beautiful dinner arrangement
beautiful dinner arrangement

Since 1829, Champagne Bollinger has been making gwines, expressing the aromas of the fruit in all its dimensions.

James Bond’s champagne house of choice released the latest iterations of its new top-end champagnes amid glitz and glamour in Paris. Masha Nosova secured an invitation

The evening took place at the Bucherie in the Latin Quarter, originally an amphitheatre for medical students in the 17th century.

The cuvees served were La Grande Annee and La Grande Année Rose 2015. Bollinger uses oak barrels for fermentation, unusually for champagne, which creates richness, weight complexity and depth A tangible connection to this legacy was brought to life as Gaël Chaunut, the in-house head cooper, demonstrated the centuries-old art of barrel-making, a process as intricate as it is timeless.

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man with champagne glas

Charles-Armand de Belenet is the managing director of Maison Bollinger

The themes of ‘wood’ permeated throughout the evening, from the meticulously crafted canopy of 9,500 paper pieces, reminiscent of a forest, to the exquisite gastronomic journey curated by Two Michelin-starred Chef Olivier Nasti, masterfully incorporating elements of nature into his tantalising creations and transporting us on a journey of flavours. His venison tartare with Osciètre caviar and citrus ice with petals complimented effortlessly alongside La Grande Année, while the tender game of Alsatian hunts presented with a colourful quintuplet of sauces, found its perfect match with La Grande Année Rosé 2015. A mystery wine, which later revealed itself as the Grande Annee 1989 was paired with a 28 month aged Comte.

Read more: A tasting of Drouhin’s fine Burgundies

beautiful french house

The Maison Bollinger event took place in a beautiful house in the heart of Paris

Champagne-bollinger.com

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big green vineyard
Beautiful, big house with ah big terrace and garden

Since 1843, six generations of the Krug family have perpetuated this dream, enriching the Joseph Krug’s vision and savoir faire. Today, the Family House welcomes Krug Lovers from around the world to take a sensorial journey around Krug Champagne.

What are the 12 greatest wine estates in the world? A subjective question, surely. Lewis Chester doesn’t think so. The British financier and founder of the Golden Vines awards kicks off a series where he outlines for LUX his golden dozen, the most collectible wine estates from the world’s major regions. For the first instalment, he pays homage to Krug, the revered champagne house owned by LVMH

Why begin my personalised list of the World’s Best 12 Fine Wine Estates with Maison Krug? As a fine wine collector for almost twenty-five years, I have collected more bottles of Krug than any other wine: more than 1,500. More importantly, I drink more bottles of Krug than any other wine – every Friday night with my family at a minimum. My middle daughter, Anoushka, was just twelve years old when she developed a craving for Krug. Maggie Henriquez, at the time the Maison’s President & CEO, found out about Anoushka’s love of Krug and invited her and her friends to celebrate her future eighteenth birthday party at the estate!

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Krug evokes class and sophistication. In 2012, the late, great Paul Pontallier invited me to an 8-hour marathon lunch in the great salon of Château Margaux, one of the five left-bank First Growths. On arrival, Paul – the Château’s estate manager – served me a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée, the multi-wine non-vintage blend that Krug lovers around the world imbibe on a regular basis. At around 7pm, after having consumed six bottles of Margaux and a bottle of cognac, I asked Paul why he had chosen to serve me Krug: “We, at Château Margaux, want our guests to consider our wines as being at the same level as those from Maison Krug”. Wow! What an endorsement. Many years later, I would be told something quite similar by Don Weaver, the estate manager at Harlan Estate in Napa Valley, when he met me at the winery door holding two glasses and a cold bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée.

big green vineyard

Joseph Krug did not believe in hierarchies between his Champagnes, clearly written in his personal notebook in 1848. Today the House offers seven Champagnes, all of the same undisputed quality, each illustrating a different expression of Nature.

Krug ages forever. Along with Grande Cuvée, the ‘cheapest’ wine in the Maison’s range at around £200 per bottle, the Maison produces a vintage bottling in good years, as well as a formidable non-vintage Rosé, and a rare ‘Collection’ version of its vintage champagnes (only available to private clients). For those willing and able to pay thousands of pounds per bottle, they also produce – in miniscule quantities – a single-vineyard Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay) wine, Clos du Mesnil, and a single-vineyard Blanc de Noirs (Pinot Noir), Clos d’Ambonnay.

Known for having wines that are generous on the palate, with huge complexity helped by ageing in wooden barrels, Krug is somewhat opposite in design to its LVMH stablemate, Dom Pérignon, which is known for its reductive style of champagnes. Unlike Dom Pérignon, Krug makes less than a tenth of the volume of wine, although getting the exact production figures from either Maison is as difficult as getting your hands on Russia’s nuclear launch codes.

Dark wine cellar

Olivier Krug, the sixth generation of the Krug family and Director of the House welcomes Krug Lovers from around the world to the Family House in Reims.

The Maison was established in Reims in 1843, by Joseph Krug, a true visionary non-conformist with an uncompromising philosophy for quality. Joseph’s novel idea was to craft the very best Champagne he could offer, every single year, regardless of annual variations in climate – rather than bottling a wine only in good vintages. He also introduced the idea of building an extensive library of reserve wines from many different years to craft the perfect blend. Six generations of the Krug family have continued Joseph’s work, with Olivier Krug being the latest in a long line of family members to be working at the estate which has been owned by LVMH since 1999.
The most recent innovation at the estate was numbering each bottling of Krug Grande Cuvée with an ‘Edition’ number. In 2016, Edition 163eme was launched, representing the 163rd annual bottling of Grande Cuvée from the time of Joseph Krug’s first vintage in 1844. Krug Rosé edition numbers shortly followed suit. Collectors can use the Krug app to quickly find out what and how many wines comprise any given Edition number, and even what music ensemble to pair with the wine. For instance, the most recent release, 171eme Edition, is blended with 131 wines from 12 different years (2015 all the way back to 2000), made up of 45% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay and 18% Meunier grapes. Julie Cavil, the Chef de Cave, recommends enjoying this Krug with Joseph’s Theme: Dream Variation (composed by Kazu Makino et al).

Read more: A tasting of Drouhin’s fine Burgundies

Lewis’s Best 3 Wines from Maison Krug

Krug, Clos du Mesnil, 1979: the first vintage from this iconic single vineyard, it ranks as one of the best three wines I have ever tasted from any estate. Aromas of roses and petals, and a finish that ran for several minutes in the mouth. Worldclass.

Krug, Clos du Mesnil, 2002: although still a relative puppy, I am convinced that the 2002 vintage will last for another twenty-plus years and be considered alongside the 1979 vintage as a legendary wine.

Krug, Vintage 1988: if you can find a bottle that has been stored well, the wine will be remarkably fresh, vibrant and complex, and I guarantee that it will blow your socks off.

wine bottles laying next to each other

Each year, Krug’s Cellar Master auditions 250 wines of the year and 150 reserve wines when creating a new Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée

The 2024 edition of the Golden Vines awards will take place in Madrid between October 25-27 2024. liquidicons.com

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Green field with a little house in the middle
Family of different generations sitting on a stone wall

The family Drouhin grew up in the vineyards and acquired a deep understanding of wine alongside their father, Robert Drouhin. They all have their own role and they share the same passion for wine

Veronique Drouhin was not supposed to run one of the world’s most celebrated wine producers. The scion of a family with holdings throughout Burgundy and beyond, she was born with the odds stacked against her in two ways: she was the second child, where traditionally the elder child took on the family business; and she was a woman in the very mannish world of wine.

“I did not think, when I was at school, that things would end up the way they did,” the urbane, lively head of Maison Drouhin says ahead of our tasting of some of her finest wines. But her elder brother, Philippe, decided that he wanted to devote his energies to being in the vineyards, making the wines great rather than running the company. And Veronique, although she is too modest to say so directly, showed the commercial nous required to take the company forward in the 21st century.

Drouhin is famed for making wines of finesse, vibrancy and balance. That was not necessarily always a plus point: there was a time earlier this century when many consumers of fine wines thought that the more powerful a wine was, the better. And being the head of a negotiant-producer, which both owns its own vineyards and buys grapes from small producers with their own vineyards, was also a double-edged sword as high-end consumers sought out tiny production boutiquewineries as a status symbol.

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But the pendulum has swung the other way, both on style, with finesse and balance most definitely back in vogue, and in terms of consumer demand, as the cost of wines from tiny producers shot upwards beyond sustainable levels. Drouhin, which makes wines from some of Burgundy’s most hallowed vineyards, suddenly looked like excellent value as well as high quality.

If there is a grace to the wines – more on which in our tasting notes below – there is also a grace to the head of the Maison. When I ask what she would have likely done if she had not been born into a major French wine dynasty, Veronique replies that she might have become a music. I can imagine her playing a Chopin sonata as much as I can imagine her tasting her wines or hosting a collector’s dinner.

Read more: A tasting of Dana Estate wines

Wine cellar

After carefully harvesting the precious fruits of a year’s labour, Maison Drouhin let their vines enter a period of rest, an enchanted interlude called dormancy.

Drouhin makes wines at a variety of price points: just days before this tasting of some of their highest-end wines, which costs hundreds of pounds/euros/dollars a bottle, I partook of a bottle of a more lowly Drouhin Savigny-les-Beaune red Burgundy, from the fulsome 2020 vintage, at a London restaurant. It was delicious, balanced, moreish; and very much in the style of all the others. But if you are seeking a high end Burgundy at a relatively reasonable price, look to the below.

The Drouhin tasting. Tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Whites:

Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, 2018

The Chablis brand might suggest a certain austerity and steeliness; this grand cru, from one of the most celebrated vineyards, had that but also breadth, depth and white nectarines. Very classy and surprisingly powerful; a Jaguar E-type of a wine.

Green field with a little house in the middle

The harvest date is determined through regular samplings. Maison Drouhin closely monitors the health and maturation of the grapes.

Beaune Clos des Mouches, 2019

A white wine from Beaune? Sacré bleu – or sacré blanc!  But what a wine this rare and prized bottling is. Rounded, rich fruit with freshness and sex appeal and a lot of layers. An open-topped classic two-seater Mercedes SL from the 1980s.

Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot, Marquis de Laguiche, 2019

From Chablis we headed south through the forest of the Plateau de Langres (Chablis is not connected to the rest of the Burgundy vineyards), over the continental divide and down to Beaune. Now we travel a few kilometres further south, with the Cote d’Or hills rising to our right, in our 1973 Porsche 911S, in a solid period dark green. That’s what this wine is: super-elegant, precise, crafted, stunning.

Multiple wine bottles standing next to each other

The harvest date is determined through regular samplings. Maison Drouhin closely monitors the health and maturation of the grapes.

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2019

Back up the road we go, past Beaune, to the rounded Hill of Corton. Corton Charlemagne is one of the most celebrated white Burgundies, and this is a beautiful interpretation, with stony fruits and the complexity to match a three Michelin-starred chef’s signature Escoffier-style white fish main course. A 1960s Citroen DS Decapotable (in black, with cream leather) of a wine.

Reds:

Volnay Premier Cru Clos des Chênes 2018

Such finesse, a wine that only hints at its true depth of first sip, then keeps speaking with you, reciting poetry in your ear.

Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches 2018

Beaune is only a few kilometres away from Volnay, and this wine is made with the same, pinot noir, grape variety by the same producer: yet while retaining Drouhin’s finesse, this has power and muscularity. Like a Duke from the court of Louis XIV expounding on the virtues of his house musicians.

Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses 2009

On first sip, this is a balanced, structured and slightly delicate red Burgundy. By the end of the second glass, it’s an artist, a pianist, a poet and a dancer – and not a particularly chaste dancer. A Chippendale from the 2000s, or a brilliant burlesque; all at the same time. Astonishing.

Chambertin Clos de Beze 2003

This is a wine you would have at your last supper, with capon, truffle, caviar and tripe sweetbreads (and maybe some pommes dauphinoise). Like a Falstaffian royal performing a perfect ballet while reciting Rumi.

domainedrouhin.com

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Jacquesson Managing Director Jean Garandeau approaches the house on the Jacquesson estate

François Pinault, the French luxury titan, recently purchased champagne Jacquesson, one of the country’s hidden gems and a favourite of Napoleon Bonaparte. Darius Sanai pays a visit and speaks to the team

Champagne is an interesting phenomenon in the world of luxury drinks. For some, it is still an aperitif to be sipped before the real wine begins. For many others, a great champagne is a drink to be savoured and deliberated over. The production of champagne is more complex than that of still wine, giving ample opportunity for connoisseurs to debate and be fascinated. And a changing climate and more sophisticated farming and winemaking techniques mean that the best champagnes now are, arguably, the best champagnes that have ever been.

Into this mix, add the recent arrival of fevered discussions among collectors about size. Not size of bottle, which is still important (the common agreement is that a magnum has the perfect ratio of liquid to gas within the bottle for perfect ageing), but of producer. Unlike other fine wines, great champagnes can be produced by large corporate brands, but also by tiny farmers with small plots of land – the latter recently coming to the fore in public consciousness.

A view across the vineyards of what is one of France’s oldest champagne houses

Sitting amid this magnificent landscape (both figuratively and literally) is Jacquesson, an intriguing champagne house that has, for the past few decades, been a cornerstone of the cellars of many connoisseurs and collectors. Not big enough to be known as a Grande Marque, but not small enough to be a small grower, it made its modern-day fame by pioneering the creation of numbered, non vintage champagne (see The 700s below) and some incredibly complex single-vineyard cuvées made in tiny quantities (see The Tasting).

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One of the oldest of all the champagne houses, with one of the richest of what the French call patrimoines (roughly translated as “heritage”, but, in fact, meaning much more), Jacquesson is often cited as having been a favourite of the Emperor Napoleon. After its founding by the eponymous family in 1798, and what was probably the most significant celebrity endorsement in the world to date by the Europe-conquering emperor, who awarded the maison a gold medal in 1810, it lost its way a bit after the family sold it in the late 19th century, and through much of the 20th, before it was bought by Jean Chiquet in 1974 and handed down in 1990 to his sons, Jean-Hervé and Laurent, who began its revival. The brothers rationalised the range, focused on quality, reduced the quantity produced, introduced single-vineyard cuvées (ahead of the current trend for such wines)and, finally, led the way in the creation of the numbered cuvées, first released in 2004.

The cellars hold the 700s and the late disgorgements, which are kept for longer

And now, Jacquesson is just entering a new and extremely significant chapter in its patrimoine. The house was acquired in 2022 by François Pinault’s Artémis Domaines, a division of Groupe Artémis. The Groupe also owns Christie’s auction house, and Kering, which includes Gucci and Balenciaga. Artémis Domaines also takes care of Château Latour and a small selection of jewel-in-the-crown wine estates in France and California. Upholding the promise of its imperial birth, Jacquesson is now firmly a member of a new French empire – that of high luxury.

Frédéric Engerer is the straight-talking Managing Director of Artémis Domaines; having first managed Château Latour on its acquisition by Artémis Domaines, and subsequently other estates including the celebrated Clos du Tartin Burgundy, acquired in 2018. Engerer is also something of an unspoken sustainability pioneer: Latour was the first of the First Growth Bordeaux estates – the most exclusive club, comprising Châteaux Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion – to be certified 100 per cent organic, in 2019. Engerer is, understandably, proud of the acquisition.

Jean Garandeau

“We have been following Jacquesson for many years,” he says. “The way the Chiquet brothers, Jean-Hervé and Laurent, modernised the brand and increased the quality level of each cuvée in such a short time is tour de force.

“Creating the Cuvée 700 was based on a very simple and understandable concept with a very recognisable label; and at the same time, focusing on quality rather than quantity of crops, keeping very traditional vinification methods, increasing the ageing of each cuvée and reducing– if not eliminating totally – the level of dosage [added sugar]. This led to cuvées 700 that are very balanced, elegant, refined and with very distinctive styles for each of the fourlieux-dits [single vineyards].

The antique estate doors

“Moreover, Jacquesson’s small size as a maison producing 250,000 bottles per year, its strong vigneron culture and its image as “champagne for the wine connoisseur” are all elements very much aligned with our philosophy at Artémis Domaines and are very compatible with our other domaines.”

“So these are Pinot Noir grapes,” I say, knowledgeably, looking at some hopeful young bunches on a vine on a slope with a spectacular view of what seems like the whole of the Champagne region. Above us is a thick forest, packed with dozens of different types of trees, bushes and other vegetation. Below us, in a bread bowl, are swathes of vineyards, dropping down into a series of villages, leading to the town of Épernay, centre of the Champagne region. Beyond, the vineyards rise, once again to forests, beyond which land stretches to the endless undulations of la France Profonde

A progress check on a batch of 2018 Dizy Terres Rouge

I am with Jean Garandeau, appointed Managing Director of Jacquesson in 2022, and Vineyard Manager Mathilde Prier. “No, they are Chardonnay grapes,” Prier replies with a smile. I raise an eyebrow. This hillside, above the village of Dizy, is famous among wine lovers for producing some of the best Pinot Noir wines to go into the greatest champagnes. “It’s true that most of this area is Pinot Noir,” says Garandeau, sensing my confusion. “But it just shows that very special grapes can grow where you don’t expect them to.”

The Chardonnay from this vineyard makes Corne Bautray, a tiny production wine that has become one of the estate’s most celebrated, and which we will taste later. We continue on our tour of the panoramic vineyard area, ducking down one bumpy unmade track after another until we get to another vineyard. “This is all Pinot Noir,” says Garandeau, pointing around an area around the size of a couple of tennis courts.

The vineyards stretching to the forested hillsides

Jacquesson is a rare producer in several ways. It produces very small quantities of these single-vineyard wines – to the extent that they are not so much cult wines as secret wines, each market just getting a few cases to be fought over by collectors. The maison also does not make a rosé wine, nor a standard vintage champagne, which typically is a blended champagne made out of grapes of a single year. Apart from the single vineyards, the accent is very much on the numbered releases, or 700s, and their distinguished cousins, the late disgorgements, which are simply the same wines but held in the cellar, maturing in their live creative process for years longer.

The Jacquesson estate itself is in Dizy, one of the villages we saw from the hillside up above. There is a handsome house with a lawn and a small vineyard next door, and a tasting room with a vaulted ceiling. The cellars, like that of any champagne house, are extensive. Sitting in the tasting room, Garandeau tells me there is no plan to make dramatic changes at Jacquesson. “We are starting at a very high level, but we can fine-tune. We are very focused on understanding the terroir of each vineyard and, if possible, sourcing some additional great grapes to complement what we have. We can invest in facilities, improve parts of the process and, after one or two vintages, be confident to take decisions because we know the process a little better. We can also work to increase awareness among international wine lovers.

The spectacularly situated vineyards contain Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir grapes

”There are no plans to turn the boutique grower into a giant, along the lines of more famous houses. “We have a boutique approach at Artémis Domaines, which is part of our culture, and which helps build on the future for Jacquesson,” says Garandeau. “Boutique is the future as well as the past.” There are, he adds, no plans to bring in additional ranges, or a rosé (the latter was discontinued by the previous owners) – a shame, as I am sure Jacquesson would make a rosé to rival Dom Pérignon’s powerful offering and the curiously (in the context of its other wines) delicate offering by Krug, both from houses owned by LVMH (majority-owned, in the case of Krug).

Read more: A tasting of Schrader’s legendary Napa wines

Garandeau also points out that tastes for champagne are changing. “In the past, people would go into a restaurant and want to start with a bit of champagne, and take whatever was served by the glass and not really question it,” he says. “Now, people are focusing increasingly on taste. People will get the full wine list and choose a bottle of champagne to share before the meal. And even when you see the selection of champagnes by the glass in many places, where 20 years ago you would just have the big brands, now it’s changing and there is much more variety. Champagne is being treated much more like wine.”

Vineyard Manager Mathilde Prier

With that, the first cork is slowly released from its bottle by Cellarmaster Yann Le Gall, and our tasting begins – although not before I reflect that one of France’s most sophisticated luxury brands is beginning a new phase in its patrimoine that could be just as interesting as those of its first decades.

The 700s

Jacquesson gained instant credibility among wine geeks, many of whom had previously considered champagne a second-class drink, when it replaced its entry-level non-vintage champagne with its numbered Cuvées 700 in 2004. Almost all champagne houses had, until then, produced a “non-vintage” champagne as their primary offering, blending wines of different years together without indicating which – most still do. The 700s were different, declaring by their numbering exactly which year the wine in the bottles was based on. This arcane detail immediately transformed perceptions: a champagne house that was not trying to make a generic non-vintage blend, like a whisky, each year, but instead proud that different years produced different types of wine, and saying so on the label. The fact that the wines, starting with Cuvee 728 in 2004 and proceeding up by one number each year, were of such high quality, also helped.

Jean Garandeau and Cellarmaster Yann Le Gall at the tasting

The Tasting: Notes by Darius Sanai

Cuvee 746

The latest of the 700 series. A sultry, thought-provoking and sophisticated wine: Catherine Deneuve in a 1958 Lancia Flaminia Sport Zagato.

the Jacquesson estate house, which dates back to 1798, when the maison was founded

 

 

Cuvee 741 Dégorgement Tardif

Released after extended ageing on its yeast in the cellars. A serious champagne to be enjoyed over an extended meal at your riverside château in central France, with Jacques Brel playing on your turntable.

The process of making champagne is more complex than that of still wine

Champ Caïn 2013

Recently released after 10 years maturing in the cellars. All Chardonnay: pretty yet powerful at the same time, like Béatrice Dalle in vintage Balenciaga.

Corne Bautray 2013

Another Chardonnay-based single-vineyard wine, this is intense, deep, thought-provoking and quite serious, like sitting with Simone de Beauvoir in Les Deux Magots.

A bottle of Cuvée 746, the latest of the estate’s treasured 700 series

Terres Rouges 2013

Exclusively Pinot Noir, and with something complex and not yet fully detectable emerging under its perfectly polite manner, like the first part of a meal with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Vauzelle Terme 2013

If any of the Jacquesson champagnes resembles the maison’s most famous advocate, it is this, tiny production label. You take a sip and think you have mastered it, then it comes back at you from different directions. Like Napoleon, this will get ever better with age.

Photography by Brice Brastaad

Find out more: www.champagnejacquesson.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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Advisory / France

LUX x Deutsche Bank

As global content and marketing partner for Deutsche Bank, we create content, virtual and real life events, business, academic, institutional and individual introductions, and collaborate on ESG strategy.

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Photo by Andy Mann

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Photo by Ben Thourad

Case Study

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Deutsche Bank x LUX ESG Strategy

The Mission

To help Deutsche Bank position themselves as the lead banking institution to be pioneering ocean conservation and the blue economy.

Execution

Sourcing and securing key leaders to participate in events and conferences around sustainability and in particular ocean conservation and the blue economy.


Thought leadership content streams created for Deutsche Bank over multiple channels.


16 page section in LUX magazine and online featuring leaders in the ocean economy, investors and philanthropists developed over several years with a special edition dedicated to the conference.


Introductions to partners who can enhance Deutsche Bank’s involvement in the ocean conservation space.


Direct Introductions to potential clients who are interested in investing in the blue economy or philanthropically towards the Deutsche Bank Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund.

Result

Created high engaging, original and successful events conference connecting ideas, entrepreneurs, thinkers and leaders.


Formed long term-partners and clients in the ocean conservation space.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to ocean conservation.

Case Study

strip

Deutsche Bank x LUX ESG Strategy

The Mission

To help Deutsche Bank position themselves as the lead banking institution to be pioneering ocean conservation and the blue economy.

Execution

Sourcing and securing key leaders to participate in events and conferences around sustainability and in particular ocean conservation and the blue economy.


Thought leadership content streams created for Deutsche Bank over multiple channels.


16 page section in LUX magazine and online featuring leaders in the ocean economy, investors and philanthropists developed over several years with a special edition dedicated to the conference.


Introductions to partners who can enhance Deutsche Bank’s involvement in the ocean conservation space.


Direct Introductions to potential clients who are interested in investing in the blue economy or philanthropically towards the Deutsche Bank Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund.

Result

Created high engaging, original and successful events conference connecting ideas, entrepreneurs, thinkers and leaders.


Formed long term-partners and clients in the ocean conservation space.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to ocean conservation.

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Photo by Ben Thourad

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Photo by Ben Thourad

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Photo by Ben Thourad

Case Study

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Deutsche Bank x Frieze Art Fair x LUX

The Mission

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world, produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art, and formed partnerships and client relationships.

Execution

Year round content creation and coverage in print, online, social media
and video.


Introductions to collectors and artists.


Exclusive events at Deutsche Bank, Frieze lounge and collectors’ homes.


Interviews and interactions with artists and collectors.


Special issues of LUX devoted to Deutsche Bank x Frieze.

Result

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art.


Formed partnerships and client relationships.

Case Study

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Deutsche Bank x Frieze Art Fair x LUX

The Mission

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world, produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art, and formed partnerships and client relationships.

Execution

Year round content creation and coverage in print, online, social media
and video.


Introductions to collectors and artists.


Exclusive events at Deutsche Bank, Frieze lounge and collectors’ homes.


Interviews and interactions with artists and collectors.


Special issues of LUX devoted to Deutsche Bank x Frieze.

Result

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art.


Formed partnerships and client relationships.

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Read Deutsche Bank
special edition

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Read Deutsche Bank
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A grey sports car outside a vineyard
A grey sports car outside a vineyard

The Aston takes in the Clos de la Roche vineyards in Burgundy, France

In the second part of our Great Drives series, Darius Sanai travels, in an Aston Martin DB11 V8 Coupe, from the Jura Mountains, Switzerland to London, UK via Burgundy and Champagne, France for a quick tasting of Amour de Deutz, 2008

In the Vallée de Joux in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland, signs for watch manufactures (factories) come as thick and fast as signposts for whisky distilleries on Speyside. Tempting though it was to make a stop (we at LUX know the watch manufactures well, but they require a little planning to visit), we dropped down a gear in our xenon-grey Aston Martin DB11 and zoomed out of the valley along snaking roads through deep forests. Every mile or so, the trees dropped away to reveal a lake or another valley. We opened the windows to hear the thrumming of the Aston’s V8 engine, a low, mellow but not over-loud rumble, bouncing off the slopes on either side of the road. This was a joyous drive.

