When unique experiences in France can be combined with a stay at a stylish, luxurious French château, then it’s a bonus. I had just this type of opportunity recently where I was able to combine wine and relaxation at Château Autignac and it’s a stay I highly recommend.
Château Autignac is located just north of Béziers in the south of France and it was an easy 1.5-hour drive from Nîmes where I spent time exploring the famous Roman amphitheater.
Soon after arriving in the town of Autignac, I drove through the gates onto the estate. I was immediately awestruck by the building in front of me— the château. It was completely restored in 2013 yet still retains the original classic design and features from the 19th century. It looks like something out of a fairy-tale.
When you see the beautiful landscaping, lounge areas, interior design, and comforts in the château, you will no doubt agree it is a 5-star property worthy of an interior design magazine cover. And as could be expected with a centuries-old house, there is much history behind it.
The Story Of Château Autignac
Autignac is surrounded by vineyards and in 1860, local vineyard owner, Pierre André Louis de Vigne Lavit had the château constructed. It passed through many generations and owners until Denis Feigel and Eric de Turckheim came into the picture.
Denis and Eric had been friends for many years and each were involved in the winemaking industry. In 1999, after visiting the Faugères wine appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the friends bought a few plots of land that had old Faugères vines. Faugères is an up-and-coming region that produces exceptional wines. It is underestimated so buying the vineyards was a great opportunity.
Following the purchase of some vineyards, Château Autignac was purchased and today you will see the château and the Domaine Prés Lasses cave side by side on the property.
Exceptional Chambre d’Hôte
At first, it was just a residence, but today Château Autignac is a chambre d’hôte. The English translation is a “bed and breakfast” where one has a “room in the home” available for tourists; however, in this case, the “home” is a castle and this castle has been restored to very high standards providing rooms for a small number of guests.
The spacious rooms are just like 5-star luxury hotel rooms, complete with king size beds, high-end linens, flat screen televisions, sitting areas or workrooms, large ensuite bathrooms with bathrobes and hair dryers, minibars, coffee makers, and Wifi.
Each of the 5 rooms and the self-catered gîte (apartment) have been named after a street in Autignac where the château had a wine cellar or after one of the château’s vineyards. The rooms have views of the courtyard or the back garden and pool area. In either case, one’s stay is absolutely quiet.
While there is no lunch or dinner served, breakfast is included in one’s stay. Depending on the weather, you can eat in the conservatory that has a glass roof or outside on the terrace. It was absolutely peaceful except for the chirping birds.
All of the food served is organic and creative. There was freshly squeezed orange, grapefruit and lemon juice, yogurt with a sprinkling of pollen, fresh fruit salads, organic breads without yeast or GMO, and delicious homemade jams such as basil and apricot, fig and cacao, and pear and lavender.
Facilities, Landscape, And Furnishings
Owners Denis and his wife, Martine are incredibly warm and welcoming owners and you feel like you’re staying with family or good friends. They and their staff have created a very relaxing atmosphere where they are constantly looking for ways to make your stay comfortable.
The focal point has to be the pool which is surrounded by beautifully designed gardens and tranquil lounge areas. Each day I spent time relaxing by the heated infinity pool. I could also have spent time on one of the terraces which overlooked the pool or in one of the sitting areas that has a fireplace for those cooler nights.
Within the château, there is an elevator, so don’t worry about having to climb stairs with a heavy suitcase! There are also lounges and sitting rooms with contemporary furnishings in greys and whites, and a bar area where you can get a glass of wine or help yourself to complimentary coffee or tea. There is also a wine tasting room large enough for parties and receptions.
Domaine Prés Lasses Wine Tasting
At the end of one of my days, I toured the Domaine Prés Lasses cave and had a wine tasting with Denis and his son Boris, who joined the winery in 2005 as the Domaine’s technical director.
Domaine Prés Lasses wines are organic and the grapes are harvested by hand. The goal is to make wine as naturally as possible, with little or no sulfur used and if sulfur is used, it is natural, from volcanoes, not chemicals. Boris told me he actually purchased volcanic ash. Yes, there are people who sell the stuff!
Yields are limited to ensure high quality. The result has been a very successful, award-winning winery. I tasted their red and white Chemin de Ronde wines. The red is the most traditional and the white is totally natural. It is all fruit. No sulfur. No additives. Very little filtration. It is a wine with a lot of character and reminded me of a wine from the Alsace.
Excursions Near Autignac
Martine was very knowledgable about the area and things to see and do. The château can arrange spa treatments and make reservations for you for dinner. Martine got me into Autignac’s Le Café Co (Café du Commerce) at the last moment. It was filled with locals and the food was reasonable and delicious and the staff was very friendly.
There are many picturesque villages and hiking trails in the area and if a visit to beach interests you, the seaside village of Sête is only an hour away. Martine suggested an excursion to the pretty medieval village of Pézenas, which has a pedestrian-only historical center.
Faugères “Grands Vins de Nature”
8 Km Hike
One of the highlights of my stay was joining the “Faugères Grands Vins de Nature”, a hiking and wine event that was being held by the Faugères winemaker’s association. Five winemakers each led a group of about 15-20 people through the forests and vineyards of this appellation. Denis led the group I was in and we learned about the history and biodiversity of this wine-making area.
Wine And Hor d’Oeuvres
For 10 Euros, we were each provided with a straw hat, a wine glass, and a wine glass holder because the hike included three stops to taste local AOC Faugères wines and eat some hors d’oeuvres such as goat cheese and savory cakes. We saw many Roman ruins, got excellent panoramic views of the vineyards and the Mediterranean in the distance.
More Wine, Food, And Music
At the end of the hike, there was a picnic lunch accompanied by a four-piece band. You got a heaping plate of paella and an apple tart for 13 Euros, plus the opportunity to drink more wine. I sat at a table with 5 other people, including Denis. No one spoke English so I had to work hard to communicate and understand. I think the wine helped because I had an absolute blast and surprisingly, understood what was being said. (Wine always helps with communication, don’t you think?). It was the first year for this event and hopefully, they’ll continue it next year.
If you are traveling in the south of France, do consider staying at Château Autignac for a little rest, relaxation, and wine. You will not be disappointed! Be sure to take advantage of the advice from the staff. They are very knowledgable and can give you suggestions that fit into your timing and interests.
I stayed at Château Autignac as a guest. Merci beaucoup to Martine, Denis, and Boris for such an enjoyable stay. Your warmth and generosity are greatly appreciated. The information in this article is based on my personal experience and my opinions are, as always, my own.
Chateau Autignac: https://www.chateauautignac.fr/en/
Address: 26 Avenue de la Liberté, 34480 Autignac
Phone: +33 (0)4 67 21 96 99
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