It’s difficult not to think pink when you arrive at Village Castigno, Wine Hotel & Resort situated in the village of Assignan, in the Languedoc, just over half an hour’s drive from Beziers airport. Everything, from the walls of the buildings, the tables and chairs in the courtyard, the large umbrellas, the bed linen in the 24 rooms, to the plates and cups at breakfast, even the flowers and trees have been chosen it appears to bare only various shades of pink.
The hotel is a village within a village with a collection of buildings, a winery and three restaurants – one of which (La Table) is Michelin starred. There’s also a lounge room with its own pool. It reminded me of a pink version of Babington House in Somerset, one of the Soho House group of hotels, and it’s a growing trend to create French resort villages out of original villages. I remember visiting Crillon le Brave in Provence several years ago, when ironically a former partner of Soho House decided to create a collection of villas, restaurants and spa for guests in the same way as Castigno. It’s a concept that works well.
My room was a former grape pickers cabin (vendangeurs), from the outside, resembling a purple shed. This sounds unglamorous, but each room has been stylishly designed thanks to the owner, Tine, with clever touches. The lights for example, by the beds, are lit by touch rather than switch. All the mirrors are round, the walls various shades of purple or red. There’s intriguing Asian antiques and all the images on the paintings are sensual, although mine was of a fat woman shopping, which may do it for some people but alas not for me.
There are junior and prestige suites in the Maison D’Amis in the former wine storage house at the edge of the village where one room, Chateau Blanc, even has a decadent stand alone bath at the end of the bed. There are other prestige suites in other buildings closer to La Petite Table, with the trade mark hot pink and deep purple walls inside and out.
There is also the two bedroom Villa Rouge which can be booked per week. , It curiously doesn’t follow the fifty shades of pink colour scheme. It does have its own pool and veranda and some intriguing furniture and artwork. The perfect place to relax in complete privacy.
Guests take breakfast in La Petite Table on the main square. Breakfasts are served on pink and purple plates, traditional (croissants, bread, cheese, cured meats, yoghurt, honey, bread of course) but all served with flair by red and white gingham shirted staff (nice touch).
The Thai (aptly called Le Thai) restaurant is next door which offers excellent fayre even if, like one of our group, you are vegetarian.
The Michelin star restaurant, a five minute walk from the main square, (a good idea, because it means guests need to walk along the narrow village streets and admire more of the buildings which are stunning if not wine coloured). The Michelin star is well deserved. Staff are attentive (I dropped a fork – they realised I dropped it before I did). The décor is interesting, eccentric and edgy. You walk into an oversized room with the skins and furs of teddy bears and children’s toys on one traditional stone wall and a giant bone half hidden behind an inner balcony. There are red and purple velvet curtains strategically placed as though you are either part of the performance or about to see one. There’s stag heads with antlers which light up and a kitchen where you are able to watch the two chefs prepare your meal. The carefully but not overly manicured gardens outside are fully exposed as the remaining two walls are floor to ceiling window, allowing a view of the hens and roosters which roam freely outside. You need to walk outside to get to the outdoor ‘privy’. The food is exquisite, and I was fortunate to have a wine pairing with each course (I tried a five course tasting menu). The hors d’oeuvres are superb. On the day I was there, I tried caramalised carrot with endive and sweet potato and pumpkin tartlets. There was fresh peas with langoustines, a green gazpacho, but nothing does it justice. Not even the photos. It is a sensual eating experience which is difficult to describe – it is just sublime and one of the elements of the Castigno experience which isn’t pink or purple. Maybe worth mentioning there is not menu as the element of surprise is part of the experience.
There’s a yoga room which is ironically the only place you are able to connect to the internet (it is a digital detox village rather than an alcoholic one), and also a charming little house, which was home to a former villager, where you receive massages. These are special thanks to the therapist Shahirah from Brazil, who is also a reiki healer.
There’s bikes, a 2CV (bright red) and vespas you are able to use to drive to the local market in St Chinian ( only ten minutes away), 4×4 wine safaris across the estate and vineyards taking you to beautiful view points and through a truffle forest, and you can walk to the Castigno cave (winery) itself (or fifteen minute walk), which on approach looks like an alien spaceship looming over the surrounding vineyards. It is actually an acclaimed architecturally designed building coated in cork shipped in from Portugal made to look like the bark, created in the shape of a huge wine bottle. Inside even the wooden casks containing the wine and fermentation pods (which resemble alien eggs in Alien), are pink and purple. The bottles are all various shades of pink and purple, and you are able to not only do wine tastings but see if you are able to identify which blends have created the wines themselves (a lot of fun, but learn to spit rather than swallow – you will end up very drunk otherwise). The grape harvest is mostly picked by hand and they still use horses to pull the cart. The vineyard has also diversified into gin and beer – the grapes are caramelised and sent off to Belgium to complete the distilling process.
While we were there it rained a lot (yes I did hum Purple Rain) but it says much for this place that the weather failed to dampen the fabulousness, the charm and colour of Castigno. It is sexy, dramatic, intoxicating even if you are tee total, and ever so slightly fifty shades – in that it is tastefully sexy, if that is possible. It’s for lovers rather than honeymooners. And even on cloudy days – anything but grey.
A night at Village Castigno Wine Hotel & Resort starts at 130 euros for the Vendageurs Rooms, Prestige Suites costing from £225 per night. The Villa Rouge may only be booked for the week.
#GorgeousEscapes #Wine #France