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The DB11 Coupe is a piece of automotive architecture, sculpted, so it seems, from a block of granite. It feels satisfying to drive, even if you are not moving. It is very satisfying, and not a little fun, to drive when you are. The empty French roads allowed us to accelerate a little faster and farther than perhaps we would have done in Switzerland, where we had started that morning, or back in England, our final destination. It’s not overly challenging, but it is nicely weighted to give you a sense of Aston Martins of old, which were slightly macho and brutish as well as beautiful, like Sean Connery as James Bond, or perhaps a young Marlon Brando. Fortunately, too, it does not succumb to the latest trend of making extremely fast cars too easy to drive.

the black leather interior of a car

A peek inside the Aston Martin DB11

You would not buy the DB11 if you just wanted a very fast car, we mused, as the road, having descended down through the north side of the mountains, straightened out along a plain lined with wheat fields. These days, almost any electric car – and there seems to be a new one every day – can be programmed to go as fast as a moon rocket, but where’s the fun in that? This Aston, with its masterpiece of an exterior and equally chiselled interior, and lovely waffles of leather all around inside, is an event to be in and to arrive in. The hotel we were staying at that night in Burgundy, Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa Beaune, gave it pride of place in its car park.

A car behind an arched gate

The Aston Martin DB11 V8 Coupe in the courtyard of the Deutz champagne house, France

The Cèdre is exactly the kind of place you want to arrive at when touring France. A little palace or big mansion (take your pick), on the edge of the old walled town of Beaune in the centre of Burgundy’s wine country, it has a driveway lined with very smart cars that show the measure of its clientele, who travel from all over the world to stay and taste wines here. There is a maze of a garden with ornamental ponds and seating dotted around the foliage. We sat there that evening and enjoyed a glass of poignant 2019 Château de Meursault, salty and nutty and balanced, from a small producer just a couple of miles away. The air smelled like the wine. Inside, the Cèdre is traditional and rich, like the home of a wealthy merchant. By the bar, an Enomatic machine, which preserves open bottles of wine, serves a selection of the great vintages of Burgundy – no need to visit a wine estate, just stay here and taste.

the outside of a white hotel with tables and parasols in a garden

Garden dining by night at the Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa Beaune, Burgundy

Our room was characterful and split-level, with bedroom and bathroom on one floor and a living area in a gallery above, big enough for a group of four to stretch out on the sofa and chairs, fine wines in front of them, and chat into the night. The room didn’t have a big view but it had an interesting one, across the outskirts of Beaune to the vineyard slopes creating its eponymous, and delicious, red wine. One of the world’s most ancient vineyard sites, its history can be traced back 1,000 years. This is a soulful hotel.

A massage chair with a brown towel on it surrounded by stone and glass walls

The stylish Nuxe Spa in the vaults of the Cèdre

Our focus the next day was a drive across the countryside of central France, from one of its great winegrowing regions, Burgundy, to another, Champagne. These are connected by an autoroute, and getting there can take fewer than three hours. But that would not do justice to a car like this, so we took the back roads instead. First, we wound our way up the low, but very definite ridge of the Côte-d’Or, where we saw the same Burgundy vineyards we had seen from our hotel room, and then through forests, glades and ancient villages on the Plateau de Langres. This is Charlemagne territory, one of the most historic but unexplored parts of France. In each village there were at least a few grand houses, hundreds of years old, that wanted to tell a story.

A lounge with a fireplace and leather brown chairs

A cosy ambience at the Cèdre Lounge Bar,

The Aston ambled happily through them, like a big dog strolling with its mistress, then roared down the empty byways when the countryside emptied out a little. After a couple of hours, wanting to make it to Champagne for our next meeting, we headed back towards the autoroute, joining it near Charles de Gaulle’s home village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. On the smooth French highway, the Aston reverted to its alter ego of relaxed grand touring car, purring quietly.

Champagne bottles lined up

The sublime tasting at the Deutz champagne house, France

Deutz is not a champagne house that is familiar to so many international wine collectors. It doesn’t market itself like the region’s more famous names. Perhaps it doesn’t need to, we reflected, as our taxi dropped us at the maison’s cobbled courtyard (the Aston having been parked safely at our hotel for the night). After a tour of the massive underground cellars, we were shown into a beautiful historical house, its decor preserved as the Deutz family created it in the late 19th century. The tasting room was really a garden room, looking out onto lawns and intricately planted borders.

A window with flowers behind it

Window views from the garden room at the Deutz champagne house

Deutz is about quality more than marketing – more than anything, we thought, as we were guided through a selection of the maison’s champagnes. The vintage rosé, 2013, was delicate, balanced, floral and beautiful. They only got better. The prestige cuvée, Cuvée William Deutz, had a power, a richness and a kind of nobility to it – the sort of champagne you would serve at the coronation of a king (a shame the French got rid of theirs), or perhaps at a dinner to mark the 200th anniversary of your watch manufacture. But it was another one of their champagnes that really got into our souls.

three wine glasses on a table

Tasting of Cuvée William Deutz and Amour de Deutz

Amour de Deutz is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay, the best picks of the white grape that the maison gets its hands on every vintage. We tasted the 2013, 2009 and 2008. They were sublime: complex nutty creaminess, a savoury edge, richness yet ethereal lightness and a kind of golden flavour. Each was more powerful than the last, yet as gentle as a butterfly. Featherlight yet eternal.

Read more: Great Drive: Santa Monica to Napa Valley, Califonia

The next day, powered by memories of the Amour de Deutz, we cruised back to the UK in the beautiful, purring Aston, a case of golden champagne treasure in its (small but adequate) luggage compartment. The perfect little grand tour in the perfect grand tourer.

Find out more:

astonmartin.com

cedrebeaune.com

champagne-deutz.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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A swimming pool surrounded by white umbrellas and deck chairs with a hotel in the background
A swimming pool surrounded by white umbrellas and deck chairs with a hotel in the background

Belle Époque meets contemporary at the Royal-Riviera, Côte d’Azur

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Royal Riviera, Côte d’Azur

What drew us there?

Many of the great hotels of the French Riviera are places to see and be seen. They are the kind of destinations where wardrobe prep and social diary-checking can take as long as the stay itself.

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Wafting through the understated reception of the Royal-Riviera, you realise you are somewhere quite different. Walk to the pool area behind the main Belle Époque building and there is a low-rise building, Villa l’Orangerie, that houses capacious rooms and suites; to your left is an elegant restaurant beyond which you see the Mediterranean stretch to Monaco. Behind the hotel is a dramatic vista of mountains plunging to the sea. Although the hotel sits in the most desirable residential area of the coast, this is an enclave, a place where you put on your Chanel sunglasses only to protect yourself from the sun. Your fellow guests are as discreet as you are; they don’t need to shout about who they are.

A terrace with deckchairs looking over a pool with palm trees and the sea

The perfect private terrace

How was the stay?

Our suite was in the Villa l’Orangerie, whose rooms and suites are all newly renovated, as is the terrace surrounding the swimming pool and the garden deck, giving us much to admire. We had our own little private garden and could go from our living room to the pool in 12 steps.

Sit by the pool and you won’t feel like leaving: the view of the mountains and the Mediterranean cuisine served poolside or in the restaurant see to that. If you do go out, this is super-prime Côte d’Azur. The village of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is five minute’s walk one way along a pretty coastal path. The centre of Beaulieu-sur-Mer – another chichi resort in this hallowed region between Nice and Monte Carlo – is five minutes the other way. Outside the hotel is a little sandy beach, a section of which is for hotel guests only. It is delightful and very different to some Mediterranean hot spots: no Instagram celebrities, just people chilling in one of the most spectacular parts of Europe.

Read more: One&Only The Palm, Dubai, Review

One afternoon, we took a taxi halfway up the mountain to the hilltop village of Èze, a medieval scramble of streets with unbelievable views in every direction. Another evening we went for dinner with friends in Monte Carlo, around 25 minutes away. In both cases, we were pleased to get back to the peace of the Royal-Riviera.

A bedroom with a yellow throw on the bed

Discreet Mediterranean styling in a Junior Suite

Anything else?

Breakfast is on an arcaded terrace in the original building, where, later, a glass of vintage champagne sets you up well for the evening. From there, it’s a short stroll to the terrace of the Jasmin Grill & Lounge for a glass of Whispering Angel and a main course of grilled turbot.

Find out more: royal-riviera.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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a man and woman walking in a vineyard
a man and woman walking in a vineyard

Pierre Seillan has crafted Vérité wines since 1998. Under Pierre’s leadership, Hélène Seillan stepped into the role of assistant winemaker at the estate to ensure the legacy of the wine is maintained for the next generation

The French-American father-daughter team running Vérité make some of the world’s most sophisticated red wines, inspired by French classic styles, from vineyards in Sonoma, California. Darius Sanai catches up with Hélène Seillan to sip through a glorious portfolio

Like with most luxury goods, France has long been the global reference point for fine wine. If you are hosting a banquet for a monarch, your default is to serve something French; similarly, if you are gifting a wine to someone whose tastes you don’t know, the default is to go French.

a green vineyard with a path through the middle for walking

Knights Valley Vineyards

And yet, just like the rest of the luxury world, there are major players from elsewhere. Red wines from California and sweet whites from Germany, to give just two examples, can command the same or even higher prices than great French wines. And they are made in different styles.

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So what would a tasting of one of California’s most celebrated red wines, with a French name, Vérité (meaning “truth”), with individual wines called La Joie, Le Désir and La Muse respectively, conjure up? To add further intrigue, Vérité’s founding vigneron Pierre Seillan is French, and our tasting was conducted by his daughter and the current custodian of the estate Hélène Seillan, who is entirely bilingual, her life straddling her family’s native Bordeaux and her adoptive homeland of California.

Three bottles of wine in a wooden box

Vérité’s 20th Anniversary Gift Pack

Vérité’s wines are made not in California’s celebrated wine valley of Napa, but in the next valley along, closer to the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma. Each of the three is made with Bordeaux grapes: Le Désir is based on Cabernet Franc, La Joie is based on Cabernet Sauvignon and La Muse is based on Merlot. The wines regularly get top scores of 100/100 or thereabouts from the wine world’s critics.

Green vineyards and hills

Vérité was born through the friendship of Pierre Seillan and Jess Jackson when Jackson asked Seillan to visit Sonoma County in 1997

Hélène herself is delightful (like her wines) and sparkling (unlike her wines). She has the glamour and charm of a French luxury leader, but the easygoing directness of a California winemaker.

Hélène says working with her father is both inspiring and enjoyable, and she shares his view that “the most important part is the vineyard”; that soil and nature are essential to the creation of a fine wine.

Would the wines be the same blend of French sophistication and California brilliance? In a word – yes.

A house with a large terrace

The home of Vérité in Sonoma, California

A tasting of Vérité wines with Hélène Seillan; tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Vérité Le Désir 2019
A 1970s Chanel ball gown, worn down the flowing staircase of a Loire château, still owned by its pre-Revolution aristocrat. This is a wine that will live forever.

A vineyard with a path and greenery

Vérité Jackson Park

Vérité La Joie 2019
A classic 80s power suit worn by a woman CEO breaking through the glass ceiling: complexity, intrigue, delicacy, balance and nerves of steel, and a harbinger of many things to come. We would buy and keep this for decades.

Vérité La Muse 2019
An astonishing wine that you would serve to a president at a banquet at the Élysée Palace, and also happily drink at Le Club 55. Delicious and rich and striking.

A room full of barrels

Pierre Seillan has challenged himself with crafting wines from diverse terroirs, using the same approach to capture the unique expressions of Sonoma County, Bordeaux, and Tuscany in each vintage

Vérité La Joie 2013
With a few more years, La Joie is the same but with more layers, more experience. The intriguing thing about these wines is that, while they are as complex as almost anything from Bordeaux, they don’t go through those very French adolescent periods of being difficult, uptight and grumpy.

Read more: Tasting with sustainable Napa wine producer Beth Novak Milliken

Vérité La Muse 2007
Wine snobs don’t think it’s OK to have favourites – you can say a certain wine “shows better” than another. Hélène is no wine snob, though, because I told her this was my favourite wine of the tasting and she laughed. Maybe it’s the age, a sweet sixteen, but it had the freshness and richness of the first four, with a kind of perfumed soulfulness that was all Billie Holiday.

A sunset on a vineyard with green vines and hills in the distance

Sonoma County is one of the most diverse wine growing regions due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the climate flows from West to East

1998 Vérité
This is a library wine, no longer easily available, showcased in this tasting. For me it tasted like an aged Grand Cru Burgundy (even though those are made from a different kind of grape), silky, subtle, gently revealing itself. At 25 years its no longer bold, like the others, and merits sipping over foie gras (or grilled chanterelles on a biscotte-type toast, if you prefer) while musing out of the French windows of your chateau in La France Profonde, looking at the rain washing over your long lawn, in the autumn.

www.veritewines.com

Vérité wines are occasionally available from stockists around the world: check www.winesearcher.com for details

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In the third part of our Driving Force series from the AW 2022/23 issue, LUX’s car reviewer gets behind the wheel of the Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid

Mitteleuropa (middle Europe) is a semi-mythical territory that has always fascinated us. It is decisively not the same as central Europe, the web of countries to the east of Switzerland and to the west of Romania. Its German name suggests it incorporates a part of Germany, but it cannot include the brisk North Sea coast or the Hanseatic ports, which belong to the Baltic.

And we felt we were entering Mitteleuropa when a sign on the motorway in eastern France (that’s right, France) declared that we were in Lorraine. The signs on the motorway exit boards changed tone, as did the scenery. The place names became Germanic, and the flat fields of the Champagne region gave way to forested hills and ridges.

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Here, the Porsche Panamera felt in its element, as it headed back to its homeland. The straight-line motorway that had been a feature of the route to date turned into long, beautifully engineered curves, taken at high speed in this long wheelbase, semi-electric large sports sedan. It was enormously satisfying, with subtle growls from the V8 engine upfront and the steeliness of the car’s sporting suspension making you feel like a pilot more than a chauffeur.

This is the aim of the Panamera: a comfortable, high-performance vehicle intended to be genuinely satisfying for the driver, without the compromises of a high-sided SUV.

A wheel on a red car

As we drove past one mini mountain, the clouds burst open in a Götterdämmerung of rain, which rapidly flooded the road. The four-wheel drive of the Panamera felt as if it was vacuuming up the water and spitting it out the back, wanting to go still faster, as if on a wet race track, when it would have been irresponsible to do so.

We spent the night in Phalsbourg, eating at a French restaurant on a terrace on its wide central square while being served beer brewed in the Black Forest, in neighbouring Germany, by staff who spoke French and German, as if the two territories were one.

Between Phalsbourg and the Black Forest lie the Vosges mountains. The roads here were narrow, tight, still damp and the car clung to them through the gears, the electric and petrol engines working in unison to propel us forward. The Panamera is not a sports car by any traditional definition, it is too wide, too heavy. But if you are used to driving a fast SUV and hanker after something less lumbering while still having a lot of space, this is for you.

Read more: Driving Force: Audi R8 V10 Spyder

In the Black Forest, the autobahn between Stuttgart and Lake Constance has no speed limit in many places, and its trail snakes through the mountains. At normal speed, the curves are gentle, barely noticeable, and you have the ability to admire villages pinned into the surrounding woods. But when you go much faster, on an empty road, each corner feels like a racetrack, and the car on its limit is muscular, secure, reassuring but sharp, made to maximise its capabilities on these roads not so far from its birth town of Stuttgart. At 160mph (257km/h), there is no time to admire the scenery.

We finished the day with a glass of the same beer offered to us hundreds of miles away in Phalsbourg, while sitting in a little café on Lake Constance: Switzerland, a series of green bumps across the lake in front of us; Austria, a couple of grey spikes in the distance to the left. Middle Europe, and the ideal car from which to enjoy it.

LUX Rating: 18/20

Find out more: porsche.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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a room with wooden chairs and tables and a large glass window leading to a terrace
A lounge with a floor to ceiling glass doors and a terrace with plants

L’apartement at Château Voltaire

The Arrival

We walked into Chateau Voltaire the wrong way, or was it the right way? The hotel is a striking corner building on a side street, Rue St Roch, just off the Rue du Faubourg St Honoré and a couple of minutes walk from Place Vendôme, in the luxury heart of Paris.

a lounge with an orange velvet chair, a blue velvet chair and a cream wooden chair

The lobby at Château Voltaire

We entered via the door on the apex of the corner and found ourselves in a buzzing brasserie; it was like walking into an auberge near a country town, and we were smiled towards the interconnecting reception area by a waitress. The small lobby is very chi-chi and relaxed at the same time. Check in was quick, and we caught a glimpse of a relaxed-looking bar and lounge area across the way.

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The in-room experience

Chateau Voltaire is a boutique five star hotel, and our room, while not big, was beautifully put together. It spoke of a lot of individual thought and craft and artisanship, rather than a single, overweening interior designer.

a cream and white bedroom

A bedroom at Château Voltaire

The marquetry was exquisite, with solid wood furnishings and intricate carvings, hinting at the building’s history, and 20th century modern art providing a juxtaposition. The hand-made bed was huge, the coffee machine grand and complex enough for a Turin caffe and the high-ceilinged bathroom was all white-and-chocolate tiles.

A dark bar with dim lighting

La Coquille d’Or bar

The out-of-room experience

The restaurant through which we had originally entered, Brasserie Emil, is an upscale brasserie, as casual as it is fancy, with handmade tiles, beautiful wood tables, no tablecloths.

wooden bar chairs on a marble bar

Brasserie Emil

The cuisine is also modern and fresh, rather than weighty and historic: we enjoyed a lunch of endive and olive salad, artichoke salad, and yellowtail carpaccio with ponzu. The lounge-bar is intimate and open; perfect for a quick glass of champagne pre-event.

Read more: Hotel of the Month: Cervo Mountain Resort, Zermatt

 An arch leading to a pool in a spa

The Spa

Drawbacks

Château Voltaire is perhaps the perfect boutique luxury hotel. It’s not a drawback per se, but if your taste is for big, grand hotels with swanky extensive lobbies, you will prefer the bigger Parisian hotels.

Rates: From £470 per night (approx. €550/$560)

Book your stay: chateauvoltaire.com

Darius Sanai

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A bottle of champagne and a wine glass on a wooden table outside
A bottle of champagne and a wine glass on a wooden table outside

Argonne Aÿ Grand Cru 2013

Ella Johnson visits the oldest family-owned champagne house, Henri Giraud, to taste some of its celebrated cuvées, and hear about the importance of the use of sustainable oak from local forests in its unique ageing process, with twelfth-generation owner Claude Giraud and winemaker Sébastien Le Golvet

Henri Giraud has been producing champagne since 1625 and is still owned by its founding family – a rarity among Champagne’s oldest houses. Together, twelfth-generation owner Claude Giraud, and winemaker Sebastien Le Golvet create their celebrated (and very expensive) champagnes which combine richness, freshness, and saline qualities, from their vineyards in Äy, on the southern cusp of the Montagne de Reims, in the heart of the Champagne region.

A man standing next to a vineyard

Claude Giraud, CEO of Henri Giraud is the 12th generation to lead the estate

The richness comes from the pinot noir grapes, which are warmed by the sun on the south-facing slopes of the Montagne. The River Marne, flowing past the property, provides their wines’ freshness; and saline and mineral qualities come from the 200 metres of pure chalk beneath the soil.

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But their champagnes have something else. They are fermented and matured in oak barriques (small barrels) sourced from the Argonne Forest, which stretches from the flatlands of the east of the Champagne region to the hilly border with Lorraine. The forest has been at the heart of European history for millennia and, for each bottle of the Argonne cuvée sold, Henri Giraud plants new two-year-old oak trees and maintains them for five years to replace the oaks they fell to create their barriques.

Oak barrels in a room with coloured lights on the walls

Henri Giraud is committed to replanting and maintaining the same number of oak trees that they use to create their barrels, in order to ferment their champagne

So-called ‘kings of experimentation’, Giraud and Le Golvet have identified ten different terroirs in the Argonne Forest, which they use to intensify the complexion of their wines. They know that if they create barrels from the oak trees which come from a plot called Les Châtrices, for instance, the wine will have a lot of “sharpness and tension”, they tell me. If they use another terroir in the forest, Lachalade, “it will be richer and rounder”.

Sébastien Le Golvet has been making champagne at Henri Giraud since 2000

Le Golvet prefers to vinify the majority of his wine in these oak barrels. He meticulously tastes and memorises each one – 1,200 in total – in order to produce the perfect blend. It would be more efficient to produce the Maison’s 300,000 yearly bottles of wine in tanks, of course, but efficiency is not the endgame. ‘When Sébastien creates his wine, he is like an artist in front of a painting. He can create different colours. The result is just in a bottle,’ says the Maison. The remaining ten percent is vinified in egg-shaped amphorae, made from sandstone, which provides the fruitiness for which the Henri Giraud Dame-Jane rosé cuvée is famed.

A wine bottle next to its cask

Fût de Chêne MV17

Champagne Henri Giraud has changed since Le Golvet took the winemaking reins from Claude Giraud in 2000. ‘Claude’s wine was much richer.’ I am told. ‘Sébastien is more precise, young. He has a different style. The more difficult the vintage, for Sebastién, the better it turns out. It’s the challenge. But both want to try new things each year, to discover more and more terroir’.

Read more: A tasting of Dalla Valle wines with the owners

It is fitting, then, that neither Le Golvet or Giraud is able to choose their best wine to date. ‘I like to say that the best wine we have ever produced is the wine we will produce tomorrow. The wines become more precise each time.’

A green vineyard

Henri Giraud has been producing the finest champagnes since 1625

We sample their Fût de Chêne MV 17 and Argonne Aÿ Grand Cru Brut 2013 in their tasting room. These are huge, rich champagnes despite the balance and limpidity, and Giraud breaks out a box of the perfect match for them. Not foie gras (which we would in any case have declined) or an aged Pecorino Romano cheese (which would have gone rather nicely), but some Cohiba Behike cigars. The king of cigars went rather well with this, Champagne royalty.

Find out more: champagne-giraud.com

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luxury hotel
luxury hotel

The Royal Champagne is built into south-facing vineyards on the Montagne de Reims

In the final part of our luxury travel views series from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks into Champagne’s newest and most luxurious hotel: the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Épernay

If the devil is in the detail, the Royal Champagne is a devil of a place. In the best possible way. What detail to pick on? The barista-style Italian espresso machine in the room? The pale-leather welcome box containing a bottle of boutique Leclerc Briant champagne in an ice bucket, two champagne glasses and some fruit slices? The delicate mesh on the light wood occasional table? So many.

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In truth, Champagne has been in need of this hotel forever. I have been visiting the region on business and pleasure for years, and the choice has been between a couple of old-school country luxe hotels with little in the way of contemporary pleasures, and an array of functional places wholly out of keeping with champagne (the drink) and its image of indulgence.

From the very start, it’s plain that the Royal Champagne is something else: an indulgent hotel created with extreme love and style (and budget) by deep-pocketed owners wanting the best and hang the cost. (That is my impression, and I challenge them to prove me wrong.)

spa swimming pool

The pool overlooks the champagne vineyards of Épernay

You approach from Reims by driving up the Montagne de Reims, the forest-topped big hill with vineyards on both sides that demarcates the territory between Reims and Épernay, the two capitals of Champagne. Through the forest at the top of the hill, onto a lane through the vineyards, and the hotel entrance appears out of nowhere.

The Royal is built into the hillside, a contemporary building and a feat of engineering beside the historic building that gives it its name.

Read more: LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on Effective Climate Action

Inside, everything is light, open. The welcome is professional and swift, and our room, like all of them, faced out over the vineyards, with a big balcony and vista down to Épernay and to the hills of the Côte des Blancs beyond. The balcony table shaped as a hollow-sided mini-barrel was particularly cute. Inside, everything was generous, light grey, cream, gold: the big bathroom has a sliding wooden screen to the bedroom so you can bathe with a view.

The temptation to hang out in the beautiful bedrooms is extreme but should be resisted. A couple of levels below, an indoor pool stretches the length of the main building of the hotel, all with picture windows out to the vista; there are beds on pedestals at either end to relax on, as well as more conventional loungers all around, and on an expansive terrace outside there are more chill-out spaces and an outdoor pool, warmed to cope with the north European weather, on the edge of the vines.

luxury hotel bedroom

Then there’s the aptly named Le Bellevue restaurant, with a vast terrace with a view, where you can choose from an array of specialist champagnes and – amazing for the region – choose from a light, modern, organic-based menu. Bulgur and coriander tabbouleh, baked monkfish with chard risotto, that sort of thing. And do yourself a favour and allow the sommelier to choose for you from one of the small-grower champagnes: you may never have heard of them, because they only sell locally and make in tiny amounts.

The Royal Champagne is so good that it could be a destination hotel and resort for someone not interested in drinking champagne. It manages the trick of being desirable for couples, friends or families without overwhelming with one. The service is brilliant without being corporate (it’s not part of a group) and like another LUX favourite, the Alpina Gstaad, it redefines contemporary hôtellerie. It really is that good.

Book your stay: royalchampagne.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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rooftop dining
rooftop dining
Chef Alain Ducasse, who currently holds twenty-one Michelin stars, has teamed up with Dom Pérignon and renowned chefs Albert Adrià (one Michelin star), Romain Meder (3 Michelin stars) and Jessica Préalpato to create ADMO, an exclusive dining experience on a roof terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Candice Tucker travelled to Paris to find out more

ADMO bills itself as an ephemeral restaurant experience due to the fact that it’s open for 100 days only, but it doesn’t really seem the right way to describe a fourteen course, multi-sensory menu, created by five of the world’s best chefs and paired with Dom Pérignon Rosé 2008. Decadent is the word that comes to mind and perhaps, a touch hedonistic.

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Situated on the top floor of Musée du Quai Branly, the restaurant has a prime position overlooking the Eiffel Tower, which as the clock strikes the hour, is illuminated by brilliant lights. Cynics might pass it off as naff, but it feels suitably sparkly for a champagne feast.

fine dining

The fusion of philosophy and food makes ADMO stand out from other gastronomic experiences. The menu specifically excluded meat products, to emphasise its green credentials. Being presented in a minimalist fashion, it further highlighted the importance for people to appreciate food for its refined quality whilst fully satisfying one’s appetite.

