Bathe, scrub, ex­fo­li­ate… but don’t drink

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

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

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