatments such as “pulp friction”, an exfoliation using the remains of grape pressings; and a “crushed cabernet scrub”, which is said to smooth rough elbows and heels. Afterwards you can repair to the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant to enjoy some quite different fruits of the vine.
Travel south to Portugal and there, in the land of fortified port you can stay at another Caudalie spa at the Yeatman Hotel (the-yeatman-hotel. com) in Oporto. Here the “barrel bath” treatment includes a scalp, neck and shoulder massage conducted in a designated room with jaw-dropping views across the Douro to the old town as the red wine “marc” (skins, pulp, seeds, stems) and essential oils bubble all around you.
The concept is established in the heart of Rioja territory where another offshoot operates in the Frank Gehry-designed Marqués de Riscal Hotel (hotel-marquesderiscal.com). It offers “the body of your dreams” programme – six days of massages, wraps and detoxifying therapies combined with healthy meals – served, ironically, without wine.
Other regions and countries have come up with their own vinotherapy concepts. The El Santuario spa at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine (ledomaine.es), in the wine-growing region near Valladolid, even has a spa sommelier to help you choose your treatments by using a wine tasting exercise. A sniff is enough, but you can do the full taste-and-spit option, which will alert the sommelier to your palate’s preferences, your body’s needs and what therapies will work best for you.
In California, Auberge du Soleil
Take a ‘barrel bath’ at the Yeatman, Oporto