Read more: Standard Chartered’s Eugenia Koh on Next Gen Investors

The small tables and dim lighting, made the grand culinary experience, warm and intimate. Between each course, there was lively conversation amongst the journalists, food and champagne connoisseurs, but as each course was placed in front of the guests, the room fell silent. Every plate – notably, the crispy pastry sheet with red mullet and fried scales – provided an explosion of perfectly balanced, fresh flavours that were enhanced by the champagne pairing.

rooftop dining

© François Goizé

Speaking at the launch event, Alain Ducasse explained how each dish at ADMO aims to encapsulate a philosophy of sustainability (all ingredients are locally sourced except the caviar which comes from the north of Shanghai), suggesting that this will, increasingly, define the future of fine dining. “There will be more of these types of projects. There will be more attention on better food, thinking more about the food we can eat and food that is better for the planet,” he said. “I believe this is the roadmap [for the future] and it will not end.”

Vincent Chaperon, Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, also commented on the importance of taking a sustainable approach: “I believe that if we focus on [sustainability], more people will embrace this approach. More doesn’t mean quantitative, it’s qualitative. This kind of project encourages people to recognise a new art of living [that centres around] our relationship with nature. We have to preserve and not only interact.”

If ADMO is a taste of what the future will bring, we’re very much on board.

ADMO is open from Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner at Les Ombres au Musée du quai Branly. For more information, visit: admo.lesombres-restaurant.com

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Reading time: 2 min
grand drawing room
man sniffing glass of red wine

Prince Robert de Luxembourg. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon. F. Poincet @ OccitMedia

Prince Robert de Luxembourg is taking Domaine Clarence Dillon and Château Haut-Brion, one of Bordeaux’s most prestigious wine estates, into the future by creating new winemaking facilities, a fine wine shop and a visitor centre. LUX speaks with him about mixing the worlds of art and fine wine, and growing the family business

Prince Robert de Luxembourg – just plain Robert to his friends and this interviewer – is in a hurry, although you wouldn’t know it. He is about to embark on his first family trip to the US, to visit the American side of his family, since before the pandemic. But if he’s ruffled by having to deal with the stresses of international travel currently, he isn’t showing it. “And how have things been with you?” he asks, listening thoughtfully and diverting briefly into a conversation about how curious the media world is right now.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Robert is someone who could easily have done very little at all; after becoming involved in the family company a decade earlier, in 2002 he became Managing Director of the family’s holding of Domaine Clarence Dillon, which owns, among others, one of the world’s most celebrated wine estates, Château Haut-Brion. Haut-Brion is what is known by connoisseurs as a ‘First Growth’, standing alongside Châteaux Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour and Margaux; the China-driven rise in values of these wines in the past 20 years has meant a surge in profit margins for their owners. A case of 12 bottles of 1989 Château Haut-Brion will set you back more than £15,000 (more than US$20,000); in a restaurant, a recent vintage will usually be priced north of £1,000 per bottle.

Haut-Brion also has more heritage than pretty much any other wine: American founding father Thomas Jefferson famously took a case home to Virginia in the 1780s; and, for those who care about these things, it has a distinctive style, often richer and more earthy than its fellow first growths.

grand drawing room

The salle des vignes in the 19th-century Pavillon Catelan, at Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux, which has been converted and extended into a new visitor centre. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

Like his wine estate, Robert has strong links to the US: his mother, Joan Dillon, was a stalwart of the US political establishment, who married Prince Charles of Luxembourg, a direct descendant of King Henry IV and Louis XIV, and a member of the Bourbon family. The heritage of the estate and other holdings in Domaine Clarence Dillon comes from his mother’s line: it was his maternal great-grandfather, Clarence Dillon, a Texan financier, who purchased Haut-Brion in 1935.

There’s an element of the Texan in Robert; his warm-hearted greetings, openness to conversation, straightforwardness. His English is somewhere between the private-school British of his upbringing and the East Coast aristo of his US family.

There is another side to him that needs prising out a little: the creative. He started out as a Hollywood screenwriter, one with considerable potential it appears, as one of his screenplays piqued the interest of Stephen Spielberg and was eventually optioned by Colombia Pictures. Although we don’t talk about it much, he plainly enjoys his interactions and ideas with the media and film crews, and there is creativity in both his planning as he expands and recreates his Domaine for the next decades and in the execution of elements such as Le Clarence and Pavillon Catelan.

The former is the restaurant he opened in Paris in 2015, now with two Michelin stars under chef Christophe Pelé, which, though reflecting a decidedly modern version of French cuisine, has been created to feel like dining at a Bordeaux château. The latter is his new creation at Château Haut-Brion and its (almost equally celebrated) neighbour La Mission Haut-Brion, a lavish visitor centre with contemporary-Baroque drawing and private dining rooms. The key message: the visitor experience can now be as lavish as are the wines.

vineyards and chateau

Château Quintus in Saint-Émilion, part of Domaine Clarence Dillon. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: To what extent have you transformed Domaine Clarence Dillon? It’s a broader business now than when you took over.
Robert de Luxembourg: It was a farm when I arrived as a child. We had no offices, it was just one venerable wine estate, Haut-Brion. There was an accountant who would come maybe one or two times a week to my great-grandfather’s apartment in Paris and that was the only ‘office work’ that was undertaken. There was also a gentleman who would organise visits in Bordeaux occasionally. At that time it was a farm and today, we have become a group of companies, the mother company being Domaine Clarence Dillon. This entity oversees five subsidiaries, three vineyards and many more wines. We have grown into a substantial and expanding wine business enjoying a multitude of related activities.

Read more: David Taggart on photographing our cover star Jeff Koons

I believe considered growth is important for a family company in order to survive and flourish. In the short term, you could do very well having one extraordinary trophy, but if you want to keep the family involved and the shareholders happy over the long term, you also have to evolve and grow. That is as important as the element of pride and belonging and being part of an exciting story. The bottom line is making sure that future generations of our family remain committed and invested in the business. So, yes, growth has been a part of my strategy along with enjoying the creativity of developing new lines of business. This company spirit is important to all of our stakeholders – my colleagues, my family and ultimately our customers. Tradition and innovation are an integral part of our DNA. As an entrepreneur, and standard bearer for our family and company, I find this mix both exciting and rewarding! Every time you start something new, it offers you all kinds of other directions in which you can take the business, whether it’s a restaurant, or retail or wholesale. I am very proud to say that we have accomplished this successfully in all of the related lines of business that we have developed. Clarence Dillon and Haut-Brion were my initial inspiration. This has led us to reach a level of excellence in all of our new activities that become references of quality in their own domains in the world of fine wine.

By the way, we have just had one of the most successful en primeur campaigns of all time. Quite unexpected, given the context! This is particularly exciting for Quintus but also for Châteaux Haut-Brion and La Mission. Our campaign lasted two-and-a-half hours during which we sold all the wine that we released on the market. Life slowly seems to be coming back to normal and it is gratifying to see interest and sales returning from hotels, restaurants and the airlines industry, which had remained very quiet over the previous 18 months.

luxurious dining room

The salon gentilshommes, one of the private dining rooms at Pavillon Catelan. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: You are building a new cellar at Haut-Brion. What prompted this?
Robert de Luxembourg: All big changes at the estate, even dating back to the 17th century, have been driven by newer winemaking practices. Whether it’s the Pontac family producing new French claret or the introduction of adding sulphur and racking and even introducing estate bottling later, these winemaking developments are constantly driving innovation. When we brought in tractors in the 1950s, I think they were the first in Bordeaux and we had to house them somewhere, so we needed a building. When we brought in new vats in 1961, which were the first steel ones to be used in winemaking in Bordeaux, the buildings needed to accommodate them. And then in 1991, 1990 or even 1987, when we were rebuilding the entire chais at La Mission and designing new vats, this informed our advances during the following decades.

Over the past ten years we have been re-thinking our whole way of winemaking. This is driven by a desire to offer the finest winemaking tools in Bordeaux to our colleagues. We also aim to create carbon-neutral buildings that offer the perfect working environment for my colleagues and an exceptional visitor experience that focuses the attention squarely on the world’s most eminent historical winemaking estate, Château Haut-Brion.

None of this is particularly new. We started integrating the first solar panels back in the early 1990s at our estates, and we’ve slowly continued to build these up over the years. Now, with this new project, our intention is to complete this work at Haut-Brion by fashioning a totally carbon-neutral installation. Through our collaboration with the German-American architect Annabelle Selldorf and her team, we are developing the Château Haut-Brion installations of the future, while respecting the past and placing the focus back on this historic estate. This will be the most important undertaking at this estate for the past few centuries. We have been working on it for six years and it will take four more vintages to complete.

grand drawing room

The salle des vignes at the Pavillon Catelan. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Your winemaker and Deputy General Manager Jean-Philippe Delmas must have a big role in this?
Robert de Luxembourg: Absolutely. The technical considerations for this project were front and centre. Jean-Philippe, alongside our Technical Director, Jean-Philippe Masclef, have together been driving this key process. It is interesting to think that Mr Delmas’s family has been overseeing all of these technical revolutions at this estate across three generations, starting with his grandfather, Georges Delmas, in 1923. At the very start of this project, having identified our architect, I told them, “You have carte blanche. What tools do you need in order to make the very finest wine possible?” Then we built a whole concept around what they had come up with. That has to be the starting point because it is ultimately exceptional terroir and wine that have always driven our success. After this came safety, comfort, ESG, sustainability and the visitor experience. Covid-19 provided us with extra time for reflection.

Read more: Maryam Eisler’s Spectacular New Photography Exhibition Opens At Linley In London

It has been a wonderful experience working with Annabelle Selldorf. Her firm had no experience in the arena of wine but a deep and very varied experience in other sectors, with a particular focus on museums, galleries and art. They recently worked on the Luma Foundation in Arles in parallel with Frank Gehry. They are just completing the extension of the Frick Collection in New York and refurbishing the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and she’s done galleries for David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth over the years, and has recently received an important commission to work on the National Gallery in London. So, it was interesting for me to bring all of that expertise into a technical project to look at how these two worlds could come together.

The main challenge for me was that Haut-Brion has the most extraordinary history of any vineyard in the world. We didn’t want to create a huge architectural statement. If anything, we wanted to put the focus back on the Château and its story. So, we needed something technically perfect, as I’ve described already, but also, from an architectural standpoint, a structure that was rather discreet. That’s why we needed an architect whose design principles and statements wouldn’t overwhelm the history but respect and celebrate it, all the while introducing a very modern concept.

bottle of wine and glass

Haut-Brion 1985, a classic vintage of the château. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: What about the design of the new chai, and how will it relate to the Château?
Robert de Luxembourg: As I mentioned, it’s a modern, carbon-neutral construction using all the latest technology, whether geothermal or solar. As far as the design is concerned, it’s purposely discreet in order to focus the eye and mind on the Château, which is one of, if not the earliest château that was built solely to oversee wine production for the Pontac family whose house was not far away in Bordeaux. So the Château has sort of been obscured over the centuries as people have added on bits such as technical buildings and farm buildings. I would love to open up the Château again so that it is the first thing you see when you arrive. This is not the case today. And we’re trying to get away from having cars and tractors and stuff in the courtyards around the Château and just have serene parks and gardens outside. And that’s another concern: how do we monitor how people are going to be coming to us? Will they be coming in self-driving vehicles? Will they be coming in self-flying drones? How do we accommodate the new visitor over the next few decades? It’s not just about what’s going to happen in five years, but the next fifty.

LUX: So what will a visitor see in 2022?
Robert de Luxembourg: Well, in 2022, it’ll be a big hole, so there will be nothing. That’s why we have built our new visitor centre. And La Mission and Quintus will still be available for visits. Also, the shop, La Cave du Château Bordeaux, opened in July.

LUX: What will the private dining experience at the visitor centre be like?
Robert de Luxembourg: The idea is to recreate the atmosphere that we have in Paris [at Le Clarence Restaurant] so that people feel they are surrounded by the vineyards and they can have tailor-made tasting experiences. They can bring their friends and have access to an extraordinary range of vintages they will not have access to elsewhere. And the wine is going to be from our estate only.

parisian hotel

The façade of Hôtel Dillon, Paris. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Will there be a kind of VVIP experience that you can offer with this private dining?Robert de Luxembourg: I think anyone that comes to us should be considered a VVIP. That’s our culture here; we’ve always welcomed all visitors and everyone has been treated as a guest in our home. We’ve never, to date, sold anything. We’ve never had anyone pay for any experience: it has always been free, everyone’s always been given free wine. So, in time, that is going to have to shift, because it’s a huge amount of work to have people serve and run the visits and the rest of it. Today, we receive around 10,000 visitors a year, and pouring 20,000 glasses of La Mission and Haut-Brion for free has an impact on our stocks when we are producing very little anyway. So, I don’t think it can go on forever, but within the new buildings, we will have dedicated spaces for visitors and special dining areas. Access to certain areas, depending on what you’re interested in, will be limited, of course, because we have collections of documents in our library, our collections of cultural tools, etc. Our new facilities will be outside the new visitor experience, but for the next few years – because it’s a three-year process before we even start the other building – we will have people using this space and they’ll be able to have catered lunches or dinners.

Read more: Entrepreneur Utsava Kasera on finding his gap in the market

LUX: Is it returning to business as usual at Le Clarence, following the lockdowns?
Robert de Luxembourg: I’ve tried to bother the chef as little as possible because it’s been complex getting up and running again. So far, the feedback that I’ve received from people who are friends of mine who have gone there has been very positive. It’s getting back into training and if you’re playing at the top of the league, you need to build up slowly and so that’s what we’re doing. I anticipate that we will become a little bit more normal in our practices and open up further come September. Our private rooms have had little use – we haven’t felt comfortable doing that – but it’s all now slowly returning to normal. What’s great is that people are so excited to be there with us. People are coming and staying very late. That’s part of the advantage the way the Clarence is conceived: they come and they stay. It can be challenging for our team because we have people still finishing their lunch at 6.30pm just as we have diners arriving, so we need to accommodate that, especially when people have missed this experience so much that they don’t want to depart.

kitchen team

The team of the hotel’s restaurant Le Clarence. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Can you tell us more about the 2020 vintage and also a bit about Château Quintus?
Robert de Luxembourg: Well, 2020 has been a huge success. Obviously, over the past few years we’ve had Mother Nature on our side. One of the positive aspects of global warming – if you’re looking for them – is that we’ve been making some extraordinary wines with vintages that happen to be in line with some of the finest vintages made over the past century. When you look at vintages such as the ’45s, the ’47s, the ’59s, the ’61s, the ’82s and the ’89s, they tended to be hot, dry vintages but still with enough humidity for the wine not to be stressed. Even 2003, which was the hottest, still has lovely acidity in the reds and the whites didn’t suffer either. The weather conditions have been perfect in order to produce great vintages and obviously the techniques have also improved significantly.

With Quintus, we’ve acquired three sites with different vats, both concrete and steel, so it was also an amazing laboratory for us to work in. Ironically, there was probably more variety to work with here for our winemakers than they had at La Mission or Haut-Brion. It’s taken some time for them to fully come to terms with the terroir, which is normal, but with 2020 we’re now coming up to our tenth vintage.

We’ve grown with the property, we understand it better every year, and I think we’ve made the best wine so far in 2020 and it’s recognised by the market. It’s the first time where, you know, critics are confidently saying, “Yes, this is a truly great wine and terroir”. We have totally changed the winemaking practices here on the right bank. I have never hidden the fact that my motivation is to produce one of the top (if not the finest) right bank and Saint- Émilion wine at this estate. That is why we named the estate Quintus (as the Romans may have named their fifth child). Quintus has the same potential as our first four wines, both red and white, to be one of the very finest wines in the world. I believe that we are up to the task of making this dream a reality!

Robert de Luxembourg’s key milestones

2002: Becomes Managing Director of his family’s Domaine Clarence Dillon, owner of Château Haut-Brion
2005: Launches mid-market wine brand, Clarendelle
2008: Takes over as Chairman
2009: Completes major refurbishment at Château La Mission Haut-Brion and begins the same at Château Haut-Brion
2011: Acquires Château Quintus
2015: Opens Le Clarence restaurant and La Cave du Château wine shop in Paris
2021: Opens the Pavillon Catelan visitor centre and La Cave du Château at Haut-Brion
2025: Château Haut-Brion cellar refurbishment due to be completed

Find out more: domaineclarencedillon.com

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Reading time: 16 min
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hotel bar

Over a century after Vincent van Gogh moved to the Provençal city of Arles with the intention of setting up an artists’ commune, Maja Hoffmann, Swiss art collector and founder of the city’s contemporary art centre LUMA, is reviving his dream with l’Arlatan, a hotel and artist residence occupying a 15th-century palace. Filled with more than a million handmade, glazed ceramic tiles in vivid shades of yellow, tangerine, lavender and blue, the historic building has been transformed by Cuban-born American artist Jorge Pardo into an inhabitable piece of art. LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler photographs its kaleidoscopic surfaces

curved stone staircase
swimming pool
lounge area of hotel
swimming pool
vase of flowers
ceramic tiles in bathroom
colourful hotel restaurant
colourful glass bottles
hotel bedroom
light fixtures hanging in stairway
hotel room with tiled floor
courtyard restaurant

Book your stay: arlatan.com

 

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Reading time: 3 min
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woman holding glass of champagne

Vitalie Taittinger is president of the Taittinger champagne house. Photograph by Luc Valigny

Vitalie Taittinger took over her family’s champagne house in 2020. As well as controlling the creation of one of the world’s most celebrated drinks brands, she is actively involved in supporting emerging artists in France and elsewhere. She chats to Samantha Welsh over a tasting of some of Taittinger’s most interesting cuvées about art, luxury and, of course, her champagnes

LUX: You are closely involved with supporting emerging artists through the Fond Regional d’Art Contemporain (Frac) in Reims.
Vitalie Taittinger: Five years ago my father asked me if I could be the new president of Frac Champagne Ardenne. In the beginning I did not 100% agree because I have a lot of work at Taittinger. Six months afterwards, he was saying “everyone is so happy you have become president of the Frac Champagne Ardenne…” The president is in charge of all the political relationships, the one who challenges the vision.

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It’s very interesting because I love this project and to see the evolution of a project that was created forty years ago [by Jack Lang, the swashbuckling Minister of Culture under President Francois Mitterrand]. It’s a lot of work and it’s also very exciting because it’s very political: we are dealing with the minister and we are trying to make things happen in a good way, to protect the Frac and to push them to evolve. Art is one of the biggest motors in society because it is just full of inspiration coming from every culture, from every mix of cultures, so I think for the young generations this is crucial. I should note there is no link between the Frac and Taittinger except for the fact that I’m working every day and on both sides.

LUX: When you took over last year, did you have a grand plan or a strategy to change anything?
Vitalie Taittinger: I think that when you are in this kind of family company, changing would be a renouncement, so the aim is not to change; the aim is to go further into every detail of the elaboration of this champagne. I think that today, with the challenge of global warming and climate change, we always have to improve our way, to be very careful with the environment and to always think about how we can produce this quality of grapes which can also bring after the additional quality to the champagne.

two glasses of champagne

Image by David Picchiottino

LUX: The producer of one of the world’s most expensive wines became quite heated when we asked him if his wine was a luxury good: he said it certainly was not. Are you producing a luxury good? Is champagne a luxury good or are you producing an agricultural product?
Vitalie Taittinger: This is a luxury good, definitely. And it doesn’t mean that it’s not a cultural brand, but I think for me this is a luxury good. It depends on what you understand luxury to mean, but for me this is definitely the highest level of luxury. Also, the fact that we have so many years of experience and these are in the memories of the workers, we have everything which makes this experience different, exceptional and inimitable. To work for more than ten years on a project which we drink in one second, is crazy. The only thing you will keep with you is the memory of the instant.

Read more: Classic Ferraris and Lamborghinis galore at Salon Privé

LUX: Would you ever consider going back into the general luxury goods world, like your family did before? [Previously, Taittinger owned luxury hotels until the company was bought out by Starwood Capital in 2005; Taittinger family members purchased the champagne house back again in 2006].
Vitalie Taittinger: Maybe one day. It was a challenge when my father bought back the company and every day since 2006, we have put all of our passion and time into the company. Today, we are happy that we have done everything with passion, heart and youth. We are not financially driven; this is really a company which pays more attention and credit to humans than finance. Both are important; it’s relative but when we are thinking about our development our thinking is more irrational than rational.

woman walking through vineyards

Taittinger walking through her family estate’s vineyards. Image by David Picchiotino

LUX: Why are the French so good at luxury?
Vitalie Taittinger: We are not the only ones! I don’t know… I think we are structured, but what makes France different, I think, is the country’s relationship to the time; the history, the heritage; and the fact that when you are thinking about generations, you are not focusing on the ego; it is less about “I” and more about “how can I continue this history?” I find this interesting because you keep all the knowledge and the experience of the people that were here before; you are just reinforcing history.

It doesn’t prevent yourself from being who you are and to bring what you want to bring, but this knowledge is a kind of religion. People in companies like Taittinger are really proud of the knowledge they have in their hands. So, I think maybe this is why, but I don’t have the perfect answer.

The Tasting

Comments by Vitalie Taittinger

Taittinger Prelude Grand Cru

Taittinger  champagneThis is 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, all Grand Cru. This is our vision of Grand Cru, and you have a wine which is sculpted. You always have this energy, this freshness which you can find in the Chardonnay; light, delicate thin bubbles. It is pushed by the structure of the Pinot Noir; the two grapes are perfectly integrated; they are one. I think that all our wine is precise, super clean and in a way they are also speaking to the art which is for us very important. It has to be a pleasure!

orange and green champagne bottleTaittinger Les Folies de la Marquetiere

This is a cuvée which talks about the origins of the house, everything started in a little castle close to Epernay. My great grandfather was there during the war, and many years after, his brother-in-law called him and told him there is a castle for sale, one of the only ones to be surrounded by vineyards, and he went to the visit the castle, and this cuvée was first elaborated with the grapes around the castle. The idea with history and identity was to create a cuvée which looks like this castle, which gives the emotions that similar to when we give a beautiful dinner in this castle, from the eighteenth century.

It is a very small but beautiful castle so you have a warm, cosy feeling, you have a feeling of culture. The Folies is a homage to great moments, gastronomy and beauty; you have the richness, something which is warm, which is larger and at the same time, you find this minerality of the Chardonnay and the style of the house.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008

This is a wine we do not do every year. It was created in the 1950s to pay homage to Thibault IV who is our ambassador of the house. For us, he represents the adventurous spirit, the poetry (he was a poet), and also the very smooth relationship between men and women, so in this character we find something which is very faithful and inspiring to us.

But there is a limit – we will never be able to produce a lot. We only take the grapes of the five villages in the Côte des Blancs, and with that we only use the first pressed juice, to have the purest juice, to be able to make it age in the long term.

This is a wine we will release ten years after we make it, and it’s also a wine you keep in your own cellars. We take only the best grapes from the Côte des Blancs, afterwards there is a little elaboration process which is 5% of the juices come from Chouilly (it is more bodied), just to have this precious taste. And what is special about the Comtes de Champagne is that when you are opening your bottle, when you are having your first sip, you have the first impression that the wine is a long one, and it has more than ten years, and as you keep it, it will become more warm; minute after minute you will be be able to smell all the aromas, they are totally fantastic. This is the life of the wine!

champagne rose bottleTaittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2007

2007 was a beautiful year, strangely so: it was not a conventional one. In the grapes there was some tension, which was for us a very good sign because at the end you get a perfect wedding between both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and you get something which is both structure and harmony. You have something which is very noble and very elegant. It has the red fruits, but it’s also very deep and it also has freshness.

Find out more: taittinger.com

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Reading time: 7 min
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champagne drinking

Image courtesy of Moët & Chandon

LUX joins Moët & Chandon’s cellar master Benoît Gouez, over Zoom, at Château de Saran for an exclusive tasting of the champagne house’s latest vintage release

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting in which to drink champagne than Château de Saran, Moët & Chandon’s grand 18th-Century hunting lodge in Épernay where close friends of the maison – celebrities, fashion designers, artists politicians and royalty – are invited for glittering dinners and intimate soirées. Sadly, due to pandemic restrictions, our tasting happens over Zoom, led by Moët & Chandon’s distinguished cellar master Benoît Gouez, who introduces and opens the Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2013 while seated in the château’s majestic drawing room. Meanwhile, we have our own bottle, along with the Grand Vintage Rosé, to sample, complete with two Moët & Chandon glasses.

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First created in 1842, and now in its 75th iteration, each Grand Vintage cuvée is created from a selection of a single year’s most remarkable wine that reflects the cellar master’s subjective and emotional assessment of the personality and potential of each variety. Mr. Gouez explains that 2013 was a particularly cold and wet year, which resulted in a delayed harvest in October, followed by a cool spring and then, uncharacteristically warm summer. All of this, however, helped to create the sensuous, rustic aromas of the vintage – initial notes of fresh apple and pear give way to more textured, woody flavours. It might seem trite to say, but it tastes golden, bringing to mind the warm shades of autumnal leaves. By contrast, the Grand Vintage Rosé is more fruity and floral, with a slight hint of spice.

champagne bottle with two glasses

Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2013 Rosé. Image courtesy of Moët & Chandon

At the end of our tasting, Mr. Gouez leads us (virtually) through to the Château’s kitchen where Executive Chef Marco Fadiga teaches us how to prepare a dinner pairing for the rosé: poached lobster in a grenadine and grapefruit broth. Despite following the chef’s instructions carefully, our final dish, inevitably, doesn’t look (and most likely taste) anywhere near as delectable as his, but the fresh bitterness and sweetness of the fruit with the meatiness of the lobster bring out the depth and richness of the rosé beautifully. By the end of the evening, we’ve almost forgotten that we’re not actually in a French hunting lodge overlooking miles of verdant green vineyards in the capitale du Champagne.

