Hubert Burda Media

Luxuriate in a wine bath

Fight the signs of ageing at wine cure spa, Les Sources de Caudalie, that spawned a global lust for vinotherapy.

Never had I imagined the pleasures to be derived from one nimble-fingered mademoiselle, one bath, a stiff-bristled paintbrush and several litres of wine.

Cleopatra liked to bathe in milk. The Romans bathed in roses. Now, the beautiful and the trendy — and those who want to be beautiful and trendy — take baths in red wine. The height of self-indulgence these days is wallowing in a bath full of claret. The au courant musk is “L’Odeur Du Bordeaux”.

Les Sources de Caudalie vinotherapy centre in Martillac, 10 miles from Bordeaux, is the world’s first wine cure spa. It has spawned similar wine spas in Porto, Rioja, Valladoid, Tuscany, the UK and naturally, Napa Valley.

Polyphenols and antioxidants are big business. There is a market in helping in the fight against the degeneration of skin cells and loss of elasticity. The sap from a vine stalk reduces age spots. Wine, if used as a moisturiser, fights anti-radicals, which are the things that make things rust and vegetables go bad. And us wrinkle.

The patrons in Bordeaux pay to be smeared in grape pulp and doused in wine, leaving their skin as soft as a cellarman’s hands. It’s meant to be more invigorating and exhilarating than drinking it.

Vinotherapy, the technical term for the therapeutic use of health and beauty products derived from the vine, grape, wine or wine-making process, started in 1995 when researchers from Bordeaux University met Mathilde and Bertrand Cathiard Thomas at the 18th-century Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards, which was bought in 1990 by the Cathiard family for £22 million from
British businessman and former professional boxer George Walker.

They had discovered that wine is better for you if it goes anywhere but down your mouth.

Grape treatment has been used in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. Between the two World Wars, there were 13 “grape resorts” in France. The centres were called uvariums. The tradition was to pick the grape covered with dew and to savour it in the middle of the vineyard. The cure on offer was probably more psychological than physiological.

Wine is at the forefront of the battle against wrinkles and crow’s feet. It’s good for the skin — as long as you splash it over your face rather than swallow it.

I had the lot. I saw off the whole cellar, as well as the Barrel Bath, Premier Cru Facelift and Crushed Cabernet Scrub. And my skin tone — not to mention those rough areas around the heels and elbow — thanked me for it. 

As a result of alcohol, I glowed. But in a healthy, not ruddy, mottled, flushed face way.

I started with some micro-dermabrasion (chilled grape seed face pack), then a red wine hydro-massage, which was followed by a Merlot and clay body wrap that, in turn, was followed by the crushed Cabernet body scrub, a white marc (the residue left over from pressing) grape extract barrel bath and an invigorating Semilion and Sauvignon grape pip exfoliating body scrub.

Mathilde Cathiard, the daughter of a supermarket chain and sports shop millionaire, used to work for French perfume house Robertet. Her husband, Bertrand, worked for L’Oréal and is a former champion skier.

Their bestselling vinicultural by-products are eye contour and anti-wrinkle creams. They also produce a complexion-boosting grape-seed buffing cream, a grape-seed purifying and regenerating mask, soothing lip conditioner and body lotion. Also available are multi-action anti-wrinkling capsules and vine flower candles.

The spa’s one- to seven-day detoxifying and body-redefining grape cure courses are available during the wine harvesting season between September and December.

Having spent two days in a wine barrel jacuzzi soaking up red and white wine flavonoids through every available pore, then taken a dip in the institute’s spring-fed swimming pool, I emerged from Les Sources de Caudalie feeling toned and honed, revived and detoxified, regulated and re-mineralised, tauter than taut; my skin de-blotched and lovingly de-grimed. Tightened and lightened, the free radicals temporarily neutralised and my natural beauty briefly restored, if not permanently enhanced complexion, I radiated good health.I gave off the unmistakeable glow of robust, well-bodied good health and oaky smokiness of a robust, well-bodied Premier Grand Cru Classe de Graves.

A day without wine is like a day without sunshine. Drink it or bathe in it, wine has a guaranteed feel good factor. To keep happy and healthy, I’d advise you drink some a day and pour the rest of the bottle over your head.

It’s meant to be good for the scalp too.