You quickly forget you are fewer than 10 kilometres away from Montpellier. Overlooking a sea of vines, on the outskirt of the fastest-growing city in France, Domaine de Verchant feels like a secluded oasis. No wonder French and international celebrities alike - Johnny Depp, Bruce Springsteen and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to name a few - choose to stay here when they travel in the Languedoc region.
Design hotel in historical listed buildings
Steeped in history, the manor house dates back the 1600 and had many lives. Domaine de Verchant was first given by Montpellier’s bishop to Pierre Verchant in 1582 whom kept it in the family for 250 years. It was then revamped in the 19th century into a particular popular style at the time called ‘Folie Montpelliéraine’ ( the word ‘folie’ meaning ‘madness’).
Entrepreneurs Chantal and Pierre Mestre acquired the estate in 2002 and turned the main mansion, orangery and cluster of surrounding buildings into a 5 stars Relais & Chateaux hotel and spa during a 5 years restauration. Far from denaturing the place, they kept the original ‘folie’ architecture.
However, don’t get me wrong. This place definitely is a designers’ hotel thanks to the work of Raymond Morel also responsible for hôtels Murano and Kube. Splashes of bright orange and deep purple dot the bright and spacious interiors. Gorgeous Italian furniture (Poltrona Frau, Patricia Urquiola, Moroso, Flos, and Cassina), textured rugs, indoor bamboo walls and quirky mirrors all contribute to make every one of these 26 rooms Instagram-shot material.
Heritage park and infinity pool
Swimming in the infinity pool and relaxing in the 1,250 square metres of marble, glass and Bisazza mosaics spa is another jaw dropping experience only luxury hotels are capable of. The ‘World Massage Collection’ encompases 64 treatments, using Anne Semonin and Valmont products, from various world cultures including hot stones, shirodhara, “manual drainage”, Hawaiian “Lomilomi” and Ayurvedic massage brought back by the owners whom are avid travellers. Besides, being a wine growing estate, Domaine de Verchant offers homemade vinotherapy treatment such as red-grape body wrap and grapeseed exfoliation.
Day beds in a small private garden for post-treatment sunbathing, saunas, a tennis court, an indoor swimming pool with strong water jets and a particularly well-equipped (usually not the strongest asset of 5 stars hotels) fitness centre with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vines make Domaine de Verchant a brilliant choice for those looking for wellness-focused holiday break in Southwest France.
A wine growing Estate in Southwest France
What strikes the most whilst strolling the domain is the abundant vegetation and how quiet the place is given its location in the industrial suburbs. The listed one hectare park created in 1879 by the landscape architect Bühler brothers not only smells divine of pines and blooming flowers, it completely cuts you off from the outside world.
Although the estate doesn’t commercialize wine on a large scale, it produces a small quantity (15 000 bottles per year) for its own restaurant and bar, which is probably the epitome of chic. Covering a 17 hectares area, it hosts several varieties including Merlot, Grenache, Syrah and Roussane. The Quintina, a 2014 Grenache made with fruit from Verchant vineyards, is a must-try.
By the pool, La Plage serves a “creative Mediterranean” cuisine and Sunday brunches (£43/€52) in a trendy beach-like atmosphere others compared to Saint-Tropez although the crowd is mostly composed of business people in suits having lunch and taking calls. The lunch menu is reduced (it’s either fish or meat) and doesn’t include vegetarian or vegan options. I also found it quite pricey as you are paying for the view and privacy.
The starting point to visit the Languedoc
If after intensive pampering and wine tasting you decide to explore the region, the Domaine is quite ideally located. Besides Montpellier, the list of places to see is endless. From the protected marshes of the Camargue to the Roman arena in Nîmes and the fishing port of Sète, the rampart of Aigues-Mortes to the Cévennes National Park, are all under 1 hour drive from the hotel. Oh and the first private beach, La Grande Motte, is 20 minutes away. I recommend visiting in Septembre to enjoy nice weather and witness the grape harvest.
Domaine de Verchantis a five-star retreat open all year round. Rooms from 220 euros.