Find out more: moet.com

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chateau hotel

Photograph by Anne Emmanuelle Thion

In the final part of our luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai discovers the subtle grandeur of Domaine Les Crayères in the Champagne region of France

If the method of departure from a hotel leaves a lasting memory, so too does a welcome. The luxury hotel where the doorman ignored you, or wasn’t there in your moment of need, is likely emblazoned on your heart. And the welcome at the Domaine Les Crayères was something else. It was a five-hour drive, roof down into the sun, from Baden-Baden to the outskirts of Reims in the Champagne region of France; after some moments of interest passing through (but sadly not stopping in) the wonderful hills of Alsace, the road was relentless. Crunching down the drive and drawing up to the grand mansion, I felt like nothing more than passing out on a cool bed for half an hour before an early dinner, ahead of my day of meetings the following day.

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The doorman whisked my door open and ushered me in; reception was a brief formality; all good. And then: “We would like to invite you onto our terrace for a glass of champagne, monsieur.” Really, I thought, like this? I was wearing black jeans and a polo, not evening wear. I was assured it would be fine. Still swaying from the drive, I walked out onto a broad terrace above a long stretch of parkland garden, was shown to my table and poured a glass of their champagne. Canapés appeared. The sun was about to set but still a few centimetres above the treetops; it was warm, and the terrace was scattered with lively and appropriately spaced couples. What had seemed like a slightly bad idea on arrival – shouldn’t you have a glass of champagne before dinner? – turned out to be a stroke of genius. A blanc de blancs champagne is reviving, not soporific, and when I finally went up to my room at sunset, I felt energised.

hotel bedroom with plush furnishings

One of the hotel’s elegant bedrooms

My room, at the top corner of the château, was elegant and elaborately decorated, with a view out over the same parkland. Although it is on the edge of Reims, the feel is peaceful: you have no sense of being in a big city, but nevertheless I walked to my meetings in the centre of town the next morning (full disclosure: it was a couple of kilometres each way, and I was working on my step count after a lot of driving).

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

You come to Champagne to drink champagne (or in my case to meet clients who own champagne houses), and you come to the Crayères for the best possible base while doing so – and to drink champagne and most of all to dine in its two Michelin-starred restaurant.

The atmosphere here, in its intimate dining room, was surprising in a positive way: it wasn’t so grand and formal that guests felt they had to dine in a hush. And yet the chef Philippe Mille and his creativity were very much front and centre. As well as à la carte, you can choose from various menus including an ‘Escape into the Vines’ menu. This was an astonishing piece of imagination and artistry, and so far beyond a mere manifestation of its ingredients that it would do it a disservice to describe it by the ingredients of each individual course.

fine dining dish

A foie gras dish from the two Michelin-starred restaurant at Domaine Les Crayères

There were seven courses, created to work in sequence like a story and woven together by a freshness and life so often missing from formal French dining where heavy saucing is a substitute for imagination. Oh, OK, I will describe just one of them: lobster from the Iles de Chausey, grilled on vine shoots, with shells juice (no typo there) and pinot meunier.

The champagne list – encyclopaedia, really – is extensive but what is really impressive is the selection of small-grower champagnes, many of them just farmers making champagne on their smallholding, many of them cheap, unavailable elsewhere and absolutely delicious. I do not usually seek the advice of sommeliers, finding them too often beholden to their own tastes or trends, but here, stay away from the brands you know, and seek one of these out. A unique and highly repeatable experience.

Book your stay: lescrayeres.com

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
horse working on vineyard
black and white portrait of a man

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de cave of Champagne Louis Roederer. Image by MKB.

Louis Roederer’s Cristal is one of the world’s most glorious wines. Rich, powerful and full-bodied, yet delicate and effervescent, it is a blend of supermodel, Olympic athlete and aesthete, and has a history like no other champagne. It is also misunderstood, used as a status symbol, to the puzzlement of its makers, who simply see it as the pinnacle of organic winemaking. Darius Sanai meets Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s creator, to talk about the joys of fizz

“Sorry I was late, it’s very busy right now with the harvest.” Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon smiles as he pulls up a chair and sits down opposite me. We are in a wood-panelled tasting room at Louis Roederer’s HQ in Reims, the capital of champagne. Meeting the maker of Cristal at its home may sound glamorous, but all around is evidence that champagne is a drink created on farms, not a kind of luxury brand. My walk through Reims on this chilly autumnal morning took me past monolithic buildings and empty courtyards; the Roederer offices are on a quiet side street lined with warehouse-like buildings, centred around a courtyard which is pretty enough, but functional. People in galoshes stride around. Everyone looks focussed; the tasting room has a historic feel but also feels functional, with a row of empty wine glasses and a sink in the corner. We are drinking small bottles of water, not champagne.

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I came because I was interested in the story of Cristal, past, present and future. This is the champagne created in a clear glass bottle reputedly because Tsar Nicholas II was frightened of being poisoned (and presumably didn’t know about soluble poisons); it then gained a reputation as a nightclubber’s favourite, due to its price and distinctive packaging. And yet all the way through it has been revered by wine connoisseurs as a kind of insider’s top champagne: a wine lover’s champagne. Simultaneously unctuous and refreshing, ravishingly rich yet light, it has a complexity few, if any other champagnes manage to match.

Much of that is down to Jean-Baptiste, who is sitting suitably socially distanced as I start to ask questions, both of us secretly relieved that we are not doing a tasting at 9am to accompany the interview – he has a working day ahead of him, and I a drive.

champagne glass and vineyard

The character of Cristal is carried through from vine to glass as an expression of its terroir. Courtesy of Louis Roederer/Emmanuel Allaire

LUX: What is it that makes Cristal special? Is it a mixture of nature and nurture?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes. Place, the soil, is very important, but that is just one aspect. The winemaker is the link to the terroir, to the place. From this link between man and nature, one creates style, and we have had for a long time a clear vision for our wines. Cristal has a discreet power, it is elegant, it is soft, and then with time the more you taste it the more you realise how strong the wine is. The texture, the roundness, has to be delicious. And then, behind that, you have power, with length and ageing potential. You need time for Cristal – this is its secret. The link to place is in this sort of expression – not too powerful, not too clean, but just in between.

So, nature is of course important, but the way we farm to achieve that style of grape, is the key to Cristal. If we farm the same land differently, we will end up with a completely different wine. There is one champagne house, for example, which picks their grapes a week before ours. That is their vision, for the grapes to be not quite ripe. This is another expression of the same place, the same identity. Farming is at the front while nature gives us the elements. We are very lucky in Champagne, we have a unique mixture of climate and soil. We are between the ocean that brings water and the continent that brings dryness and heat. So, this complex matrix of elements all ends up in Cristal.

Read more: The gastronomic delights of Suvretta House, Switzerland

LUX: You have said that the 2020 vintage formed part of a trilogy of recent vintages. Can you say what you mean by this?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes, ’18, ’19 and ’20 make a trilogy of three beautiful vintages. And 2020 is amazing because there were the strange conditions, of course. 2020’s acidity is just in-between ’18 and ’19, and the alcohol levels and sugar content are a little bit lower than the other years, which makes a very elegant, clean, precise wine – the terroir, the soils, the place all speak very loudly. We had a dry July and August, but while many think the temperature is important, it’s not at all the issue with the vintage. In dry conditions, water only comes from the soil. It does not come from rainfall because there wasn’t any, so climate disappears from the wine’s taste. It is only the soil because the clay the vines are growing in does not react like chalk or sand. The problem is today that while everyone talks about climate change, which is good, it’s only part of our story. The main part here is about soil.

LUX: The way you make champagnes is quite different to many others in Champagne.
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Each one of our 415 parcels has a specific identity and is dedicated to one of our vintage wines. At Louis Roederer we craft the wine right from the farming of the parcel, which includes both vines and vineyard management. The result are ripe grapes customised to our style and fermented or aged in different vessels to keep the specificity of each parcel all through winter and our blending sessions. We do single-vineyard winemaking nine months a year to create the ultimate final blend.

LUX: And how important is what you do after the grapes are picked?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: It is very important in that you need to be super-present. It is a work of jewellery, like that of a Swiss watchmaker. You need to be very precise so as not to lose what you have from the vineyards. This precision is really my motivation, and it makes Cristal a bit different in the world of champagne. I do not want our winemaking to be too prominent. It has to be there, but it has to be completely transparent. My target is really to bring what I get from the grape into the bottle with a lot of care and subtle rebalancing of acidity by using leaves or oak, but I try to stay true to the vintage’s harvest. That is the big difference between Cristal and Dom Pérignon, for example, for whom vintage is less important than maintaining the Dom Pérignon style. We can accept Cristal being a little different each time if truer to the specific vintage. But don’t think we do nothing here – we do a lot. This morning I was smelling a lot of vats and tanks to make decisions about what to do, if we should rack it, if we should aerate it, and so on. We are really proactive, but we mustn’t put too strong an imprint on the wine.

grapes in a barrel

Courtesy of Louis Roederer

LUX: Is Cristal a fine wine like great Burgundy or Bordeaux, or is champagne always going to be ‘other’, somehow different to still wines?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I believe the secret of champagne is that it’s a serious wine, for sure, but the bubbles make it different. It’s simply more than wine.

LUX: Our readers are wealthy consumers and collectors of wine, not necessarily technical experts in wine. Could you explain to a typical reader of ours what makes Cristal special?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Cristal is special because the terroirs it comes from are the best in Champagne, and its long-term performance since 1876 has been maintained and showcased year after year, demonstrating the quality of the terroirs and making it the oldest prestige cuvée in Champagne. Historically, Cristal comes from the best location in the region. It is not even the best cru and I am not saying that we have all the best plots, as we are in a neighbourhood with some very beautiful plots. But Cristal has these old, mid-slope vines; the mid-slope is perfect because you get the humidity from the top of the hill and the heat from the bottom. You get eternal softness. It is not extreme like the forest or the valley. When the weather is very hot the mid-slope is cooler, and when it is very cold it is warmer. Cristal is born in a very special place chosen specifically by the house, making it the ideal champagne. So, what can we do best here? Cristal, by the selection of plots, in the way we farm them and in the way we blend the grapes, is all about reaching this ideal of purity and finesse. And, as I was saying earlier, we really have a link to the place, we consider each crop of Cristal as a jewel, and our job is to maintain it to be the brightest and most beautiful as possible. It is precision, haute-couture farming in the choice of material and date of picking, making wines that are elegant yet powerful.

Read more: Brunello Cucinelli on cashmere and humanitarian capitalism

LUX: How does Cristal evolve with age, and what specific biochemical properties allow it to age well?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Because it is grown on chalky soils, with low yields and picked at good ripeness, Cristal has great acidity, low pH, a high concentration and a dry extract which are great assets for ageing over many decades.

LUX: A lover of Burgundy may be attached to a particular vineyard plot. Yet Cristal, while made from Burgundian grapes, is a blend of many vineyards. How does this work?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Because Champagne’s climate is more oceanic, so more unstable than Burgundy’s, champagne makers have invented blending of different parcels and villages to reach a better quality every year. It is not about consistency of style, but the best possible quality in a particular vintage. A blend of Cristal is a little bit like the blending of all the grands crus in Burgundy. Imagine making a blend of Corton Charlemagne, Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, La Romanée, La Romanée-Conti, La Romanée-St-Vivant, La Grande Rue, La Tâche, Richebourg, Échezeaux, Grands Échezeaux, Clos de Vougeot, Musigny and Bonnes Mares, with the only condition being that the blend has to be a better wine than each one of them. That’s the way we think about creating Cristal.

LUX: What does sustainability mean to you?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: It means developing the excellence of the quality and identity of our wines, as well as the resilience of the biodiversity and climate of our vineyards’ ecosystems. It means reducing our impact on nature by decreasing our overall footprint by being as restrained as possible in all fields of activity and taking care of employees and consumers. In the end, there is, of course, an economic side as well, but innovation stands at the centre of what we do to make it all happen.

horse working on vineyard

Louis Roederer has 242 hectares of vineyards across the Champagne region, mostly given over to the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from which all their vintage wines are made. Image courtesy of Louis Roederer

LUX: Specifically, what measures have you taken to counter climate change?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Since the beginning of life on Earth, the climate has been changing. It’s the essence of farming to adapt production and practices to this constant change. What is changing is the speed of this adaptation. We must focus on developing a strong resilience in our ecosystem so that it can cope in a fast-changing climate. We also need to innovate and try new things. And we need to decrease our carbon footprint to help slow down global warming.

LUX: You switched to organic farming in 2012. What difference has that made?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes, this is unique in champagne. Changing to organic production has delivered us a better conscience. I was talking about jewels and what I want for my jewel are the best farming conditions. I do not want to use pesticides or add things to my soils. It gives me and my team a good conscience to say we do things honestly, and that we do things for the next generation that are free of all excess chemicals. In the wine itself, it has really changed the alcohol/acidity ratio, which was exactly what I wanted it to do. It gives a little more ripeness, a little more strength and richer flavours. At the same time, a higher acidity, or lower pH, gives more freshness. Over the years, we have done much blind testing and we think we have got an extra texture, an extra aroma. Everything is a bit amplified. It has also pushed us to rethink our winemaking. We were fermenting our wines in a way that was traditional to the house, using sulphites and so on, but, thanks to organic farming, we have been able to reduce our sulphites and, in the case of chardonnay, to not use any sulphite at all, because the wines are stronger and they can take it. I think we have more resilient wines in the end, but it is too early to say. I think it will also increase the ageing potential of my wines because there is so much of everything. You know, with wine ageing you start with a potential and you lose a little bit and continue losing until the wine becomes static. But along the way there is a point of beauty where you get maybe less fruit, more texture and aroma, it becomes more complex with different umami flavours. I think we can extend this a little bit. This is nothing new because, in fact, champagne was organic before 1960, so all the champagnes from ’28, ’29, ’47, ’49, ’62 and ’64, were all organic and they aged beautifully. I am more into wanting the wine to last than immediate pleasure, but you need to find a balance and, in this, I am modern and classic at the same time – it has to be delicious, which is modern, but the classic demands that it lasts and be even more beautiful in 40 years. Maybe that is what Cristal really is, modern and classic at the same time.

LUX: Do you think that Cristal, and prestige champagnes in general, are taken more seriously now than they were 20 years ago?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I think so, yes, and it is accelerating. What I call ‘label drinking’ is becoming less and less important. It still is, of course, but people are much better informed now. Unlike in the past, they want information, to hear what we say about the vineyards and how we make the wine. People are looking for more transparency, more honesty, more values in what they drink over and above just a label. Also, I think there is a very interesting price point, because when you make wine like Cristal, which is at a high level of quality, the price difference is quite big. If you look in the still wine world in France, I can see wine lovers and collectors who are now becoming champagne collectors. That is fantastic. Last but not least, champagne has really shown a lot of modern aspects which came largely from grower communication. In Champagne, it is not just Moët, Pol Roger and Bollinger; there are also small growers who do a great job and present completely different wines, and that is contributing to this exciting moment for champagne.

Read more: Superblue’s experiential art centres & innovative business model

LUX: Is there a typical Cristal drinker/fan/aficionado?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: That’s a good question. I know a few American and Japanese aficionados. They are often collectors of great Burgundy, but I am talking about a small niche of collectors, which is not the main market. We used to sell a lot on the nightlife scene in the 80s and 90s, but not so much anymore. Our main clients for Cristal now are restaurants and private buyers. So, I would say there are more wine lovers in general, but I also think that with Cristal, because it’s elegant and refined, it catches the attention of a lot of people who are not so much wine lovers. I remember a Californian lady telling me, “I just drink Cristal”. I asked what else she drinks, and she said, “Just Cristal, I love Cristal, I drink chardonnay”. It’s funny, because she was speaking about Cristal, but then about chardonnay. I think it shows that she wasn’t very knowledgeable but liked the softness and roundness of chardonnay, and she found this in Cristal with its elegance, lightness, chalkiness and minerality.

LUX: Do you feel that more people are now identifying as champagne connoisseurs?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I think so. I meet more and more people who want to discover the experience of mature champagnes. It probably has to do with people finally realising the exceptional freshness and ageing potential of Cristal.

LUX: And do you think that, just as there are ‘cru-distes’ who are obsessed with the cru, that there are ‘Cristalists’?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: There are some. I don’t know how many cru lovers there are, nor do I know what their average age would be. I would see some ‘crudistes’ perhaps as older people, and most likely men, too. The old club, let us say. I think Cristal attracts more young people. When we do tastings, we do not want to do it for just the happy few but larger groups, too. In New York, for example, I do some very expensive tastings for the elite and we know them, I go to their place and I drink the wine with them, they are friends. But if we do more of an educational tasting, and if we can invite a few young people who maybe do not have the money but have the strong desire to experience it, I like it. This makes sense for our mission. We make the wine of today and tomorrow, not the wine of yesterday. When I bottle Cristal 2020 next year, it will be consumed on the market in ten years’ time. We need to look at these new generations, they are important, they should inspire us first. Thinking again about the classic tradition and modernity, it is good to find a nice balance between those two worlds, because we need to know where we come from, and we also need to have a vision of where we are going.

vineyards

Cristal 2012 was Roederer’s first vintage produced by fully biodynamic farming methods following several years during which the champagne maker, unique among other houses, gradually converted its vineyards to being organic. Image courtesy of Louis Roederer

LUX: Can Cristal be drunk by itself or should it be accompanied by food?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: It really depends on the Cristal that we are talking about, and it depends on my mood. Sometimes I can enjoy a glass of Cristal by myself and just drink it with no food, nothing, just relaxed. Or it can be matched with food. Roughly speaking, I tend to drink a young Cristal by itself or with seafood, such as crabs or oysters, those kinds of salty, light food that combine well with the acidity and the softness and fruit of Cristal. If I have an older Cristal, then it comes to gastronomy. And technically, with some you can try many things depending on the bottle. I did a tasting yesterday, because we are going to launch our Cristal Vinothèque in October. It is from ’99, so it is a 20-year-old wine. This is a wine to have with veal, with mushrooms, with something fleshy enough to withstand the Cristal. There is less carbon dioxide. I am surprised sometimes, when I am on a journey for instance, and somebody opens a bottle of Cristal with me to be drunk with a food that I would never have dreamed could be eaten alongside champagne. I remember in Hong Kong a few years ago I had some with snake soup, a combination I have never imagined, yet it worked well, it was crunchy.

LUX: Tell us more about the Vinothèque wines. Who are they for?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Vinothèque is another expression of Cristal with time. It’s more developed but it’s fresher, too. I believe this wine will meet the expectations of Cristal lovers and all lovers of mature Burgundies and riesling. It’s definitely gastronomic. My original idea, when creating Cristal Vinothèque, was that, in our modern world, even wine lovers who don’t have the patience to wait for 20 years before enjoying a bottle of wine, cannot know that in that time their taste may drive them to appreciating mature champagne. So, I planned to keep some bottles to make that experience possible for the impatient ones! In between, I found so many new aspects of ageing in our ‘laboratory of time’ that I have fine-tuned the project into what I have called ‘In Pursuit of Eternal Youth’!

LUX: Are there plans for any other Cristals? Single-grape or single-vineyard?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes, we have some ideas. I have many triumphs in the cellar, where we are trying to do different things. Cristal stays what it is with the terroir and so on. Cristal is also pinot noir-dominated so it will always be a blend. We could not do a Cristal Vin de Blanc, or Cristal Vin de Noir. I don’t see the logic behind doing that or see it as being true to Cristal. We can work on different aging. If you want to play with pure chardonnay, we can create it. I have plenty of vineyards and we are planning to do something with them in the year ahead.

LUX: How did you cope during the pandemic?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: We didn’t stop. I kept working in the vineyards and the cellar. We put the marketing and the commercial teams in the vineyards. Everyone was part of the harvest. There is a team spirit at the moment. Today, we are experiencing a great moment, aside from Covid-19, something positive that we have never done before. But now we want our life back, to travel again, go to the markets, to Japan, the US, where we have vineyards. We have to start living with the virus and keep going.

LUX: What do you enjoy most in your job?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I like to be out there, in the vineyards, working hand in hand with nature, observing and taking the best from it to create something ultra-civilised. It’s all about transforming raw material into ultimate beauty and emotions. And it is important to me to know that the wine I create today will definitely survive me!

champagne bottle

Cristal 2012. Image by Emmanuel Allaire

“Six Vintages that express Cristal in all its glory” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon’s picks

2012: “After 20 years of exploration, research and conversion, the Cristal estate is fully biodynamic from the 2012 vintage onwards”
2008: “A legendary vintage, the ‘Cristal of Cristals’ ”
1999: “My first vintage as chef de cave”
1993: “This really showcases how good Cristal can be in a difficult vintage and how selecting the best plots from the 45 grand cru plots that comprise the Cristal estate each year is vital. The decision is dictated by the vintage conditions, so working hand in hand with nature, listening and observing is crucial”
1989: “A hot, ripe year but still with the tension and salinity that is the signature of Cristal, which comes from the terroir”
1988: “A cooler year that has developed well with a total contrast of style”

“These last two vintages show how much the region’s climate can vary from one year to the next with a clear impact on the style of the wine. The challenge is to make great wines from both.”

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

This interview was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 20 min
photoshoot

grand castle hall

Maria-Theresia Mathisen, Jill Mulleady and Cornelia Mensdorff-Pouilly (clockwise from top left) in the grand hall

Each summer at her family’s fairy-tale castle above the Côte d’Azur, curator Maria-Theresia Mathisen hosts young artists’ residencies. Local celebrity Simon de Pury travelled up to photograph ‘MT’ and her latest charge, Jill Mulleady. MT gives us a tour

Castel Caramel is our private residence-turned-cultural platform in the south of France. My mother Cornelia Mensdorff-Pouilly used to be the manager of the late Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs and they bought the house in 1988 for his countryside atelier. It was secluded but near enough to buzzing Monte-Carlo where he had his residence and a smaller atelier by the port.

I was only five years old back then and grew up in what was not only an artist’s studio but also a meeting place for many other artists and collectors. I loved witnessing the creation of art and the exchange of minds, so when Fuchs passed away in 2015, I decided to continue this tradition.

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After renovation and expansion, we formally established the Castel Caramel Artist Residency in 2018. Canadian painter Chloe Wise was the first official artist-in-residence and while there she invited her muses and collaborators to visit, making for a colourful and inspiring atmosphere. The house had fully come back to its creative life.

Since then, artists Korakrit Arunanondchai, Ben Wolf Noam and Jill Mulleady have been in residence. Others came to visit, including Martha Kirszenbaum, Jon Rafman, Precious Okoyomon, Bonaventure (Soraya Lutangu) and Alex Gvojic.

It is important for us to give back to, involve and connect with the arts community on the Côte d’Azur. Therefore, during each residency, we host artist and curator talks and screenings as well as intimate dinners. We welcome both local and international collectors, curators and all other art aficionados.

The 2021 Castel Caramel artists in residence are Gerard & Kelly and Sedrick Chisom. For more information visit: castelcaramel.org

artist with their painting

Jill Mulleady and her painting Gardens of the Blind

“This painting was dubbed, jokingly, ‘the Masterpiece’ by the artist and her gallerist. Seen in person, this impressive work really is a masterpiece. The mysterious figure in the midst of an apocalyptic landscape reappears in another painting Mulleady made at Castel Caramel. In this second work, the figure has aged. Jill often plays with shifting temporalities and connecting stories in her work.”

villa in the mountains

Castel Caramel, 2020

“The grand hall (see top image) is the main space of Castel Caramel. Sometimes it is in complete chaos, at others it becomes very elegant as it turns from artist’s studio into a ballroom. With 7m-high ceilings and a 140sqm space – built in the 1950s, it used to be a restaurant – there are barely any limits as to how big an artwork can be produced here. It was also the main reason why Ernst Fuchs bought the house. He was able to work here on a monumental scale, with light through the many windows all around and large doors onto the terrace. It is the perfect studio space!”

photoshoot

Maria-Theresia Mathisen, Jill Mulleady and Simon de Pury (from left) on the terrace

“Simon had driven all the way from the Swiss Alps by himself in order to meet us for the shoot in the afternoon. I always admire how much energy he has! Although it was almost 6pm, it was still very hot. The bronze sculpture of a guardian angel is by Ernst Fuchs.”

little girl in a hallway

Maria-Theresia Mathisen at Castel Caramel in 1988

“This is me with my Barbie dolls in the grand hall surrounded by paintings by Ernst Fuchs soon after he and my mother had bought Castel Caramel in the late 1980s.”

women by a swimming pool

Jill Mulleady, her daughter Olympia and Maria-Theresia Mathisen (from left) by the pool

“Our artists-in-residence usually invite collaborators or muses to visit them during their residency at Castel Caramel. Jill brought along her daughter, which was a first. The little girl ended up doing some painting as well.”

dinner party

Patrons’ dinner for Jill Mulleady

“Towards the end of each residency, we host artist/curator talks and dinners in honour of our artists. This was the second dinner we held for Jill Mulleady last year, which followed a conversation between the artist and curator Martha Kirszenbaum. To be on the safe side, we made sure to keep enough space between guests and we also had two extra tables set up on the terrace for those more concerned about Covid-19.”

art installation

Installation by Korakrit Arunanondchai

“It was a wonderful coincidence that our Thai artist resident Korakrit Arunanondchai developed his exhibition for the Vienna Secession at Castel Caramel, which used to be the atelier of a Viennese artist. Ernst, my mother and I are all from Vienna.”

artist painting

Ernst Fuchs at work

“Fuchs chose to buy Castel Caramel mainly for its ceiling height and good lighting conditions. He was able to work on his monumental paintings, some as high as five metres. He always worked on several paintings at the same time, with some taking many years to be finished.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue, on sale now.

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Reading time: 6 min
man giving speech on a stage
Headshot of man in blue shirt

Alexandre Mars is the Founder & CEO of non-profit foundation Epic and the Founder of Paris-based VC fund blisce/. Image courtesy of Epic

French entrepreneur, author and philanthropist Alexandre Mars founded nonprofit organisation Epic in 2014 to help change the lives of disadvantaged young people around the world through individual and corporate donors as well as partnerships with other social organisations. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, he speaks to Samantha Welsh about the importance of encouraging people to give more often, building a strong team and putting in the hours to achieve success

LUX: When did you start your first business and what made you do it?
Alexandre Mars: I started my first business at 17 years old by organising concerts at my high school. While I didn’t have the natural ability to become a professional athlete or movie star, something about entrepreneurship resonated with me.

