When Fine Crystal Meets Fine Wine
Crystalmaker Lalique turns a 400-year-old château and winery into a hotel where the French ‘art de vivre’ thrives.
In the southwest corner of Bordeaux, France, is the Sauternes region, renowned for its golden-coloured wines. Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey has stood stately atop a hill in this region for 400 years, enveloped every autumn by the fog that causes beneficial botrytis fungus to grow on its grapes and give its Premier Grand Cru wine a distinct sweetness, with delicate hints of apricot and citrus.
The microclimate created by the Garonne River and Ciron tributary causes a cool fog to descend in the early evenings and stay through the mornings.
“The fogs appear and make the region feel like you’ve arrived in a mystical place — it really is what drew me to this property, along with the historical feel to the place,” says Silvio Denz, CEO of the French crystal company Lalique. In 2018, he transformed the Château into a hotel, bedecked with Lalique crystal.
The French Way of Life
Denz, like Lalique itself, has long had an appreciation of beautiful things in many forms. He is an art collector, a wine connoisseur, and an entrepreneur in the business of luxury goods. Since the 19th century, Lalique has crafted all kinds of objets d’art based on the aesthetic of its founder, artist René Lalique. It also delves into architectural projects, including the Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey hotel.
The hotel is “a fusion between the gold of Sauternes and the crystal of Lalique,” says Denz. It is “a place where French savoir-faire and savoir-vivre are showcased to their fullest.” He wants guests to experience the “art de vivre à la française” (French way of life) to its fullest. “In France, there still is a tradition for wine and gastronomy, aesthetics in architecture and landscapes. This is what guests can experience at Lafaurie-Peyraguey.”
Interior Design Inspired by the Surrounding Landscape
Lady Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli worked as a team to transform the Château’s interior. Lady Green (her husband Sir Philip Gree, a billionaire retail businessman, was knighted in 2006 for his service to retail) teamed up with Mingarelli to found Green & Mingarelli Design, which creates interior design for yachts, aircraft, and other spaces.
For the Château, their design inspiration came from the surrounding landscape.
“We were visually attracted and inspired by the vineyards, the colour of the earth, the grapes and their changing colours, which went from a beautiful gold to a deep red,” says Lady Green. “We divided the fabrics into shades of greens and deep reds to depict the colour of the leaves and grapes of the vineyards. This laid the path to the red and green theme throughout the hotel.”
The lounge features natural ebony wood, but with green lacquer on the legs of the chairs and coffee tables. Wine-coloured silk pillows embroidered with golden grape designs add a rich contrast to the dark-green velvet chairs upon which they rest.
The bedrooms feature a bleached oak “to match the soft tone of the earth of the vineyards, giving a very relaxing feeling,” says Lady Green. The same oak wood is used for the bar, “stained in a colour which was a melange of the earth and surrounding trees of the area.” This darkened oak brings out the colour of Lalique’s golden crystal inlays, which line the outside of the bar.
Shining Leaves of Crystal Illuminate Historic Halls
While Lalique’s crystal art is ubiquitous throughout the hotel, the star Lalique feature is the Champs-Élysées chandelier. It is in the shape of a cluster of leaves, based on a bowl designed by Marc Lalique (René’s son) in 1951. This chandelier is an outstanding feature in practically every room of the hotel. In some rooms, it takes the form of a similarly shaped wall sconce.
“The colour of the crystal [called gold lustre] was made specifically for Lafaurie-Peyraguey, to celebrate the colour of the wine,” says Denz.
It was important to Denz to preserve the history of the Château while renovating. “I asked a Swiss historian to dig into the history of the Château,” he says. “We have found amazing details — for example, the oldest woods [in the Château’s structure] date back from 1431, and the chapel of the Château is a copy of an existing church in Bordeaux. All of these details give meaning to the work we are doing today — we must remember that we are, in a way, also making history for this property.”
Lady Green and Mingarelli took care when restoring the chapel. They added new elements, such as an altar of black granite inlaid with red marble. But they restored the red and gold patina of the ceilings as it was in the past.
“We tried to respect the history of the Château by working with the old beams and layout of the rooms as much as possible,” says Lady Green.