Beauty and the berry
Treatments good enough to eat are on the menu at new spa Château de Cîteaux in France's Burgundy region. Giovanna Dunmall samples the goods
YOU'VE PROBABLY heard of vinotherapy - beauty products made from winemaking by-products such as grape seeds, skin and stems. But have you heard of "fruititherapy"? Enter Burgundian anti-ageing specialist and nutritionist Jean Garnier, a man so impressed with the antioxidant and vitamin-rich properties of fruit like blackcurrants, strawberries, cherries, elderberries, grapes and raspberries, he created a spa concept and cosmetics line based around them.
Together with his wife Corinne, he has patented the concept and launched a spa and hotel resort in a renovated 19th-century chateau - the Château de Cîteaux - in the charming village of Meursault, Burgundy, where visitors can sample fruititherapy and its myriad benefits. La Cueillette, as the resort is known, opened at the beginning of September, and I was fortunate to be one of its first guests. After a three-day stay I felt like I didn't want to leave.
First things first: the treatments. I tried the Grand Cru Monopole la Cueillette, the spa's signature two-hour treatment, which involved having my entire body exfoliated with blackcurrant and grape seeds, and then wrapped after being covered with freshly blended organic blackcurrants, grapeseed oil and honey to repair, nourish and protect the skin. The experience felt unusual, and it was hard to resist the temptation to pick some up with my fingers and eat it, but my body felt zingy, hydrated and fresh afterwards. My face was also exfoliated and slathered in fresh berries, honey and grapeseed oil and massaged for what felt like hours, emerging several shades brighter.
There are plenty of treatments available, and you can ask for personalised packages to concentrate on slimming, anti-ageing or relaxation. But if the word spa leaves you thinking medical check-ups and calorie counting, think again. The affable and fun-loving Garniers (who live on the grounds) don't want guests just to feel good or healthy during their stay, but to have a good time as well.
Which is why, along with the new minimalist extension that houses the 500-square metre spa replete with sauna, steam room, relaxation area and pool, the property offers Michelin-starred cuisine by chef Laurent Couturier. There are two on-site restaurants: one gourmet, La Cueillette, in a frescoed dining room that relocates outside to the terrace in summer, and a more casual bistrot, Le Potager, in the chateau's former kitchen where the original fireplace is lit in winter.
In the gourmet restaurant dishes are sophisticated and unexpected: cucumber jelly served with small girolle mushrooms, crunchy vegetables and pimpernel, or lightly sautéed langoustines served with quinoa, capers, a Campari sauce with a chervil and star anise broth. The bistrot is more familiar territory: beautifully executed coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon.
If you are a vegetarian or pescatarian, don't fear. In both restaurants there is a strong emphasis on vegetables (grown by the chef nearby), fish and foraged local or seasonal herbs and flowers. Special requests are welcomed by Couturier and his team.
The wine list is tilted towards local fare, but when it's this good, why complicate? Garnier, like many Burgundians, is passionate about wine and the wine history of the region, and has a winemaker daughter with whom he plans to produce a label eventually.
The wine theme is everywhere. The surrounding vineyards are cultivated by one of the oldest wine-producing families in Meursault. Underneath the chateau runs a series of 12th-century vaulted Cistercian cellars - the oldest in Burgundy - the scene of regular tastings. The owners plan to open the cellars for private tastings and storage too.
If you can tear yourself away from the Pommard and the pool, borrow one of the chateau's bicycles and explore the area's many quaint medieval villages and stately chateaux. You will be undisturbed by cars in many places and few views are as picturesque. Go alone or accompanied by a guide.
Return for an aperitif followed by dinner on the terrace. The view of vineyards and the village of Meursault - dominated by the 15th-century spire of its church - on one side, and the blueish hues of the illuminated pool on the other, will leave you feeling quite at one with the world. I had reached a sort of massage- and food-induced nirvana. It was hard to stir my trance-like self enough to pack.
Double rooms from €220 per night(HK$2,200). www.lacueillette.com