The goal was never just to make money. It was about what to do with that money – a means to an end. Growing up with a mother that instilled values of altruism and solidarity in me from a young age, I knew that I wanted to give myself the necessary resources to protect my loved ones and then help others in need around the world. This first business was a first step toward realising that mission. I earned enough money to buy my first computers and that’s how my career as a tech entrepreneur was born.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Why did you pivot from serial entrepreneur to successful philanthropist?
Alexandre Mars: I’d actually consider that it was more of a continuation than a pivot. As I mentioned before, it was always my goal to help those less fortunate. It just took me a bit longer than expected to generate the means of being able to do so on the scale I hoped.

When I was ready to create Epic, my foundation, I still came at it from a very entrepreneurial perspective. In fact, a close friend of mine asked me an essential question as I embarked on this new venture: ‘What’s your uniqueness?’ In other words, how could I help others in ways that someone else couldn’t. Entrepreneurship is what I know best, so I built Epic like my previous startups, methodically and always with market needs in mind.

Working with young people can make for the most measurable outcomes. We know empirically that intervening early on is the most effective way to change life trajectories. That’s why we’ve decided to specialise in helping children and young people aged 0 to 29 years old.

Disadvantaged youths can come from anywhere, whether it be halfway across the world or in our own neighbourhoods. While the specific issues may vary from physical safety and job prospects to education and healthcare access, the overarching injustice remains the same: no one should be denied the opportunity to live their life to its full potential just because of the circumstances of their birth.

children's charity

Alexandre Mars in Mumbai. Image courtesy of Epic

LUX: Tell us about Epic.
Alexandre Mars: Epic is the culmination of deep market research into the philanthropic sector and the solution to three major obstacles to charitable giving: lack of knowledge (about who to give to), lack of trust (that the funds would be put to good use) and lack of time (to do the necessary research).

Our vision is a world in which every child and youth has access to safety, empowerment and equal opportunity. Our mission is to find, select, back and monitor high impact charitable organisations in order to catalyse their impact on underserved children and youth, and the systems affecting their lives. We are able to effectively fund them thanks to our donors who pool their resources together via our platform.

There are currently 26 organisations in the Epic portfolio worldwide, working on essential issues like access to healthcare, employment, education and physical safety. To date, we have raised $30 million.

What sets Epic apart is the robustness of our methodology that promotes transparency and accountability. From the outset, Epic has had a rigorous selection process to ensure trust and confidence. We curate a portfolio of high-impact, mid-size organisations addressing the complexity of issues affecting children and youth in a select number of countries, through a thorough and cutting-edge sourcing, vetting and monitoring process.

Another important factor is timing. We intervene at a stage in these organisations’ development when our support is the most transformative, allowing them to scale and have an even greater impact on children and youth.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

LUX: You are the enfant terrible disrupting traditional philanthropy, yet you build great teams. How do you go about that?
Alexandre Mars: Whether at Epic or any other startup I’ve founded, an undeniable key to success has been building the right team. And it starts with humility: you need to evaluate your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and hire for those needs.

For example, I built my career in the tech space, but I don’t know how to code. I surrounded myself with talented, passionate people. But it’s not enough to hire them. You need to have trust and give them autonomy to do their best work. It sounds like a simple formula, but it really works.

LUX: What issues around methodology come up most frequently in conversations between your NGOs?
Alexandre Mars: One of the interesting things that comes up often is how we measure success. We have been working hand in hand with our portfolio organisations to define a specific set of KPIs that they report on and that are tailored to their issues areas and strategy, for example: academic success rates or job placements. It’s a very interesting data-driven process that enables Epic to understand organisations’ performance in the context of their own success metrics as well as in the context of our centrally defined framework.

LUX: You have ‘skin in the game’ and pay all operating administration costs yourself – what are your expectations of companies and individuals who give and outsource to Epic?
Alexandre Mars: Two words: involvement and trust. We make sure that donors are very engaged throughout the giving process and that they’re able to follow their impact. Thanks to our thorough monitoring that brings accountability, our donors are more likely to continue giving. It’s a virtuous circle. This relationship of mutual confidence keeps our donors coming back year after year.

I also ask our donors to move away from certain outdated views on philanthropy, and to understand that impact and success cannot always be boiled down into quantitative terms like the number of children served per euro spent. Our organisations are dealing with a complex set of issues, and change takes time, as well as precise methods of measuring and understanding those outcomes. But you are right, I do have a lot of skin in the game so that 100% of all donations are sure to go directly toward changing lives.

Man posing on chair on paris streets

Image courtesy of Broadsoft

LUX: How has your approach guided your selection of partners in diverse regions and cultures?
Alexandre Mars: Our methodology takes into account 45 criteria in three categories: governance, impact and operations. It was developed by our team that draws on experience from both the non-profit and private sectors. For example, we’ve integrated best practices from the venture capital sector and evaluate organisations as if we were investing in a tech startup, looking at factors like growth potential, the quality of the leadership and most importantly, the organisation’s ability to create changes in the lives of the children and young people they serve.

The principles of our selection process drive at an understanding of how an organisation fares against an objective set of criteria. By looking through the lens of each organisation’s internal and external contexts, we are able to look at a worldwide set of organisations operating on vastly different issues and across varying social, financial, operational contexts. Interestingly, we do observe a certain universality, to an extent, in these organisations’ frameworks.

LUX: What corporate structures are most open to outsourcing their philanthropy to optimise returns?
Alexandre Mars: We work with corporates, but also foundations and individuals. One of the most frequent reasons they choose Epic is because we address three major obstacles in charitable giving: lack of trust, time, and resources. This is especially true when it comes to funding organisations that are in other countries than where the donor is located. We are a sort of one-stop-shop that they can trust.

Furthermore, I believe that people go through Epic to support children and youth because they have confidence in our model that focuses on strategic philanthropy. We look for impact and have developed a cutting-edge selection and monitoring methodology to ensure a certain return on investment, to borrow a term from the business world. It’s quite innovative, which explains why Harvard University did a case study on the Epic model in 2019.

Read more: Michelin-starred high altitude dining in Andermatt

LUX: To the average person, charities want to get more people to give, whereas you want people to give more often. Why?
Alexandre Mars: Our experience has shown that charitable organisations benefit from having a stable source of funding, rather than volatile ups and downs throughout the year. It allows them to more effectively plan and allocate resources to those they serve. That’s why our model is centred on multi-year unrestricted funding, giving organisations the stability and autonomy to do what they do best. We encourage companies and individuals to make giving a habitual action and embed the social good in a way that fits seamlessly with their personal situation or business model.

The form this solidarity takes will vary from case to case. For example, we’ve worked with Société Générale on a simple yet innovative solution that allows the bank’s corporate clients to round-up foreign exchange transactions and donate to Epic. And for entrepreneurs, we created the Epic Pledge whereby they commit to donating a percentage from the future sale of their company.
You are mission-driven, so how do you control social media to deliver success?

LUX: How does blisce/ fit into your current vision?
Alexandre Mars: At my growth stage venture capital fund, blisce/, we support mission-driven entrepreneurs to build global consumer technology companies like Spotify, Pinterest, Headspace and Too Good To Go. So we’re approaching social impact from another angle, but it’s absolutely core to our collective vision.

Finance can be a powerful tool and, if yielded responsibly, can be a force for good. That’s why we’re committed to working with our portfolio companies to improve their (and our own) environmental, social and corporate governance measures. For example, our term sheet includes two non-negotiable clauses for ventures: an agreement to carry out an ongoing ESG evaluation every 12-18 months, as well as a commitment to interview at least one diverse profile for every open senior leadership position. Our team has committed to donating 20% of its carried interest revenues to Epic, so it’s really a virtuous circle between my investment and philanthropic activities.

As a testament to these engagements, we’re very proud that blisce/ recently became the first B Corp certified growth stage VC fund in the E.U.

LUX: How has this vision developed and what projects are you looking forward to over the medium term?
Alexandre Mars: It is my view that solidarity and sharing are going to become increasingly essential, and that we can no longer rely solely on public support if we are to address the challenges we face such as rising inequality, climate change, lack of diversity, gender inequality. We need the participation of the private sector and an engaged citizenry as well.

In the near term, we will be doubling down on our strategies at Epic and at blisce/ to identify and support exceptional social organisations and mission-driven companies that positively contribute to our communities and planet. I’m thrilled by all of the determined social entrepreneurs I meet on a daily basis, and look forward to announcing those that we’ll be backing soon.

LUX: Has Covid accelerated how you do things?
Alexandre Mars: In my opinion, Covid has accelerated a trend that has been building for the past several years. I’m old enough to remember how different the world was just 20 years ago. People viewed success differently: it was about the number of zeros in your bank account, about having a corner office and a company car. Today that’s all changed, especially with the arrival of the millennials and Gen Z. Today, we know that real fulfilment and purpose comes when you put that material success toward realising your mission, whatever it may be.

Covid has only reinforced this evolution, as it has given many of us time to pause and reflect while also exposing the ever-widening rifts in our societies. So in terms of how it’s changed things for us at Epic and blisce/, I can’t recall a time when we’ve seen such an outpouring of support from across the board, or so many entrepreneurs for whom combining purpose and performance is an automatic must-have. It gives me reason to believe in the work we’ve been doing and to be optimistic about the future.

Image by T.G. Herrington

LUX: What lesson did you learn with a start-up as a teenager that you will share with your own kids?
Alexandre Mars: Entrepreneurship, including my first venture, has taught me so many lessons over the years. That’s part of the reason I wanted to write my recent book on the subject (it’s out in French now under the title OSE ! Tout le monde peut devenir entrepreneur, and the English translation is coming soon).

If I had to pick just one piece of advice, I’d emphasise the importance and necessity of hard work. Luck and natural ability only account for a small fraction of success. What will set you apart is outworking the competition, which will inevitably require sacrificing other activities such as going to the movies, coffee breaks, and weekends with friends. You won’t be able to do everything and work hard at the same time. That’s the harsh reality of it.

In my book I talk about Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hour theory he popularised. He explains how, in any discipline, 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of world-class mastery. This theory is based on the experience of three psychologists in observing violin students at the prestigious Berlin Academy of Music. The results were surprising: future international maestros each had reached 10,000 hours of practice; good violinists reached 8,000 hours, and future music teachers did not exceed 4,000 hours.

To take another example: when the Beatles were successful in 1964, supposedly coming out of nowhere and taking the world by storm, in reality they had exceeded 12,000 hours of rehearsals and concerts. They didn’t just appear overnight.

And as a last piece of related advice, I always remind my children about the importance of having a mission. In the end, having a sense of purpose is what brings true satisfaction, plus it will sustain you on your arduous but rewarding entrepreneurial journey. When you wake up in the morning with something bigger than yourself on your mind, you’ll find the motivation you need to succeed.

Find out more: epic.foundation

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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yellow sportscar

Lamborghini Huracán EVO RWD

In the second part of our supercar series, LUX drives the new and improved Lamborghini Huracán EVO RWD

Amid the current debate about cultural appropriation, we have a theory that many of the best things in life come from cultural mingling – which is not quite the same thing. Anyone who has visited the region of Alto Adige in northern Italy, which has been swapped between France and Austria over the centuries, will understand Italian culture and cuisine combined with Austrian efficiency creating a whole new world of design and lifestyle? Yes, please.

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We have a theory that the same thing has happened at Lamborghini. This is, on the face of it, the most extrovert and Italian of carmakers. Its logo is a raging bull, created specifically to annoy Enzo Ferrari and his prancing horse. Its cars are not only era-defining design classics (look at the 1960s Miura, which featured in The Italian Job) or the crazy 1980s Countach. They are also, traditionally, loud (visually and aurally), outrageously designed inside, have posing value beyond any other car no matter what the price, and go very fast, if you can handle them.

But this was not all good. Perhaps you wanted something with a soul of a Lamborghini, which didn’t attract a crowd of onlookers every time you drove it. And perhaps you wanted something that you would actually look forward to driving, rather than bracing yourself for a task.

The calming influence on Lamborghini’s hairy-chest nature came in the form of the Volkswagen group, which acquired the company in 1998. Lamborghinis have had a reputation for being better built, more reliable and easier to use since then. But they have also started moving towards the other extreme of becoming efficient. You might have driven the previous model Huracán across Europe, for example, with great satisfaction, but would it have stirred your loins like a previous Lamborghini? The best cultural cocktails are a perfect combination of ingredients, and an alchemy creating something else out of the whole.

Read more: Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem on the importance of championing artists

And this is where the RWD comes in. Lamborghini have taken their current Huracán EVO and taken away the drive from the front wheels, so the previously four-wheel-drive car is just two-wheel drive. They have also reduced the weight, made it more aerodynamically efficient, and, marginally, reduced the power. And they have reduced the price – although that is not likely to be very important to this market.

The reason behind this is to create a car that is not just brilliant on paper, striking to look at and efficient, but to create a car that stirs the soul. The ‘digital’ nature of some of today’s supercars is a reason why some models from 10 or 20 years ago have been going up in value. This Lamborghini is a more analogue car.

back of sportscar

The difference is evident even in the first low-speed corner. You are connected to the steering in a way you are not with its 4WD sibling. Approaching some higher speed corners once out of town, you feel a far clearer weight transfer to the back of the car and, on exiting the corner, you feel your acceleration is pushing the rear wheels out and helping you around the corner. And the steering is not interfered with by any tugging from power going to the front wheels at the same time as you are trying to steer. It sounds a little, but it means a lot. Suddenly, you are driving the car, rather than overseeing something that more or less drives itself.

The Huracán is old school in that it features a V10 engine, with no help from turbochargers or an electric motor. And given that typically these cars are driven short distances over their lifetimes, it will probably emit less CO2 than the average family car. Which is not to say that cars like these save the planet any more than they are not guilty of sacrificing it either.

Lecture over, on to the all-important Lamborghini feature of looks. Ours came in a spiffing shade of matt purple. It garnered stares from bystanders rather than a crowd of them like some Lambo models. If it’s attention you crave, better get an Aventador, this car’s big sister. If it’s driving pleasure, buy one of these.

It gets one of the highest ratings of any car we have ever tested. And if it had even more feedback to the steering, and even more dramatic looks (we like that kind of thing), it would receive a perfect 20.

LUX rating: 19.5/20

Find out more: lamborghini.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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luxury hotel bedroom
hotel lobby

The lobby of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

In the final edition of our luxury travel views series, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai enjoys the Parisian elegance and ease of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

Location, location, location. What is the nearest luxury hotel to the epicentre of Paris shopping, the original Hermès flagship store on the corner of rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and rue Boissy-d’Anglas? I would understand if you were thinking Crillon, Ritz or Bristol, but you would be incorrect. The Faubourg is so close that you could fish a Birkin out of the Hermès window display with a fishing pole and a hook.

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The frontage, in a road now closed to traffic for security reasons as it is so close to the Élysée Palace, belies the grandeur of the entrance hall when you walk inside. The welcome is swift, efficient and friendly, as you would expect from this significant European luxury hotel group.

luxury hotel bedroom

The Faubourg Suite

My room was well-appointed in a very Parisian style: vintage mirrors, Vogue photography, plenty of plush. With the rue Boissy-d’Anglas closed to traffic, it was also wonderfully quiet for a city-centre room.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges discusses the complexities of familial relationships

I had declined the offer of dinner with a business contact, as I had some research to do ahead of a meeting the next day, so I slipped downstairs with my iPad and found a place in the bar, a cosy, jazzy little room at street level.

luxury hotel interiors

The Blossom restaurant

Sometimes, on travels, after a number of meals offered where different levels of cuisine are showcased, there is nothing you feel like more than a Caesar salad, which the bar provided with no qualms and in very Gallic style, with corn-fed chicken and proper fries on the side. Paris is near enough to Burgundy to justify choosing a medically necessary Macon-Uchizy from the excellent 2016 vintage as an accompaniment.

My meeting the next day was not at Hermès but at a brand located next door. A 90-second commute. Now, that’s luxury.

Find out more: sofitel-paris-lefaubourg.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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Reading time: 1 min
beetroot gnocchi

Beet gnocchi from Le Clarence cookbook of recipes by head chef Christophe Pelé. Image © Richard Haughton

Earlier this year, Domaine Clarence Dillon, the luxury French company who owns the iconic Château Haut-Brion estate, published a cookbook of recipes by Christophe Pelé from its two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Clarence in Paris. Here, we pick three of our favourites to cook at home

Beet gnocchi with amaranth leaves

20 red and green amaranth leaves

For the beet gnocchi
(10 gnocchi per person)
2kg raw beets
3 big Charlotte potatoes
100g flour
2 eggs
40g butter
75g milk
Parmesan cheese
fine sea salt
nutmeg

For the beurre blanc
300g shallots, finely chopped
200g white wine
100g alcohol vinegar
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns, crushed
a sprig of thyme
a sprig of rosemary
100g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Banyulus vinegar

To finish
40g tofu

For the beet gnocchi
Push the beets through a juicer to obtain 500g of juice. Reduce to obtain 100g of juice.

Make a pâte à choux: combine the milk, 50g of reduced beet juice and the butter in a pot and bring it to boil. Remove from the heat and sift the flour into the pot, stirring vigorously to combine.

Dry the dough over a low heat, continuously stirring until it clears the sides of the pot. Transfer the dough into a round-bottomed mixing bowl, and add the eggs one by one. Add the parmesan, salt and nutmeg to taste.

Cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling water. Then, remove from the water, peel and smash into a puree. Add the hot puree to the pâte à choux and knead well until the dough is smooth.

Transfer dough into a piping bag and refrigerate.

Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer. Remove pastry bag from refrigerator, and squeeze and cut 1cm gnocchis directly into the water. Poach for 2 minutes, then remove and return to the cooled beet juice.

For the beurre blanc
Combine all ingredients, except the butter, in a pot. Cook over a low heat for 30 minutes, reducing it almost completely. Transfer 150g of the reduced mixture to another pot over a low heat. Little by little, incorporate the butter, whisking to emulsify.

Strain and add 50g of reduced beet juice and Banyuls vinegar. Allow to cool.

To finish
Drain the tofu and cut it into cubes. Arrange the gnocchi, dried amaranth leaves and tofu cubes on the plate. Finish with the beurre blanc.

Barbajuans. Image © Richard Haughton

Barbajuans with ricotta & spinach

Makes 50

For the filling
200g spinach
400g ricotta
black pepper
the zest of 1 lemon
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

For the dough
500g flour
5g salt
265g water
25g extra virgin olive oil
fine semolina
olive oil for frying

To finish
Kuro shichimi (a speciality of Kyoto, generally composed of white and black sesame sees, red chili pepper, sansho peppercorns, poppy seeds, linseeds and green seaweed).
fleur de sel

For the filling
Blanch the spinach for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain and finely chop.

Mix the chopped spinach with ricotta. Season with lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil.

For the dough
Combine the flour and salt in a mixer fitted with a chopping blade. Mix, adding water and olive oil little by little. Once a dough begins to form, remove and knead by hand until smooth.

Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit for 20 minutes. Then, roll it finely (2mm thick) and place a small spoonful of filling onto the dough, cover with another strip of dough and then cut into squares.

Line a baking sheet with a dish towel, and dust fine semolina over the towel. Transfer barabjuans onto baking sheet and refrigerate.

Before serving, fry the barbajuans in oil heated to 180 degrees centigrade, until they are golden. Drain on paper.

To finish
Dust with a pinch of fleur del sel and kuro shichimi.

Baba au rhum. Image © Richard Haughton

Baba au rhum

For 45 mini-babas
300g flour
10g sugar
5g salt
15g fresh yeast
150g eggs
120g milk
80g butter, room temperature

For the soaking syrup:
500g sugar
1 litre water
1 orange
1 lemon
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped

For the grapefruit caramel
150g sugar
300g grapefruit juice
50g butter

For the goat’s cheese cream
150g heavy whipping cream
50g fresh goat’s cheese

For the mini-babas
Combine all ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead until a dough begins to form, then add the butter in pieces. Knead on medium speed until the butter is completely absorbed, then on high speed for 2 minutes.

Transfer the dough into a stainless steel bowl, form a ball, cover it and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

Punch the dough back down and allow to rise for 10 more minutes.

Transfer dough to pastry bag and squeeze to fill three-quarters of each mould. Allow to rise 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is nicely puffed.

Cover the mould with parchment paper and place a second baking sheet on the top. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and allow the babas to cool completely.

For the soaking syrup
Slice the orange and the lemon into rounds. Combine all ingredients in a pot and boil until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove from heat, allow to infuse for 30 more minutes then strain. Soak the babas in the cooled syrup. Remove them when they have doubled in volume and use a pipette to inject 3ml of rum into each baba.

For the grapefruit caramel
Make a dry caramel with the sugar. Meanwhile, warm the grapefruit juice. When the caramel is golden, remove from heat and dilute, adding 1/3 of the grapefruit juice at a time. Return the pot to low heat and reduce to obtain 250g of caramel. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 40 degrees. Use an immersion blender to incorporate butter.

For the goat’s cheese cream
Whisk the cheese into the cream until smooth and firm

The above recipes are taken from Le Clarence cookbook, written by Chihiro Masui and edited by Glenat Production. Purchase the book via: lcdc.wine

Find out more about Domaine Clarence Dillon: domaineclarencedillon.com

Visit Le Clarence: le-clarence.paris

 

 

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Reading time: 7 min
Country hotel
luxury historic hotel

The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds dates back to 14th century

A couple of unspoilt Cotswolds rural idylls from the 14th and 17th centuries, a rare luxury hotel in Champagne with a touch of the contemporary, and the best place to stay in medieval Heidelberg, LUX recommends four historic country hotels to visit post-lockdown

The Lygon Arms, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

Broadway is a Cotswold village straight out of central casting. This includes the tourists wandering down the exquisite High Street lined with low buildings of local stone, with the Cotswold Hills rising beyond. The colour palette of nature and history is a perfect sand yellow/deep English green.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

THE ARRIVAL

The Lygon Arms looks like a combination of coaching inn and hotel. You expect a ruddy-faced local, fresh out of the local country estate, to appear and help you with your bags, and that is exactly what we got. Parts of the structure of the hotel date back to the 14th century, and the feeling of a cosy history, lovingly recreated by its current owners, is all around you.

Luxury bar and restaurant

The Lygon Bar and Grill

THE STAY

Our room, the Charles I suite with a four-poster bed, was swathed in Tudor dark wood. We ate dinner in the courtyard at the Lygon Bar and Grill: the grilled chicken with chestnut mushrooms and tarragon was highly satisfying. The achievement of The Lygon Arms? To offer true history, nicely updated with casual contemporary service and simple high-quality food.

ANYTHING ELSE?

A 20-minute walk from the end of the High Street and up a hillside takes you to the Broadway Tower, from where you can view the invading Welsh armies swarming across the Severn River Valley. Behind the tower stretch the sweeping green uplands of the Cotswolds proper, with exquisite nature walks.

Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk

luxurious hotel bedroom

Le25bis is the first of its kind in Épernay

Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant, Champagne

THE LOCATION

It’s long been a matter of bemusement that you can spend your day being serenaded by a major champagne house in Épernay and then find yourself in a disappointing, generic hotel. Le 25bis, owned by a champagne house and refurbished in a luxurious modern style, promises to change that.

Read more: Driving from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance

THE ARRIVAL

There is nothing quite like driving along the avenue de Champagne which radiates from the town centre. Le 25bis is fronted by a delightful courtyard with a few tables and as you walk to the reception desk, you walk past a couple enjoying a champagne tasting, a perfect scene setter.

bathroom

THE STAY

Le 25bis belongs to a well regarded boutique champagne house, Leclerc-Briant, which has a shop at the front of the house. After a long day of visiting champagne houses, there’s nothing quite like tasting the champagne made by your hotel. There are only five rooms, which are huge and have clearly been refurbished with little regard for budget, with pale contemporary furnishings with antique twists, aesthetic floral arrangements, intricate wallpapers and beautiful vintage-style (but very modern) bathrooms.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Make time to visit the Leclerc Briant house itself, and when buying from the shop at the hotel (our preferred cuvée was the eponymous entry-level cuvée, and the rosé was also delicious) make sure you buy in magnum. It is always better.

Book your stay: le25bis.com

Country hotel

Lords of the Manor is located in Upper Slaughter, a pretty hamlet in the Cotswolds

Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

If The Lygon Arms is in the low Cotswolds, Lords of the Manor is in the high Cotswolds. To get there, you wind slowly through Lower Slaughter (probably Britain’s prettiest village, and that’s saying something), past an estate and into the hamlet of Upper Slaughter. Down a drive, there is a manor house with gardens dropping to a lake, and meadows and woods beyond. This view hasn’t changed much since Shakespeare’s time.

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

THE ARRIVAL

Walking into the wood-lined great hall feels like arriving at a friend’s country house. You are taken to your room up a suitably creaking staircase. Ours looked out over the drive, lawn and lake, and was decorated in lavish country house style. All around was silence.

contemporary interiors

The bar at Lords of the Manor

THE STAY

Crunching through the grounds you feel like there is nothing more you would need from your English country estate. A walk across a little wooden bridge leads to a path alongside a stream taking you to Lower Slaughter, where you can slake the thirst in an inn. The dining experience at Lords of the Manor is very proper and British: venison and foie gras pithivier with creamed butternut squash and brandy sauce.

ANYTHING ELSE?

You could explore the many sites of this glorious region, but we wager you’ll stroll from the hotel on the secluded walks, and chill out on the hotel’s terrace with a glass of champagne, looking at the grounds, and do nothing else.

Book your stay: lordsofthemanor.com

luxury hotel bedroom

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof is Heidelberg’s only five-star hotel

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg

THE LOCATION

Heidelberg, one of the world’s oldest university towns, lies at the edge of the Rhine river plain at the point at which it rises up sharply into the mountains of the northern Black Forest. It’s one of Europe’s prettiest towns, and also infused with a feeling of intellectual history – and current intellectual power.

Read more: How Hublot’s collaborations are changing the face of luxury

THE ARRIVAL

The hotel, the city’s only five-star property, is located on the edge of the old town, making it easy to get to when arriving by car or train. The family-owned luxury property is big and relatively modern. You turn into a grand driveway and are greeted by a uniformed doorman, and taken up some steps into the reception hall that leads to a jazz bar on the left and around the corner into a U-shape into a formal restaurant, the Kurfürstenstube.

hotel entrance

THE STAY

The hotel is grand and generously proportioned, as was our Executive Suite, which was light and airy with high ceilings, baroque-style furnishing in creams and beiges and rustic golds. While parts of the hotel are old, much of it has been built recently, including the large spa area. You will inevitably use the hotel as a base for visiting Heidelberg and beyond.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The hotel’s delightful concierge’s recommendations are now ours: the Kulturbrauerei, a centuries-old dining hallcum-beer hall with hearty, meaty cuisine and its own beer; and a walk down from the Königstuhl mountain, reached by a funicular.

Book your stay: europaeischerhof.com

Note: All reviews were carried out prior to the global lockdown

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 6 min
Landscape photography
Landscape photography

The view across the Rhine valley from Alsace’s Chateau de Haut-Koenigsbourg to Germany’s Black Forest.

LUX takes a journey from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance, through a historic, beautiful, tranquil and gastronomic part of France and Germany that is curiously overlooked on the international tourist map

Location photography by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

There was a point at which, quite abruptly, the Autoroute A4, the east-west artery arrowing out of Paris towards Germany, became interesting. For hours before this point, we had been driving on a wide motorway flanked by flattish fields. Wind turbines and the occasional tractor were for the most part the only distractions from the monotony, with the exception of a brief section, near the city limits of Reims, where the vineyards of Champagne crept up an unexpected hill to our right. But the Montagne de Reims is better experienced in a glass than through the glass.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

An hour or so east of Reims, as if the gods of scenery had decided on a set change there and then, the highway swept to the left and up through a sudden forest on a long incline. The forest felt ancient, revealing glades and streams between its fronds, even when travelling at a cruise. There had been no warning of this scenery’s arrival, making it all the more compelling. In a few miles, a sign told us we were in the Forest of Argonne, known as the site of some of the worst battles of the first world war, and among oenophiles as the source of wooden barrels for some of the world’s great wines.

As if now trying to free itself from its straight-laced former self, the motorway writhed through a series of hills, along viaducts and across shallow valleys. We were now in Lorraine, technically part of the same, recently created region of Grand Est that we had been driving through for hours, but in reality a different part of Europe, historically, linguistically and, evidently, topographically. Lorraine, by itself or bound to neighbouring Alsace, is arguably as Germanic as it is French. Without crossing a border, we had changed nations.

historic building

Riquewihr, one of the historic villages on the Alsace wine route

We turned off near Verdun and followed a country lane that tracked a little river, turning left at a little junction and heading into the forest. Through a tiny one-horse village aligned along the road, and some wrought-iron gates, and we arrived at our overnight stopover, the Lodge Hôtel du Domaine de Sommedieue.

Read more: Why we’re dreaming of summers at Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz

The reception area doubled as a restaurant, in an old building with a few tables outside, scattered across a lawn shaded by tall trees and bordered by a series of ponds. Our room, tidy, clean, well prepared and functional, was in a newly refurbished building a few metres away. The Sommedieue advertises itself as a fishing lodge, but we don’t fish, so we ordered a bottle of very good Côtes du Rhône from the receptionist/ waitress, who happily chilled out by the bar with her beau, with no pressure on us late arrivals to drink up and allow her to lock up. We drank the bottle, then another, at an outside table, alone with our thoughts and the plopping of fish, until a deep night-time absorbed us all.

lake with boats

Uberlingersee, the northwestern stretch of Bodensee (Lake Constance), in southern Germany, is an idyllic destination for summertime leisure visitors

The next morning the waitress had been replaced by the busy, jolly owner, who asked me which newspapers we would like. He placed a selection on a long wooden table inside the restaurant which he had festooned with a breakfast spread worthy of a still life: fresh, fat loaves, thickly sliced; home-made raspberry and apricot jam; slabs of butter; a bowl of apples.

We headed on, eastwards, through Lorraine, through forests and past rivers and lakes, still in France but with road signs reading as if they were in German: Harskirchen, Hirschland. Lorraine and neighbouring Alsace were at the heart of Europe’s history and wars for centuries, sometimes French, sometimes German, sometimes independent: they have seen peace only since the establishment of the forebear of the European Union after the second world war.

The town of Phalsbourg is bounded on one side by high wooded hills and on the other by meadows dropping down into the lowlands of Alsace. It sits on the border of Alsace and Lorraine, and we were there for its annual festival, the Festival de Théâtre. We arrived in the late afternoon, and walked into the central square, which with its gabled, almost Hanseatic architecture, feels like it belongs more to the Baltic than a country with a Mediterranean coast. We had a pizza on the terrace of one of the square’s handful of restaurants, while the festivities geared up; children and adults wearing the traditional red wandered by, eating candy floss and sipping on local wines respectively. A jazz band launched into a fabulous set as the day turned from gold to light blue to darker blue.

As the band finished, we climbed into the car and headed into the hills enveloped in deep forest and arrived, around midnight, at the Auberge d’Imsthal, a little inn set on a lake in the forest, ringed by hills. I sat on the balcony, listening to fish splashing and animals crashing through the forest, looking for shooting stars.

Church at night

Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church in Phalsbourg, a town in the hills on the border of France’s Alsace and Lorraine regions

The Alsace Wine Route carves its way across slopes lined with vineyards and scattered with Hansel and Gretel villages. The road is slightly elevated from the Rhine floodplain, and as you snake through the vineyards you see views of the deep blue mass of the Black Forest mountains. Halfway along the wine route, we stopped off at the village of Eguisheim, which sits amid its vineyards near the leading edge of a steep hillside leading up to the Vosges mountains.

Read more: Artist Marc Ferrero on his collaboration with Hublot

Eguisheim is tiny – the size of a city square in Paris or Madrid – but seems both eternal and infinite. Its narrow streets, lined by 500-year-old gabled houses, many of them in pastel shades, are arranged in an oval shape, with a breathtakingly bijou square with a fountain at its heart. We sat in a courtyard belonging to a wine producer and drank light, pure local crémant rosé sparkling wine, as the sky and the buildings changed colour and a cool breeze wafted down from the mountains as night fell.

convertible silver car

Mercedes S 560 Cabriolet

For our epic drive across Europe, we had a Mercedes S 560 Cabriolet, a big, handsome, luxurious convertible with seemingly limitless performance and the ability to whizz down any road in a ‘swoosh’ of power and smoothness. The armchairs cradled us like a jealous lover, and, with the roof down, their air-conditioning kept us chill when the sun shone, and warm at night.

The most memorable, and attractive, thing about the Swoosh-mobile was its effortlessness; the way you could fire it up and almost instantly be going at the speed limit, while it made bumps and bits of broken road disappear as if they were not there. So many fast cars these days are tuned as if they are going to be driven on a racetrack, riding down the road so firmly that you fear the movements on your expensive wristwatch will disassemble themselves every time you hit a bump, and making you fear for the integrity of the wheel every time you crash into a pothole. The S 560 is different: it is made to give its driver and passengers the most soothing drive possible, at a level of luxury that would have been inconceivable in a car only 15 years ago.

Read more: Entrepreneur Dr. Li Li on the importance of global relationships

If that makes it sound like the car is boring to drive, it’s not. There is a certain rakish, louche joy in whipping the roof down, cranking the concert-standard Burmester hi-fi up to high, and aiming down the road, elbow on window sill, the car emitting a deep, sonorous but quite muted gurgle. It responds well to changes of direction, not driving nearly as softly as its super-smooth ride would have you fear. Perhaps on a racetrack it would suffer against sportier rivals, but who takes this kind of car on a racetrack anyway?

It certainly didn’t suffer on the autobahn. Parts of German motorways remain free of speed limits, meaning that, once you spot the roadside sign telling you all speed checks are off you can go as fast as you wish without fear of being stopped or photographed by the police. As the autobahn descended from the Black Forest towards Bodensee (Lake Constance) on the final part of our journey, the no-limits sign appeared. The road arrowed straight down a gentle incline bordered on either side by meadows, with no junctions, and no traffic ahead of us. With the accelerator buried, and a rumble of chest-beating from somewhere inside the exhaust system, we surged, roof down, unstoppably, past an indicated 150mph in a matter of seconds. I finally eased off at 155mph when the wind above the open roof was at a severe hurricane level. The S 560 may be easy going, but it can also go.

car dashboard

Convertible sportscar

Such speed hastened our arrival on the shores of Bodensee, which is shared between three countries: Germany on its northern shores; Switzerland on the south shore opposite; and Austria at its eastern edge. Überlingen, on the German shore, is a small and historic resort town. That evening we strolled along the lakefront along a pathway festooned with gardens and small hotels, past the Strandbad (lake beach), where families were sunbathing, playing games and jumping into the lake, and to the centre of Überlingen. A row of cafes, restaurants and ice-cream booths faced the lake, alongside the pedestrian path; a passenger ferry docked, sending a mother duck and her ducklings into a tizzy and causing a passer-by to rescue a duckling which had jumped into a hole for safety. A ten-year-old brother and sister played trumpet and violin, quite competently, attracting a pile of donations for their bicycle fund. A mini beach-volleyball tournament attracted a small crowd, sipping local beer sold from a pop-up stand, on the waterfront. Überlingen is a special find, a tidy, beautifully preserved hark back to another era that feels all the more relaxing now because of it.

For our final overnight, we drove five minutes to the Park Hotel St Leonhard, on a gentle hillside, covered with meadows, orchards and vineyards, above the town. From the wide balcony of our room, the hill sloped down into the town towards the lake; across the two fingers of Bodensee, the lights of the settlements on the Swiss side lit up, the Alps forming a jagged graphic backdrop. The air was wet, herbaceous and grassy. This had been Europe, both new and old, at its very best; and sometimes true luxury cannot be measured by hotel stars.

Four Alsace wines to try

Alsace’s wines remain curiously undiscovered. Whites and sparkling dominate, all are fresh and sophisticated, some are sweet but others are dry, complex and fabulous value; and there are many good producers, keeping prices reasonable.

Domaine Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile
Rich, rounded, but bone-dry riesling with layers of candy and lime. Fabulous wine and value.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris
Sweet but not cloying, packed with a thousand fruit salads and much more. One of the greats.

Bruno Hertz Crémant d’Alsace Rosé
Heart-stoppingly pure sparking pink, simple and delicious, tasting of summer forest.

Domaine Hugel Riesling
Somehow unctuous and dry at the same time, stony with kiwis; older vintages can age beautifully.

For more information visit: mercedes-benz.co.uk

Note: This trip was undertaken pre-lockdown. LUX paid in full for all the hotels in this feature. 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
Drawings of bottles
Drawings of bottles

Drawings for Ruinart 2020, by David Shrigley

Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley is best known for his playful and humorous illustrations, which are often accompanied by deadpan captions, commenting on the banality of contemporary life. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2013, and has had major exhibitions at the likes of London’s Hayward Gallery and Manchester’s Cornerhouse. Here, the artist discusses his creative process, the interaction of language and his latest collaboration with Maison Ruinart

Portrait of man

David Shrigley

1. Tell us about your concept for Maison Ruinart?

The concept behind ‘Unconventional Bubbles’ is about taking the viewer on an enlightening yet playful journey of champagne production whilst enhancing awareness about the environmental challenges that motivate and drive Maison Ruinart on a daily basis. The paintings also consider champagne production on a symbolic level. Like the fact that it is a living product and that it is made from a plant that grows in the ground. It is subject to the elements: to the soil, to the sky, to the weather, to the bugs that either destroy it or facilitate pollination. For me, there are may interesting metaphors there.

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There is a certain magic to it too, in which the micro organisms that make the bubbles create the critical element of the champagne. I like the idea that it is something from nothing, that it has to be kept in darkness and all these things have to happen in darkness, that they happen in a cave which is found under the ground. If you described champagne production to someone who didn’t know what champagne was, who didn’t know what wine was, it would seem like some esoteric activity.

Then, there is the idea that champagne occupies a special place within beverages, one synonymous with celebration, synonymous with luxury. This association with celebration connects it to the beginning and ending of things: the beginning of a marriage, or the end of a project. I’m interested in trying to find these metaphors, and the poetic aspect within the story of champagne.

2. What did you learn from the experience?

This collaboration has given me the opportunity to learn something about the complex process of making champagne and to make art that addresses that, to find a way to say something about that process. It is a voyage of discovery: I had no expectations, other than to learn something. The process was to visit Maison Ruinart, to speak to the cellar master, to speak to the people involved in the production so as to understand more about champagne production within the larger operation, which everyone is very passionate about. For me as an outsider—as someone who has drunk quite a bit of champagne over the years, and enjoyed it, including Ruinart – I have never thought that much about its production or how it was made.

Painting of bottle in blue

Ruinart 2020 by David Shrigley

3. Your images are often accompanied by lines of text – how does language interact with your art?

The interesting thing about working with Maison Ruinart is that it is a collaboration. It is a project whose criteria are ideal for a fine art commission. In terms of how I normally create graphic art, I start with a blank sheet of paper and my job is to fill that space with whatever comes into my head. Usually there is nothing in my head when I begin so I often write a list of things to draw: an elephant, a tree stump, a teapot, a nuclear power station etc. I have a motto: “If you put the hours in then the work makes itself”. Maybe what I mean by this is that artwork (or a least, my artwork) occurs as a result of a process. That process for me is usually to draw everything on the list. Once those things have been drawn the story has begun; more words sometimes appear; sometimes just the words on the list; sometimes more pictures; until eventually the page is full and the artwork is finished.

When I tell people about this way of making work they are sometimes impressed (sometimes not) and they say that it seems as if the work “comes from nowhere”. Having thought about this at some length, I have come to the conclusion that this isn’t the case. Art is not the creation of something new but the creation of connections between things that already exist. In this case the connection between the things on the list and the words used to describe them. But as soon as you make a statement about what art is or is not you almost immediately realise an exception to that rule.

Read more: Princess Yachts CEO Antony Sheriff on a new generation of yachting

Anyway, when making art on the subject of champagne production, one must make several visits to the champagne region. One must visit the crayères and the vineyards and the production facilities and one must ask questions of the people who work there and listen very carefully to what they say. And most importantly, you must drink some champagne. It also requires a different list of things to draw: the vines, the grapes, the soil, a bottle, a glass, the cellar master, worms, the weather etc.

One of the problems (sometimes it’s a problem) with my way of working is that when I say things through my work (the text and the image), I often don’t really know what I’m trying to say; I say it and then try to figure out what it means afterwards. Maybe it is like when a child is learning how to speak. I like to think that all artwork is a work in progress; the meaning develops and changes depending on who views the work and the context in which they view it. Meaning ferments like wine. I realise that what I am saying about the production is perhaps not what the people I have met at Ruinart would say about what they do. Maybe they might even have a problem with it. But I think it should be acknowledged that the fermentation process has only just begun and it may be some time before it is finished, if ever.

I made one hundred drawings based on my experiences of being at the House of Ruinart. The message conveyed through champagne and the brand is important. I need to start with those things. I made illustrations based on text and found a way to incorporate them into the work. But with the majority of the drawings, an image came first, and I thought about what the text should be after.

4. What role does humour play in your practice?

I guess years ago I was always keen to stress the work was incidentally funny and that I was trying to be profound and comedy was just a facet. Over the years I’ve come to realise that comedy is very important. The issue is people expect you to be funny all the time. I’m always keen to stress I’m not a comedian and I am an artist, which negates my obligation to be funny all the time. Comedy is really special and sublime. To explain why something is funny sort of pours cold water on it…

Globe

Ruinart 2020 by David Shrigley

5. How has the current global crisis affected your creativity?

I worked alone from home on smaller formats anyway so I’ve been making drawings for the last six weeks or so. I just worry about other people at the moment. Some of the work I’m producing now is influenced by the ongoing situation – or at least when I put it out there the viewer will associate it with that.

6. What do you miss?

I miss seeing friends and going to the football.

View David Shrigley’s portfolio: davidshrigley.com

 

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Reading time: 6 min
Two men standing on promenade
Two men standing on promenade

Jean-François Dieterich (left) with Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar at the Villa Cuccia-Noya.

The south of France, home to Matisse, Cézanne and Van Gogh, has one of the greatest artistic legacies in the world. Now the mayor of one of its most exclusive communities wants to create a cultural heritage for the next generation, as Lanie Goodman discovers

“I am made of all that I have seen,” French artist Henri Matisse once famously stated. The grand master of colour certainly got an eyeful during his lifetime of world travels. But when Matisse first arrived on the Côte d’Azur in 1917, he was so taken with the sunlit vistas of luxuriant gardens, graceful palms and the shimmering blue sea that he decided to settle in the south of France for the rest of his life. The artist’s love of plants extended to a philosophical perspective on all living things. “We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe,” Matisse muses in his writings.

For over a century, European crowned heads, artists and writers have flocked to the south of France to create their own private Eden, and predictably, the 2.48 sq km commune of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – a lush secluded peninsula of seaside splendour midway between Nice and Monaco – has a rich history of outstanding artistic effervescence.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

These days, the town’s mayor, Jean-François Dieterich, is aiming to revive the cultural excitement with a contemporary art exhibition – with about 15 works in total – of French-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar to inaugurate the beautifully restored Villa Namouna, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat’s brand new cultural space. This initiative is part of an ongoing programme to revive the once celebrated artistic enclave in the commune by showcasing living artists of international renown. “I find that the approach of Behnam-Bakhtiar – who has found serenity, joie de vivre and sources of inspiration through the outstanding natural landscapes of this peninsula – has a certain continuity with the artists of the 50s,” Dieterich says. “But he also has his own contemporary abstract technique and a rich palette of colours.”

abstract painting

My Tree of Life (2019–20) by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar.

For the 36-year-old artist, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, who now lives and works in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the timeless Mediterranean landscape has had a profound effect on his point of view and his palette, much like Matisse. “My art has definitely changed since I moved here in 2010,” he says. “Although the technique I used, peinture raclée, was similar to now, a lot of the works were dark.”

Above all, explains Behnam-Bakhtiar, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has been a grounding force. “This place gave me a new life and something that helped me to become a more complete, balanced human being. It has helped me cope with everything that has happened to me. I shifted my whole focus on things that are truly valuable, such as the dormant energy that exists inside us and our connection to nature.”

Read more: Discovering Deutsche Bank’s legendary art collection

We are at Behnam-Bakhtiar’s studio, situated on an upper floor of a white villa on the Cap. The room is ablaze with colour, a mesmerising assembly of large abstract canvases, stacked one behind the other and propped against the wall; in the centre of the room is the artist’s working space, a table littered with tubes of paint and a scraper. From the window, you gaze out at a palm tree, a verdant garden and patches of sea.

The show, entitled ‘Rebirth’, will debut with a one-day private viewing of 35 new paintings held at Villa Cuccia-Noya, a sumptuous waterfront estate owned by distinguished businessman, philanthropist and art collector Basil Sellers. “What an enormous energy rises from his works,” Sellers enthuses, referring to Behnam-Bakhtiar’s latest canvases. “I was astounded.”

Abstract painting in blue and yellow

Blue Soul Groove (2019) by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Energy is indeed the very term Behnam-Bakhtiar uses to describe the palpable vibrancy of landscapes that he tries to capture in his paintings. Under the umbrella of the rebirth theme, the artist will also unveil two public installations – one on the Cap and the other in the village. It will be a first for the community in terms of public artwork – one of the works will be a lightweight but huge wrought-iron sculpture in which three suspended figures of a man, woman and child look as if they have sprung from the earth. As Behnam-Bakhtiar explains, the idea of the work is to convey “harmonious living with nature”, something which he feels should be transmitted to future generations.

The Paris-born artist, whose previous exhibitions include ‘Oneness Wholeness’ at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 2018 and at a Christie’s Middle Eastern, Modern and Contemporary Art exhibition in London in 2019, spent his formative years in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war. Articulate, calm and soft-spoken, Behnam-Bakhtiar briefly alludes to his imprisonment and torture but would rather speak about transformation. “My last exhibition, at the Setareh Gallery in Düsseldorf, Germany, was called ‘Extremis’ and it focused on all the hardcore experiences that happened in my past. For Saint-Jean, I wanted to do something that is the other side of the coin, to represent positivity and light.”

As you stand in front of his recent series of paintings, ‘Trees of Paradise’, the blended bright colours slowly conjure discernible shapes that “are part of the Cap Ferrat scenery”, Behnam-Bakhtiar says, urging me to touch the canvas. Despite the complex texture that meets the eye, the surface is surprisingly smooth. For inspiration, he adds, he often walks through a wooded section of the Cap, not far from the curvaceous Villa Brasilia, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Two men standing in front of villa

Dieterich and Behnam-Bakhtiar at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat’s town hall

“One painting may take me anywhere from five months to a year to finish,” he says, flashing a smile. “It takes a lot of time and patience.” Essentially, he explains, his process consists of painting, scraping, drying – hundreds of times – until he’s happy with the work. “When you know it’s right, you leave it. It just suddenly clicks for me.”

Whether mere coincidence or simply the glamorous allure of this privileged finger of land, a remarkable convergence of writers, artists, filmmakers and actors lived, worked and entertained on Cap Ferrat during the late 1940s and 1950s and the ‘dolce vita’ of the 1960s. Winston Churchill painted on the jetty undisturbed; Picasso sunbathed at the pool of Le Club Dauphin at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat. British writer W Somerset Maugham, in search of the simple life purchased a Moorish-style villa, La Mauresque, planted superb gardens and hosted everyone from artist Marc Chagall (who had a neighbouring home on the Cap Ferrat) to Noel Coward, George Cukor and Harpo Marx. Another illustrious resident was British actor David Niven, who lived in the villa La Fleur du Cap on the coastal Promenade Maurice Rouvier and often lent his home to his friend, Charlie Chaplin.

Read more: In the studio with radical artist Mickalene Thomas

“There were numerous films shot in Saint-Jean,” says mayor Dieterich. “There were also legendary actors and directors who spent time here, such as Gene Kelly, Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison, and Otto Preminger.” However, Cap Ferrat’s glorious artistic heyday revolved around the presence of two major figures: the Greek-born editor and publisher Efstratios Eleftheriades – known as Tériade – and poet, playwright, filmmaker and artist, Jean Cocteau.

In the postwar years, when the Côte d’Azur was a sun-drenched haven for artists, Matisse was a regular visitor to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat where his friend and collaborator Tériade lived in the turquoise-shuttered Villa Natacha, overlooking the harbour. The influential editor of Verve, who had commissioned every major artist of his time to design covers for his magazine, brought together the likes of Bonnard, Balthus, Miró and Derain. As a mark of friendship, the frail 83-year-old Matisse designed a stained-glass window – a Chinese fish surrounded by begonias – for Tériade’s dining room and also painted the villa’s walls with black enamel plane trees.

During that same period, Cocteau lived in a white-washed seaside house, the Villa Santo Sospir, owned by patroness of the arts, Francine Weisweiller, who had fallen in love with the rugged beauty of the then deserted Cap Ferrat in 1948 and turned it into her dream home. Weisweiller met Cocteau in 1950 when she financed Les Enfants Terribles, the film he had written, and invited him to the villa for a few days. He ended up staying 11 years and decided to ‘tattoo’ the white walls with whimsical mythological frescos. The privately owned villa is currently under restoration to preserve Cocteau’s Greek gods and local fisherman, plus the bohemian jumble of Madeleine Castaing-designed exotic wood furniture and curtains as well as vintage bric-a-brac.

Ocean promenade and villa

The Villa Cuccia-Noya

Behnam-Bakhtiar, who was contacted by the owners of Santo Sospir just prior to the villa’s temporary closure in 2017, was enchanted. “They wanted me to do a show. The energy there was unreal and I went there every day, for about four weeks, trying to take it all in.” His exhibition, ‘Oneness, Wholeness with Jean Cocteau’, consisted of 36 sculptures scattered about the villa and garden, as well as an audio installation with a dialogue between Cocteau and himself.

Does Behnam-Bakhtiar feel in sync with the spirit of his artistic predecessors? The artist pauses, gazing at one of his ongoing ‘Trees of Paradise’ canvases. “You know, I was looking online and stumbled across a video of Cocteau sitting at the same table of Santo Sospir. He’s addressing the people of the year 2000 and saying the same things I’ve been talking about now – about how we are losing our humanity and behaving like robots. It’s a real honour to continue in his footsteps and work with the mayor to help revive what used to be here.”

Nostalgia aside, call it a reawakening of a state of mind when it comes to beauty. Or, as Matisse aptly summed it up: “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” And Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar would be inclined to agree.

Benham-Bakhtiar’s exhibition ‘Rebirth’ will open with a private view at Villa Cuccia-Noya on 10 September 2020; the show will run at Villa Namouna from 11 September – 11 October 2020.

For more information visit: sassanbehnambakhtiar.com

This story was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out now.

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Reading time: 8 min
Artist desk with lamp, paintings and paints
Artist desk with lamp, paintings and paints

L’École, School of Jewellery Arts, is housed within the Van Cleef & Arpels headquarters in Paris

L’École is a school of jewellery arts based in Paris and supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, offering a luxurious learning experience led by industry experts. Digital Editor Millie Walton signs up for a class

Based one floor of Van Cleef & Arpels‘ headquarters in Place Vendôme in Paris, L’École was established in 2012 with the aim of introducing the wider audience to the world of high jewellery and its significance through the ages. Whilst the school was founded and is supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, it is not, as one might assume, an elaborate marketing stunt (during my class, for example, the only mention of Van Cleef & Arpels is via small-print on the slideshow), but rather a genuine centre of learning albeit a luxurious one. Classes take place in a palatial room which was once the office of Van Cleef’s President and CEO Nicolas Bos, with a break for tea, coffee and Parisian pastries in a stylish lounge filled up with glossy coffee table-books, whilst the teachers themselves are leading industry experts, which allows the classes to cater to every ability.

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The classes fall into four main categories: ‘Introductory’ (which offers a general overview), ‘The Universe of Gemstones’ (with two classes exploring diamonds), ‘Savoir Faire’ (featuring hands on workshops in which you get to actually try out various jewellery making techniques such as Japanese Urushi Lacquer) and ‘Art History of Jewellery’ (which investigates jewellery aesthetics of different time periods). On this trip, I’m signed up for an art history class on ‘Gold and Jewellery, from Antiquity to the Renaissance Princes’, which begins with Ancient Egypt and ends with examining portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Classroom set up with students sitting at round tables

Classes take place in the original office of Van Cleef’s President and CEO Nicolas Bos

Whilst the prospect of four hour lecture on jewellery is daunting, our teachers Inezita Gay-Eckel and Léonard Pouy are energetic and brilliantly knowledgable with infectious enthusiasm for their subject matter. The class itself mainly follows a standard lecture format, but we are encouraged to jump in with questions, and specialist terms are noted down on the whiteboard for us to copy into our L’École branded notebooks.

Read more: Founder of Nila House Lady Carole Bamford’s guide to Jaipur

Woman holding open a book with pictures of silver pendants

Halfway through, Léonard appears, gloved and bearing a tray of delicate jewellery pieces. We’re encouraged to apply our new found knowledge to locate each piece to its time period, and whilst it’s still largely mystifying, it’s satisfying to even know what kinds of things we should be noticing.

The point of these classes, Inezita tells us, to provoke curiosity so that students feel compelled to take their learning further. At the end of the class, we’re each given a tote bag with a certificate and reading list of books, websites and museums across the globe.

Find out more: lecolevancleefarpels.com

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Product image of glasses and fishing nets
Product image of glasses and fishing nets

Sea2See turns discarded plastic fishing nets into high-fashion eyewear

François van den Abeele had a dream – to turn discarded plastic fishing nets into high-fashion, hand-finished eyewear. People once laughed at him, but now, as he leads a swell of eco-entrepreneurs, his products are in increasing demand around the world. He tells LUX how he created an ecosystem around his brand, Sea2See
Portrait of man holding glasses

François van den Abeele

“My love of water sports nurtured a passion for the ocean and brought me to focus on the problem of plastic contamination in our seas. I had spent a lot of time reading about the degradation of our oceans, the problems surrounding marine plastic, and about the brands trying to implement circular economy in the way they produce.

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“I began to investigate ways of using plastic waste as a raw material to produce something that people would use and potentially wear. Sustainability is non-existent in the optical world; the main raw material used is plastic and 40 per cent of the population wears glasses. It was a perfect win, win, win.

“All this, along with a personal motivation to change my profession and do something positive with a sustainable impact culminated in the creation of Sea2See Eyewear.

“We have agreements with 27 ports in Spain, six in France and now we are starting in Ghana. We collect on average half a ton of plastic waste per day that we recycle to produce all of our optical frames in Italy.

Fishermen standing on a boat deck

“The market is changing, and consumers are more and more worried about the future we will leave to our kids. The proof is that in three years we are being sold in more than 2,500 optical stores across Europe and North America, and the numbers are growing.

Read more: Highlights from the 3rd edition of NOMAD St. Moritz

“People laughed at me four years ago when I had the idea of producing glasses with recycled marine plastic. Today we get calls daily from stores or brands that want our product or to collaborate with us.

“There is a global awareness that we must treat our planet better and consume differently, and Sea2See, thanks to its customers, is doing its part. Sustainable glasses will not change the world. People that wear them will.”

Discover the collections: sea2see.org

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Spider on lake in countryside
Small art gallery inside an art hotel

Ellerman House’s art collection features nearly 1,000 works

Hotels have long housed art collections, and now many are opening their own gallery spaces alongside art-focused programmes to offer guests unique cultural experiences. In his latest column for LUX, Abercrombie & Kent’s Founder Geoffrey Kent handpicks his favourite art hotels across the globe

Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa

Art lovers will delight in staying at this landmark hotel on Cape Town’s coast. Within the elegant Edwardian mansion of Ellerman House, close to 1,000 works of art reflect the changes in South Africa’s social and geographical landscape since the 1930s. Artists in the collection include John Meyer, Erik Laubscher, Jan Volschenk, Cathcart William Methven, and Pieter Wenning to name but a few. Guests can take a self-guided art tour with an electronic tablet providing insight into each piece. If you prefer, the in-house guide is on hand to take you around the extensive collection and beyond – guests can request guided excursions to the city’s local galleries, enjoying behind-the-scenes access and unmatched insight.

ellerman.co.za

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Luxurious hotel bathroom with artworks

The bathroom of the Royal Suite at The Silo, Cape Town

The Silo, Cape Town, South Africa

A disused grain silo may seem an unlikely candidate for a museum and an art hotel. Yet, this imposing building on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront has been transformed in recent years into a bastion for the African arts. The lower portion of the building is now my friend Jochen Zeitz’s eponymous Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. It’s home to the continent’s most extensive collection of contemporary African art. I’m proud to be one of its founding members and to support its primary aim of encouraging intercultural understanding. It’s a fantastic collection in an extraordinary building. Above, the museum is the beautiful Silo hotel in which I stayed for a few days before departing for the South Pole on one of my Inspiring Expeditions. The six storeys of luxury accommodation are brimming with curated artwork. The Silo’s owner, Liz Biden of The Royal Portfolio, has used the space to display her collection of African pieces. There are works by upcoming artists as well as more established names, such as Nandipha Mntambo, Cyrus Kabiru, and Mohau Modisakeng. The hotel even features its boutique gallery The Vault.

theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo

Artworks hanging on walls of lobby area

Hotel B is Lima’s first and only art hotel

Hotel B, Lima, Peru

For those of us who travel often, firsts are increasingly hard to come by, yet Hotel B is that rarest of things. Lima’s first – and only – art hotel is aptly situated in the city’s most bohemian district amid galleries and fashion boutiques. The building itself is brimming with character, converted as it is from a 1920s colonial mansion. Stay in this restored ‘grand dame’ to admire its private collection of more than 200 artworks, proudly displayed across the landings. Hotel B’s close relationship with nearby Lucia de la Puente Gallery allows guests to request private viewings easily; the gallery offers a fantastic insight into the world of contemporary Peruvian art.

hotelb.pe

Read more: In conversation with Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat

Spider on lake in countryside

‘Crouching Spider’ sculpture by Louise Bourgeois at Villa La Coste in Provence

Villa la Coste, Provence, France

The pastoral landscape of Provence is impossible to upstage, so the owners of Villa La Coste have sought instead to adorn it with dazzling flourishes of creativity. Throughout the biodynamic vineyard of Château La Coste and art hotel, sculptures are tucked amid verdant woodland, hills, and lawns – including works by acclaimed artists Ai Weiwei and Tracey Emin. You can enjoy a two-hour private art and architecture walk with the curator, learning all about the eclectic collection while taking in the beautiful Provençal countryside. Also, the hotel is home to its very own arts centre and hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Stay here, and you’ll never be short of art to admire (nor home-grown wine to sip as you do).

villalacoste.com

Art hotel bedroom

MONA Tasmania offers visitors the chance to stay on the museum grounds in a contemporary pavilion

MONA, Tasmania, Australia

Set on the banks of the River Derwent, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is Australia’s largest privately owned gallery and museum. It was masterminded by gambler and mathematician David Walsh and exhibits his diverse taste in art – from Ancient Egyptian relics to quirky dioramas. Whilst the museum isn’t strictly a hotel, visitors have the opportunity to stay in one of eight contemporary pavilions, each with its own unique character. As well as access to an enclosed lap pool, sauna, and gym, you’ll have a museum chock-full of eclectic and eccentric artwork right on your doorstep. Enjoy unfettered access to MONA’s permanent collection, and utilise its ‘O’ device during self-guided wanders to learn more about the art.

mona.net.au

Find out more: abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Cosy hotel bar lounge area with fireplace
Cosy hotel bar lounge area with fireplace

Boutique hotel Les Manoir de Portes de Deauville offers a homely kind of luxury in the heart of Normandy

Located just two hours from Paris, Deauville has long been a chic weekend destination for Parisians and now with the newly opened boutique hotel Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville, it’s perfect for families too. LUX Managing Editor Serena Hamilton discovers

Europeans tend to lean towards the same destinations in France. They go every summer, stay in the same house or hotel, get croissants from the same boulangerie and eat dinner in the same bistro. There’s something undoubtedly comforting about that kind of routine, knowing that your expectations will be met year after year, and yet, comfort as everyone knows doesn’t necessarily equal excitement or adventure. So this year, we decided to try somewhere new.

Deauville and its neighbouring town Trouville are often referred to as the “Parisian riviera” not just because of their proximity to the French capital, but also for their chic ambience. Deauville, for example, boasts a year round calendar of film festivals, yachting regattas and vintage car rallies as well as great shopping and a beautiful, albeit busy white sandy beach complete with Instagrammable candy-coloured parasols. The streets are immaculate and everyone is stylishly dressed, which is wonderful if you don’t have children hanging off your arms. For us, holidays are generally more about relaxation, and we tend to look for places which can offer adult-orientated calm whilst simultaneously catering to the children’s endless energy. Not a lot to ask for is it? Thankfully, Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville fitted the bill perfectly.

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Located a few minutes outside of Deauville town, the boutique hotel only opened its doors this summer and straddles the line between country manor hotel and Parisian chic. It’s set within acres of lush parkland, with a 16th century manor house at the centre and nine surrounding private cottages.The furnishings throughout are a mix of contemporary and antique, whilst the colour palette of pale pinks and creams pairs perfectly with the dark exposed beams and more rustic touches. Some of the rooms and shared spaces also have beautiful old brick fireplaces. More importantly, though, it feels like a space to be lived in rather than just admired, which means you can properly relax rather than stressing every time a child clambers over an armchair.

Historic manor house and lawn

The hotel is set within stunning parkland and gardens (see below) with bedrooms in the main manor house as well as private cottages

Garden of a manor house

We were staying in a very pretty little cottages (adjacent to the one booked by our family friends), which provided more space and the added luxury of total privacy, whilst still in easy access of the outdoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi. As parents it was pure bliss to sit drinking our morning coffee on the lawn whilst our children ran around the park and tipped each other out of the hammocks.

Read more: Half Moon Bay Antigua reveals Rosewood Residences

Sadly, the restaurant wasn’t yet open during our stay, but there were plenty of excellent nearby options including the historic town of Honfleur, where we enjoyed several lunches of delicious moules-frites on the harbour’s edge. In the evenings, after tucking the children into their beds, we strolled across the lawn to the main house for a cheese and charcuterie board with local wines in the cosy lounge bar. No need for hushed in-room dining, or babysitters.

Rustic elegant interiors of a hotel bedroom

Luxurious hotel suite with contemporary furnishings

The interiors blend rustic chic with contemporary furnishings and a calming colour palette

The staff, especially, made us feel immediately welcome and were wonderfully patient with the children’s endless requests for hot chocolates and snacks, which isn’t always the norm with luxury hotels. They were also very knowledgable about the local area and suggested child-friendly activities such as a cute petit train ride through the heart of Deauville, and strolls through the stunning countryside.

It might not be quite the place for the usual Deauville crowd, but for anyone wanting to relax in an elegant, unpretentious setting that’s within easy distance of a beach as well as upmarket restaurants and shops, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Rates start from €120 per night including breakfast (approx. £100/$150). Book your stay: portesdedeauville.com

 

 

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Man on ski slope wearing a red fleece with skis on his shoulder
Man on ski slope wearing a red fleece with skis on his shoulder

Olympian skier Alexis Pinturault, who was involved in designing the red, white and blue RM 67-02 Automatic

Irene Bellucci meets World-Cup-winning Alpine ski racer Alexis Pinturault and super-G skiing and giant slalom snowboarding Olympic gold medallist Ester Ledecká on the powdery slopes of Courchevel to talk winning, the thrill of the race and their roles as ambassadors for luxury watchmaker Richard Mille

Alexis Pinturault is France’s most successful skier, notching up 23 World Cup victories and representing his country in five World Championships and two Winter Olympics, most recently winning four bronze medals in the giant slalom event.

LUX: What does skiing mean to you?
Alexis Pinturault: Doing any kind of sport is a kind of mindset. It brings you education, respect, confidence. It is a way of life.

LUX: Are you very competitive?
Alexis Pinturault: Yes, maybe too much, but I am getting better. It’s important to know your competitors, but on the day of the race, there is just you. I try to be more accepting about losing, but I used to find it very difficult. Alpine skiers are a bit crazy.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Product image of watch with blue strap

RM 67-02 Automatic

LUX: Describe a typical training day for you.
Alexis Pinturault: I wake up at 6 or 6.30, warm up and have breakfast. I’ll be on the slopes by 7.30 for an inspection at 8.30, and take my first run at 9.30. Depending on the results, we might go ahead with a second inspection and run. We’ll then have a break, review progress and then I might have some physiotherapy. On the rare day that I’m not training, I’m not very patient. My wife and I are very active: we go hiking, diving, walking. Never just chilling on the beach.

LUX: What do you feel just before the start of the race?
Alexis Pinturault: I’m very focused on the moment. When I’m skiing, it’s all about instinct and I don’t have time to think about what I’m doing. If you start to think about it, the race is already over. When we are racing, we are like animals.

LUX: What do you consider “success”?
Alexis Pinturault: Success is an achievement. For a sportsman, it’s reaching a goal, like the Olympics. But even once you’ve achieved your goal, there are always other goals to reach for.

LUX: What are your other goals for the next five years?
Alexis Pinturault: I want to win the World Championship here in Courchevel in 2023, and then maybe the next Olympics in 2026.

LUX: Do you feel pressure to set an example for the next generation of skiers?
Alexis Pinturault: You do feel pressure when you spot all the kids and all the people cheering for you at the finish line, waiting for autographs and selfies and wanting to spend time with you. But it’s amazing to come back to Courchevel and ski with the kids from the ski club.

Read more: Inside Andermatt’s newly opened concert hall

LUX: Are you a watch enthusiast?
Alexis Pinturault: Yes. I got my first watch from my grandfather, and another one after I got married.

LUX: Do you wear your Richard Mille watch during competitions?
Alexis Pinturault: Yes, it’s lightweight and I wear it under gloves and a protector for slalom and giant slalom races. I was involved in designing some of the details and suggested white for snow, and red and blue to represent the French flag.

LUX: Is there a connection between the brand and your sport?
Alexis Pinturault: Yes – we are both focused on pushing the limits, always looking and trying new ideas.

Woman in ski gear and helmet on ski slopes

Olympian skier Ester Ledecká

At the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Ester Ledecká triumphed in both the super-G Alpine skiing event and the giant slalom in snowboarding. This feat made the Czech athlete the first person to win gold in two separate disciplines at the same Winter Olympics.

LUX: Can you describe the feeling of skiing downhill?
Ester Ledecká: Pure freedom. When I ride down the hills, I can feel little fireworks inside my heart. The feeling is even stronger when I’m competing! Everyone asks me, “How are you going to celebrate after the race?” and I always reply that I have already celebrated. Nothing better can happen after the run because I’ve already experienced the best feeling in the world.

LUX: Why do you do both snowboarding and skiing?
Ester Ledecká: For me, this is an easy question to answer. It’s because I love both of them too much! I don’t want to be bored by either of them.

LUX: How do you win races across both disciplines?
Ester Ledecká: There is no tutorial for it. I worked hard, I started when I was two years old and I have trained every day for 22 years. It takes a lot of training, and you need to learn how to lose – billions of times – before you reach some kind of result.

Read more: Spring Studios Founder Francesco Costa on creative networking

LUX: What is your relationship with time?
Ester Ledecká: Actually, I am in a race with time. I don’t race with other girls, I race with time. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowboarding or skiing. It doesn’t matter who’s next to me. I just need to be fast.

Product image of a green watch against a black background

RM67-02

LUX: Does your Richard Mille watch help?
Ester Ledecká: Richard Mille gave me my first watch. The design of these watches is all about precision and details. There are no excuses; everything needs to be perfect. I love the way you can see all the details inside the dial; other brands hide the workings of the watch, but Richard Mille’s are perfect. When I met the Richard Mille ‘family’, I fell in love with the whole team. This watch is much more than a pretty thing I have on my wrist, it’s a reminder that I’m part of something very big. The company supports me not as a sponsor, but like a real family. They are with me if I win or if I lose. When I’m wearing my watch, I remember that someone’s got my back.

LUX: Do you wear the watch during the competitions?
Ester Ledecká: Sadly no, because it doesn’t fit under my suit and protection for downhill and super-G. But I can wear it to play other sports because it’s so light.

LUX: Who else supports your career?
Ester Ledecká: I am lucky to come from a very supportive family. My grandpa [Jan Klapáč] was a world champion in ice hockey and he taught me how to love sport and how to lose. He showed me how beautiful and fun a professional sport can be. To become a professional athlete you need a lot of passion. You have to sacrifice a lot, including your personal life. It’s a tough job, but he taught me how to love even the hardest parts of my job. My mum also comes with me everywhere, she’s never missed a race – apart from one on the other side of the ocean because she is afraid to fly.

LUX: What are your future goals now that you’ve already won so much?
Ester Ledecká: I haven’t won anything at all, I am just at the beginning. There is a long way in front of me. Even in snowboarding, there is still something to improve. I still have a lot of races to win in skiing. That will take a long time, but step by step…

LUX: Can you describe Alexis?
Ester Ledecká: Fast. Cute. And one of my skiing idols.

Thank you to the Hôtel Annapurna in Courchevel, owned by Pinturault’s family, for hosting LUX. For more information visit: annapurna-courchevel.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Vineyards pictured at night with orange sky
A woman jumping in a vineyard with a basket full of grapes

“I worked in nature as if it was in the studio. The vineyards seemed to me a very poetical, mysterious and playful environment.” – Marie Benattar

Louis Roederer makes what might just be the world’s most famous champagne, Cristal, and a range of others all renowned for their sophistication and complexity. Less known is the family-owned company’s visionary art foundation, and foray into the luxury boutique hotel industry. Darius Sanai speaks to CEO and 7th-generation family scion, Frédéric Rouzaud, about photography,
art, hospitality, and almost everything except champagne
Man in a suit and glasses standing in a hotel

Frédéric Rouzaud

Travelling from the heart of London to the heart of Paris is, in some ways, like stepping from one luxury universe into another. In Mayfair, every conversation is about money – what’s for sale, what’s being sold, who might buy what. A brand is a currency, there to have its value inflated and sold on to the next wheeler-dealer.

Paris may be the home of the global luxury industry, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is – mostly – not considered appropriate to have the same conversations. For every private equity group buying and selling companies like card sharps distributing aces, there is a celebrated company (don’t call them brands) that has been in family hands for centuries.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This is one of the first thoughts that flows through my head when I meet Frédéric Rouzaud in a hotel lobby in the chi-chi 16th arrondissement. Through the Maison Louis Roederer, Rouzaud may be the family owner and CEO of one of the world’s most celebrated luxury brands – who doesn’t know Cristal, after all – but it’s apparent that this thoughtful, understated and gently smiling gentleman in a dapper suit is a different breed to many modern CEOs. Louis Roederer is a Maison, not a brand.

Photography by Michel Slomka

We settle in quickly to an easy conversation about art, and in particular photography. Recently, Louis Roederer invited young abstract artistic photographers to create images of the champagne house, its cellars and grounds, giving them carte blanche to interpret whatever they wished, however they wanted.

The results, which have never been publicly exhibited, are published on these pages. But Rouzaud, who expresses an enthusiasm for photography and 20th and 21st century art, is doing so much more in the world of art through the Fondation Louis Roederer (a private foundation), and has a plan to develop a collection of luxury boutique hotels. Here is a polymath who is plainly not interested in being pigeonholed. And, of course, the Louis Roederer brand owns several wine estates and makes some of the world’s most celebrated champagnes – not just Cristal, which needs little introduction – including a personal favourite, the complex yet ethereal blanc de blancs.

Abstract photography of women in white dresses

“I found in champagne perfect elements related to dreams… it appears as a perfect opportunity to explore a fairy direction.” – Marie Benattar

LUX: Tell us more about your hotel projects?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We bought our first hotel last November, in the Alps in France. A hotel seems far away from the wine world, but not so far when you look for a long-term strategy that you need to have for hotels. Like for wine, it’s about the French ‘art de vivre’. It’s about gastronomy, the experience and wine. My idea is to create a small boutique hotel collection, and also by having some private houses open to private consumers who would like to live a very nice experience around wine in our different properties. [Outside of Champagne] we have wine properties in Provence, Portugal, two châteaux in Bordeaux, one in California. The idea is to create a small collection either by buying hotels like we did in the Alps or by creating some hotels within our winery sites, which are generally very nice places to stay.

Read more: Wes Anderson & Juman Malouf curate an exhibition at Fondazione Prada

LUX: Will there be a particular aesthetic?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We will try to make people feel comfortable and at home. We will work with some designers that have this sense of conviviality, [to create] a nice experience. We will adapt to each place – the style, the sense of the place. It will be a five-star hotel that is casual and comfortable, family friendly.

Vineyards photographed at night

“I worked at night by the light of the moon. I have aspired to build mirage images in order to reveal what can not be mastered by man, the very power of nature. The artificial lights were developed to unmask ghostly presences, unreal scenes, dreamlike horizons.” – Lucie Jean

LUX: There is a very powerful partnership between your Maison and the art world. The photography for the prize that you do is very abstract. Is that something you initiated yourself and how has it grown?
Frédéric Rouzaud: The story started 20 years ago, when we met the president of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. They have a fantastic collection of more than five million images – old photographs from the beginning of the creation of the photography – but they didn’t know what to do with it because they are more book-orientated. So they asked us if we would be interested in helping them show the fantastic collection to the public. That is how we started our collaboration, and we did a lot of very nice and interesting exhibitions there. We sponsor all of the exhibitions and they are fantastic. It is a very serious, rigorous and interesting collection of photography with plenty of artists.

Aerial image of a woman sitting on curved steps

“Views from above of the symbolic interiors of Roederer were completed with images of starry skies from the vineyards. This face- to-face seemed to us to be a poetic metaphor for what champagne represents, a kind of cosmic union between earth and sky.” – Simon Brodbeck and Lucie de Barbuat.

LUX: What about the young photographers we feature here?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We asked the Bibliothèque Nationale de France to select for us eight or ten young photographers who went to Champagne; there was lots of creativity and they decided to photograph Roederer as their own perception.

LUX: What did you think of what they did?
Frédéric Rouzaud: I think it was great. I think it was so different and their approach was phenomenal.

LUX: You must have a personal passion for photography to give it such support?
Frédéric Rouzaud: I am interested by art and photography – because photography is really a contemporary art form. I think it is approachable for people who sometimes do not understand or find it difficult to approach contemporary art. Photography is always approachable, understandable… and I see a big future, a big potential for photography. It is a very nice, aesthetic art.

Vineyards pictured at night with orange sky

“The intervention of man gives a very graphic aspect to the vines. I sought, through the strength of this vegetation and nature,
visual haikus which would plunge us between the lines from what is immediately visible.” – Lucie Jean

LUX: Do you collect photography yourself ?
Frédéric Rouzaud: I have some, I don’t only collect photography – I collect many things. I buy lots of intuition and inspiration (laughs). I am not a collector in the sense that I buy everything, I am more for going into galleries on the weekends/ auction sales to see what is going on – I can buy photography, a chair, a lamp…

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on travelling beyond the beaten track

LUX: Does your foundation have a physical home that people can visit?
Frédéric Rouzaud: No, not yet. The purpose of the foundation is to help institutions and museums like Palais de Tokyo and Le Grand Palais to show to the public their fantastic collections. I think we are much more for that approach rather than to say, ‘Hey, look at my foundation, look at my collection, come and visit it.’ We are a small company, we are more for helping the French big institutions, like Bibliothèque Nationale, trying to choose the artists that really talk to us in a way – that is the first point. The second point is the different prizes that we have created now; we like to discover new talents. That is really the two things helping the institution with known artists – because there are lots of artists who we have sponsored who were known, but we also like to give prizes to new talents.

Dark image of a woman in the night picking grapes

“For me, photography is a way to discover and observe the world, to embrace its complexity without feeling too much gravity. It is also a way to take time, spend it and even try to stop it.” – Marie Benattar

LUX: Is the private sector becoming more important in supporting art?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Museums don’t always have the means to do these exhibitions for the public so they seem very happy to have that kind of foundation to help. I think it is very important, yes. Even if in France it is less usual to have funds from a private company or foundation like it is in the UK, it is very normal. But I think it is coming and definitely there are never enough funds to help art. If the approach is quiet, organised, long-term and focused on what we like, I think there is no reason that it doesn’t work, because again in our approach we are more behind museums that have the savoir faire, the connection. We prefer to be maybe a little bit behind the scenes.

LUX: Are wine and art similar?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Of course, there is a link. But I always say to my team, ‘Don’t consider yourselves artists. We are not artists. We are artisans, dedicated to nature, trying to interpret each year what nature likes to give us: climate, size of grapes, concentration…’ And we try to make, modestly, with that, a wine that we sell. Artists have total freedom. We don’t. We have to ferment the wine, we have to press the wine, it has to be vigorous. It’s close to the artists’ work – but we don’t have the freedom. The only thing you have to do as an artist is express what you have in your head. So there is a very natural link between the world of wine and the world of art, but we are not artists.

Portrait of a woman standing in front of a pink wall

“The need and the desire to create cannot be explained. It’s like a breath, a small voice and sometimes even a cry that animates you and takes you to creation.” – Laura Bonnefous

LUX: Is it true to say the world of wine is more objective than art?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Yes, in the world of wine we have to follow rules, some tools, some gestures. In art, you do what you want – you are much more free. We are free in the way that we are free to search the best soils to plant the vineyards, we are free to search the best way for pruning the vineyards, the way of fine-tuning our grapes, our methods, our pressing process, our fermentation, our storage – we are free for that. But at the end of the day, the focus has to be a bottle of wine that is appreciated by the consumers. An artist, if he makes something and it pleases collectors, it is good. If it doesn’t please them, it is fine also!

Read more: Spring Studios’ Founder Francesco Costa on building a creative network

LUX: With wine, is the product the most important thing? Or the brand?
Frédéric Rouzaud: (Laughs) The brand comes after the product, in our approach. We do small quantities, small production in our own vineyards. We don’t buy grapes, we don’t buy wine, so it is a small production and we produce a small quantity of wine – not enough for the world and we are fine with that, because we don’t know how to do more at that level of quality. For us the brand is more a Maison; it is a family-owned company and we make a product the best way we can and if it becomes a brand, fine! But we are not trying to make a brand and then make the product. We were founded in 1776 and my brothers and sisters have done a great job to make a brand today – called Roederer – but still the team is really not in that approach of branding. We are really behind our product, behind our vineyards.

Men throwing buckets in vineyards

“A Cristal bottle is transparent; I tried to make the production process transparent by highlighting the talented people working in the vineyard, the cellars, the factory, the office…” – Sandra Reinflet

LUX: Tell us why you chose Val-d’Isère for your first hotel?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Why Val-d’Isère? This resort in terms of value, authenticity, purity of skiing… it really is the resort in France, if you like to ski. I like to ski and I have been to lots of resorts in France. After testing Val-d’Isère you will be disappointed if you go elsewhere – if you like to ski. Plus the fact that it is a historic hotel, one of the first of the resort, and it belonged to a family – the same family who built the hotel.

LUX: How important is China for you?
Frédéric Rouzaud: It is small yet. We are very strong in Hong Kong, but China is quite small at the moment. First, we do not have the volume. Second, the market is very young. Sometimes champagne is considered as goods which should be offered for parties. I don’t know why – champagne as a commodity. In an emerging market like that you have to sponsor a lot if you want to be in some places and we are not in this game, because we do not have the volume. We have such a respect for the wine itself that we don’t like to give it for free. We only do it sometimes, as a special prize.

LUX: We were talking about biodynamics…
Frédéric Rouzaud: We are running the Cristal estate in Champagne, 100% biodynamically, it has been ten years now so we are very happy with it. I am not a technician, but I have tastes; the grapes and maturities, the balance of the grapes concentration, acidity, level of alcohol – and it is working very well.

LUX: What difference does it make to the products when you make it biodynamically?
Frédéric Rouzaud: It is difficult to express but I think it gives it more vibrancy, more life in the wine.

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue

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Facade of a hotel at night lit with a purple sunset behind
Facade of Le Negresco hotel

Le Negresco hotel is the epitome of the French riviera

Why should I go now?

July is the month the city of Nice, capital of the French riviera, comes alive. Beaches are lively but not yet as teeming as in August, the nightlife is in full swing, the weather is warm and the sea is blue. If only there were a place to rise above it all – oh, wait, there is.

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What’s the lowdown?

Le Negresco is the epitome of the French riviera, with art and glamour at its heart. Whether you’re a fan of Princess Grace or Niki de St Phalle, Dalí or Louis Armstrong, there is something in the hotel to touch you – the grand facade even hides a roomful of street art.

Luxurious classic style dining room

The hotel’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Chantecler

Meanwhile you can hone your Riviera as it suits you; there’s live music every night on the Terrace, which looks out onto the Promenade des Anglais, the classic curved boulevard looping along the Mediterranean seafront; or disappear into old-world elegance in the two Michelin-starred Le Chantecler restaurant, with its 18th century grandeur.

Read more: Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson’s pop-up hotel in Notting Hill

Getting Horizontal

There are different styles of room as well as different price-categories. Decor in the rooms is a blend of classical and super-contemporary with suitably artistic touches in fixtures, fittings and funky wall coverings; meanwhile a sea view junior suite transports you to a time when the French riviera was pretty much the only seaside destination for anyone wealthy enough to visit on their Grand Tour, with rich classical furnishings.

Luxurious hotel suite with a balcony and views of the sea

One of the luxurious suites at Le Negresco

Flipside

Nice is a city with a rich cultural programme, and teeming with restaurants, bars, museums, gardens and artisanal shopping. The Negresco is the seafront hotel literally at the heart of it all, so it’s not a place to be if you want to be away from the world. But for a few nights of summer living, we love it.

Rates from: €155 per room ($200/£150)

Book your stay: hotel-negresco-nice.com

Darius Sanai

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A silver sports car pictured in front of a stately home and behind a water fountain
Last weekend saw the 5th edition of Richard Mille’s annual automotive competition in Chantilly, France. Here, we recall the event in images

The weekend kicked off with the supercar rally in which the Mortefontaine track was turned into a playground for luxury cars and their owners. Practicing slaloms, braking and speed bowls, drivers such as skiing champion Alexis Pinturault showed off their racing prowess.

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Meanwhile, lunch at the Palais de Compiègne in the company of Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake was a quieter affair. Here, at the Rallye des Collectionneurs, the public had the opportunity to marvel at a collection of rare cars including McLaren P1 GTR and 720s, Ferrari’s LaFerrari, Enzo and 288 GTO models, the Porsche 918 and various Mercedes SLRs.

Richard Mille car show by a lake

Before dinner entertainment that evening was provided by champion rider Jessica von Bredow-Werndl who impressed guests, including Australian actress Margot Robbie, with an elegant dressage in the stunning setting of the Grandes Écuries de Chantilly.

Read more: Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson’s pop-up hotel in Notting Hill

Sunday continued with the Concours D’Elegance, bringing together automotive masterpieces whilst guests enjoyed boat rides along the grand canal and old fashioned games on the lawn. An elegant weekend indeed.

Horse rider performing in an arena of a stately home

Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl performing a dressage demonstration before the Saturday night gala dinner

People at a car show in the setting of a stately home

Classic car driving through crowds

Richard Mille Chantilly Arts & Elegance 2019 took place on 29 & 30 June. For more information visit: chantillyartsetelegance.com

 

 

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Abstract painting of a curved black line
Surreal photograph of a woman with a star for a head

‘Mannequin-étoile'(1936), Dora Maar. © Adagp, Paris, 2019. Photo © Centre Pompidou

To the majority of people, Dora Maar is Picasso’s lover and his muse, and yet Maar was an innovative and avant-garde artist in her own right – before Picasso came into the picture. In the Pompidou’s latest retrospective exhibition, Dora Maar is finally given the centre stage she deserves.

There are nearly 500 of her works and documents on display, inviting the visitor to journey through the entire length of her career, from her initial works as a professional photographer in the fashion industry, to the capturing of both political and social concerns in her street photography, and her central involvement in the surrealist movement. This is the first exhibit of Maar’s work at a national museum, presenting the rare opportunity to see works from both public and private collections in one place.

Surreal photograph of woman's legs disembodied

‘Sans titre’ (1935), Dora Maar. © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo credit © Centre Pompidou

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The stand out pieces of the show are her iconic surreal photographs. They are oddities formed of auto-curious objects which hold us between disbelief and reality, as seen in Mannequin-Étoile (1936) and sans titre (1935). In Mannequin-Étoile we are positioned to be frustrated, caught between identifying the stage set and the female performer, but also restrained from knowing or seeing the whole truth – we are unclear of where she is going and who she is. Her star head simultaneously functions as a clue to the theatre setting and a disguise. It is through Maar’s use of the uncanny and strange that we are able to identify the influence of other surrealist photographers such as Man Ray and Hans Bellmer, as well as other artists such as Breton and Miro. Like them, her work continues to actively challenge and provoke its audiences, inviting us to embrace new perspectives and break away from the norm.

Naked woman photographed against a wall with her shadow

‘Assia’ (1934), Dora Maar. © Adagp, Paris 2019 / Photo © Centre Pompidou

Rosie Ellison-Balaam

‘Dora Maar’ runs until 29 July 2019 at the Pompidou Centre, Paris. For more information visit: centrepompidou.fr

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Hands drawing on pieces of paper in a workshop setting with shoe insoles
Pain of black high heels pictured in front of medical bottles

Maison Baum heels are fitted with a pain-free insole

Newly launched shoe brand Maison Baum combines French luxury design with German medical expertise to create a high heel that’s as comfortable to wear as it is stylish. We speak to co-founder Christof Baum about their patented pain-free insole, sustainable fashion and recycling

A man and a woman wearing lab coats in an old shop

Co-founders Sophie Tréhoret and Christof Baum

1. What inspired you to start Maison Baum?

I’ve seen a lot of women around me suffer from pain in high heels, including my sister. My dad is an orthopaedic surgeon, so the idea came about naturally to explore how to apply his knowhow and make beautiful shoes with it.

In addition, French was my first foreign language and having grown up in a city just next to the border, it felt like the brand should combine my love for France while at the same time valuing my family’s German heritage.

2. How does your pain-free insole work exactly?

The insole involves seven cushioned elements that support your foot bones in just the right places to prevent your foot from slipping forward. Together with my father, I have identified the key anatomic areas which you need to relieve. Due to the anatomical insole and a couple of other measures, our shoes reduce forefoot pressure by around fifty percent and are a lot easier to keep on your feet compared to other heels.

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3. What’s been the most challenging part of setting up a fashion start-up?

Defining a vision and believing in it when no one else does. New challenges come at you every day and you have to cover a broad range of topics, such as accounting, design or even foot anatomy. Nevertheless no matter what happens, it’s important to focus on the work you can do to improve the situation in that moment, think ahead and surround yourself with the right people. I’ve been very lucky to work with people I value both on a professional and personal level, and this is what makes all the difference.

4. How are you tackling issues of sustainability?

Sustainability is a heartfelt desire for me. We only have one earth to live on and to take care of and as shoemakers we belong to one of the most polluting industries. Nevertheless the world we live in is complex, and you need to think sustainability from various ways.

For Maison Baum, we try to implement environmentally sound materials wherever we can and combine them with social and economic long-term sustainability. Hence, we manufacture with selected European suppliers and family-owned companies only and make 90% of our packaging from recycled cardboard. Our designs are classic and timeless and we focus on creating ever-green design superstars that you can wear for many years instead of only following the latest fashion trends that will make you throw away your heels after a few months of wearing them.

However, combining feminine design with the largest medical soundness to make them “sustainable” for the body remains our utmost priority.

Read more: Designer Mary Katrantzou on the business of fashion

Hands drawing on pieces of paper in a workshop setting with shoe insoles

Inside the Maison Baum workshop

5. If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?

It would be to have internationally-binding and actually enforceable standards on the potential disassembly of shoes. We humans throw away and burn an insane amount of fashion and footwear every year. The number one reason why shoes are so rarely recycled is that most are glued together and can’t be easily separated into their constitutive materials.

6. What’s the longest period you’ve spent wearing  Maison Baum heels?

10 hours straight at home. But I wouldn’t repeat that in public.

Find out more: maisonbaum.com

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Painting of a group of young women in a bedroom setting
Abstract graphic style painting featuring red vibrant background

‘Dead End’ (2018), Loie Hollowell

Frank Cohen is one of the UK’s most renowned art collectors. Since selling his DIY business in 1997, he has built up a collection of more than 2,000 artworks by classic and contemporary artists. Here, he tells us how he caught the collecting bug, and which destinations are the most interesting for art right now.

Portrait photograph of the profile of a man on the phone

Frank Cohen. Image by Jonathan Straight

1. How did you first get into collecting?

As young as 7 years old I started to collect cigarette packets. In those days there were not so many brands and the cigarette packets had wonderful graphic designs on them. I asked all my aunts and uncles and my mothers friends to save the packets when they had smoked the cigarettes as everyone smoked in those days. 68 years ago it was fashionable and I kept them in mint condition always.

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When I was about 14 years of age I started collecting coins. One day when I went to a cinema in Manchester the cashier gave me a Victorian penny in my change. I had never seen one before so I took it to a numismatist, which was next to the cinema and he gave me half a crown for it! I collected coins for nearly 20 years and had one of the biggest collections of pattern coins in England.

Pattern coins are coins that were presented to the Royal Mint to be picked to go into circulation. I collected the ones that were never put into circulation, making them very rare. There were only about 10 minted of each, one always went to the Victoria & Albert Museum for their collection and the Queen gets one.

Painting of a shipping dock by L.S. Lowry

‘Glasgow Docks’ (1947), L.S. Lowry

2. Do you have an all time favourite artist?

I have all time favourite artists during different times in my collection. When I started collecting there was no contemporary art scene, so I collected Modern British art but if I could have afforded to buy anything I would have bought Picasso or Monet.

When I first started buying I bought Edward Burra, a fantastic English painter who only painted in water colours that looked like oils. I also bought L.S.Lowry, one of the greatest British painters of the last 100 years. In the late ‘70’s I bought Dubuffet and Miró from Leslie Waddington who let me pay for them over 2 or 3 years, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to collect them. Afterwards he offered me Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko, that were actually very cheap but I still couldn’t afford them. Today they are worth millions! You win some and lose some and I don’t regret anything or anything I bought.

3. If your collection could speak, what would it say about you?

My collections speak to me and my wife Cherryl, who has always been very important and supportive in my career. We’ve really collected together. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. It would say to me ‘I love you because you have made the right choice’.

Abstract painting featuring multiple figures in pink, red and blue

‘La Vie en Rose’ (1980), Jean Dubuffet

4. What’s the most interesting destination for art right now and why?

I suppose the Far East is an interesting destination right now for buyers but because the world is global there are some really good artists coming through from Brazil, Africa, Thailand and Romania. America, Germany and London, France and Italy were always at the forefront.

Read more: Contemporary ceramicist Edmund de Waal at The Frick Collection, NYC

5. Have you ever doubted your artistic judgment?

I have never doubted my artistic judgment because it’s me buying the artist. To put it another way I have bought some terrible things over the years and some great things – how do you judge it, how much money is it worth? I have done very well but I haven’t bought for that reason. I have artists that will never ever increase in value but I love them still.

Painting of a group of young women in a bedroom setting

‘Anonymous Now’ (2019), Chloe Wise

6. What’s your exhibition recommendation for this year?

My recommendations for this year mean nothing except to me, as no doubt people that read this article will naturally have a different view. Besides all the classic artists I have collected over the years, I have also bought young artists as well right now like Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Alex de Corte, Chloe Wise, William Monk and Loie Hollowell.

Read more of our 6 Questions interviews here

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Artist at work in his studio
Artist in the process of painting onto a large canvas

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar at work in his studio

Franco-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, despite a childhood spent escaping war, then living in post- revolutionary Iran and enduring the subsequent prejudice, produces the most brilliantly coloured and life-affirming paintings. James Parry speaks with him ahead of his new exhibition in Düsseldorf

It’s an idyllic scene. Azure skies and an enticing ultramarine sea reaching out to the horizon and dotted with yachts, the perfect backdrop for a picture-postcard harbour town with cobbled streets lined with stylish shops and restaurants. Bougainvillea froths over historic façades and cicadas chirp in the beautifully manicured gardens of opulent villas. Welcome to the south of France, and to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar has made his home here, following in the footsteps of artists such as Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and Picasso, all drawn to the French Riviera by the dramatic light, colours and stunning scenery.

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As bucolic as this may sound, in Behnam- Bakhtiar’s case, the Côte d’Azur provides welcome and creative sanctuary from a life that has not been without its challenges. Born in France in 1984 to Iranian parents who left their homeland after the Islamic Revolution, he would only visit Iran for a few weeks each summer to see family. But even such relatively brief trips could be fraught. For much of the 1980s Iran was engaged in a bitter war with Iraq, and Tehran was periodically targeted by Iraqi missiles. “It was terrifying,” remembers Behnam-Bakhtiar. “We could hear the rockets roaring overhead, and then the explosions.” On one occasion, he and his mother had to make a desperate dash to the city of Bandar Abbas to catch the last flight out of the country to safety in Europe.

Large scale abstract painting hanging on a studio wall

‘Lovers’ (2018) by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Further turmoil and trauma were to follow when, at the age of nine, Behnam-Bakhtiar moved to Iran permanently with his mother,to a world far removed from the childhood comforts of suburban Paris. He was a foreigner in a land deeply suspicious of the West. “At school they used to call me ‘the outsider’ and it wasn’t long before the verbal insults turned into actual physical violence,” he recalls.

The bullying came not only from his fellow pupils but also from the teachers, and continued outside of school, with intimidation and harassment from the police an almost daily occurrence. Behnam-Bakhtiar was singled out for being different, and because of his family’s history and role in the government prior to the Islamic revolution. Only by standing his ground and fighting his corner (literally, helped by taekwondo classes), did the unwelcome newcomer manage to get through each day. “At times it was pure darkness and not easy to focus on the potential light at the end of the tunnel,” he admits.

Read more: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele on Chopard’s partnership with Mille Miglia

But light there was, and Behnam-Bakhtiar will be focusing on the empowering aspects of such life experiences in his forthcoming exhibition ‘Extremis’, which opens at Setareh Gallery in Düsseldorf on 24 October. An evolution of his ‘Oneness Wholeness’ body of work, which wowed crowds last year at the Saatchi Gallery in London and at Jean Cocteau’s dramatically decorated Villa Santo Sospir on Cap Ferrat, the show will consist mostly of new works. “My new paintings reflect on what I learned from my difficult times in Iran and from life in general,” explains the artist. “By putting it out on the canvas, I’m saying that even in the toughest of situations, it’s always possible to learn and move forward towards becoming a more complete human being.”

Close up detail image of abstract colourful painting

Detail of Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s painting ‘Eternal Wholeness’

Behnam-Bakhtiar’s work, which is both beautiful and technically proficient, has been achieved against an unusual and sometimes difficult background. His parents were both artists, but post-revolution Iran presented its challenges for opportunities to express or develop any artistic potential. What saved him was his camera. “Photography was my creative safety valve,” he explains. “I was always out and about, taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. That in itself was problematic during those years in Iran, but I learnt how to be discreet.”

Soon he had amassed a vast bank of images, part of an archive of source material that he now uses in his work. “I’ve been collecting ideas for years,” he admits, “especially patterns and designs that appeal to me.” These inspire him in the choosing of his own motifs, mostly Persian-oriented, which he uses in his collage- style paintings. To refer to them as ‘mixed media on canvas’ comes nowhere close to doing them justice, as they are complex and painstakingly crafted works of immense skill, using the artist’s trademark layered technique (see end of article). Behnam-Bakhtiar specialises in large works, expansive and yet also highly detailed, studded with jewel-like effects that resonate with the richness of a Persian heritage that he regards as central to what he does and who he is.

Close up image of an abstract painting

Detail of ‘Lovers’ (2018)

This approach – and the battle between light and dark in human life – will be brought into sharp relief in the new show. The exhibition centrepiece will be an epic work, Tornado of Life (2017), a vivid and exuberant painting around which many other works will be gathered. More guarded and sombre in hue, with just flickers of brighter colours emerging, these paintings serve to emphasise the triumph of light – and indeed of personal enlightenment – that Behnam- Bakhtiar seeks to achieve. Even in the darkest days in Iran, he explains, he drew positives from the friendships that he eventually made there.

Read more: Masseto unveils a new underground wine cellar

“Sassan stands out as a globally educated artist of Iranian background who is bringing works of great relevance to the canon of world art history,” says Samandar Setareh, owner of Setareh Gallery. “By using historic references, as well as a deeply personal and sensitive vision of the human condition, he is formulating a language that is understood beyond any frontier of cultural limitation.” ‘Extremis’ reflects the global appeal of this ethos and art, as well as Behnam-Bakhtiar’s commitment to identifying and developing positive outcomes from seemingly bleak situations. The myriad layers of his textured paintings reflect the very complexity and passage of life itself, a synthesis of practical skill and ingenuity that results in a very special type of art.

Artist at work in his studio

The artist in his studio

Layers of technique

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s stunning artworks are created by a particular technique that has become his trademark. In much the same way as his life experience is layered and complex, his artworks are similarly intricate. Working in mixed media and oil on canvas, he builds up his paintings through the application of different layers of paint. These can include fragments of handcrafted designs that he attaches to the canvas, collage-style. He overpaints each layer, in some cases working to a grid-like pattern to create a mosaic effect. Finally, he uses a plasterer’s edging trowel to remove sections of the top layers of paint and reveal the colours underneath, resulting in the kaleidoscopic effect for which his works are renowned.

Find out more: sassanbehnambakhtiar.com or setareh-gallery.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

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Contemporary architectural steel work on the facade of a glass building
Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture

The spectacular architecture of the Hôtel Chais Monnet, designed by Didier Poignant

A new kind of luxury hotel in Cognac sets new standards of comfort, cuisine and architecture for those exploring the region that’s been in the shadow of nearby Bordeaux for too long, says James Richardson
A grand piano in a rustic wooden setting

Le 1838, the hotel’s jazz and cognac bar

A short drive from the city of Bordeaux, the newly opened Chais Monnet is the swankiest hotel in southwest France and the first of a new breed of destination – the super-luxury auberge. The hotel and spa (and conference centre) are situated in and around a very expensively converted former cognac-aging warehouse by the Charente river. Lavishly designed by architect Didier Poignant, the hotel’s spectacular exterior complements the welcoming contemporary chic of the interior.

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The 92 rooms (and 15 apartments) are decorated with a sophisticated rustic charm, the spa features a 24-metre indoor-outdoor pool, and the jazz bar, in its own converted building, is hugely atmospheric. The greatest revelation is in the restaurants, in the former cognac warehouse itself, headed by Sébastien Broda, who earned a Michelin star for Le Park 45 in Cannes. There is a real Soho House vibe (not surprisingly, since owner Javad Marandi also owns the legendary Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire in the UK), with the cuisine both light and delicious – the memory of a super-umami fish pot au feu at Saturday brunch remains with us still.

Read more: The problematic stereotypes cast by the male nude in art

Luxury contemporary interiors of a hotel lobby

The hotel’s decor is casual contemporary luxe

A luxurious hotel bedroom with rustic interiors

The guest rooms have been carefully incorporated into the original structure of the buildings

Luxury spa swimming pool with sun loungers

The indoor/outdoor pool in the spa

While it’s tempting not to leave the hotel, the experiences on offer in the area are compelling, from cycle tours along the river to driving to picnics in the local vineyards in a vintage car supplied by the hotel. Then there’s the serious business of tastings at the celebrated local cognac houses, such as Martell, Rémy Martin and Courvoisier, or sampling the wines of the great Bordeaux châteaux not far to the south.

For more information and to book your stay visit: chaismonnethotel.com

This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue.

Picturesque setting of a house on the edge of a river in Autumn

The Cognac region offers bucolic summertime relaxation and historical sites aplenty

A salad arranged artistically on a black ceramic plate

A chef working in industrial kitchen

Chef Sébastien Broda in the kitchens, and one of his dishes that use locally sourced produce and that are served in the hotel’s Les Foudres and La Distillerie restaurants

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Reading time: 2 min
White cliffs of dover with the channel stretching into a blue horizon

Image of a DFDS ferry floating on the sea

The DFDS ferry from Dover to Calais only takes 90 minutes, but with beautiful views, good food, and the comforts of a VIP lounge, you’ll wish the journey was longer, says LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

What is the most curious new development of early 2019 was a report stating that sales of paper maps are actually increasing. The report quoted extensively from the august merchant of the world’s greatest and most detailed maps, the cartographers Stanfords of Longacre in London. Apparently, in the era when your phone contains not just a map but predictions for exactly you should be doing in the confines of that map, the lure of the paper map is increasing, not decreasing – in some cases, anyway.

On the face of it, this seems bizarre. Why would we need a foldout map, when everything you might have a need to know about a journey is stored inside your phone, and by tapping your destination, it will not only tell you how to get there, it will tell you exactly how long it will take you to get there and how many people recommend the fish pie at each restaurant en route. Astonishing progress. Or is it?

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Think about that for a second: on a Google map, your journey across the country, or across the continent, is reduced to a simple statement of time. This is an amount of time, it is implied, that must be endured until you do what you actually need to do, which is is get to the stated destination at the other end. It completely ignores the fact that the journey might be an end itself, that the journey might be something to enjoy and indulge in.
White cliffs of dover with the channel stretching into a blue horizon

The iconic white cliffs of Dover

Your electronic devices all about maximising the efficiency of delivering a certain message in a certain way. Yet the art of travel is precisely the opposite. Your journey is not data to be downloaded in a microsecond. It is something to be indulged in and appreciated in itself, not simply a means to an end.

These days, there are many very efficient ways to get from Britain across the continent of Europe (Brexit aside), including a plethora of travel by aircraft to different hubs, high-speed trains, and of course the tunnel under the Channel. But all of these assume that the two points of interest in your journey are the beginning and the end, and nothing in between. Or, in the case of the tunnel, assuming that the speed with which you get from one side of the water to the other is more important than what’s above.

Read more: Ingenuity is crucial to human destiny

Until relatively recently you might have been forgiven for avoiding the option of ferry travel, as the vessels that sailed from the UK to France were not the most sophisticated, even though they had their own romance. So, recently, on a DFDS ferry from Dover to Calais, we were both delighted and astonished. An efficient cafeteria served a selection of French-biased food (real vegetables, properly cooked, accompanying meats of various types) which you could take and eat at your leisure in the refectory overlooking the stern of the ship. France, to start with a line in the distance, became a distinct outline of cliffs, beaches, and buildings by the end of the meal.

Meanwhile, a walk round to the outside deck at the back revealed the cliffs of Dover, slowly fading into the haze, as we left the seagulls behind.

Luxury ferry lounge with leather chairs

The VIP lounge offers a comfortable space for travellers to relax and enjoy the views

But the most compelling aspect of all, besides the views, and the sense of reality that you are crossing a body of water between one part of the continent to another (a body of water that has proved the difference between independence and conquest for Britain since 1066), was the simple comfort of the VIP lounge. Here for an extra fare, you can relax in absolute silence on the array of sofas and help yourself to a selection of drinks and snacks. And read magazines and newspapers while watching the world go by for the windows. As an element of a long journey, it is a real respite break for drivers and passengers. It is not inaccurate to say that we were rather disappointed with the announcement that came after just over an hour into the journey, that we would soon be disembarking at Calais.

And there’s the rub. Taking the ferry is actually barely any slower than going underground when all the elements of boarding and embarkation are taken into account. If it’s rough, you may wish to spend a bit more time outside, but you still feel like you have been somewhere, properly traveled, rather than simply been transported. We will be doing it again this summer.

Book your journey: dfdsseaways.co.uk

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Ballet dancers in performance with a male lead
Portrait of Philippe Sereys de Rothschild sitting in front of a stone mosaic

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild photographed at the Grand Mouton residence

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, head of the Mouton Rothschild family wine empire, recently inaugurated a new prize for the arts. Darius Sanai celebrates with him and his family members on the night of the awards, and speaks to him about patronage, the wine world and running one of the world’s most celebrated family businesses

Photographs by David Eustace

It’s a cool, clear evening in the vineyards of the Médoc, the triangular strip of land that stretches from Bordeaux to the Atlantic Ocean, along the estuary of the Gironde river, and which contains the world’s most celebrated wine estates. From the terrace of Château Clerc Milon, rows of perfectly groomed vines stretch out to the left and right; immediately below the terrace, a lawn drops down along a path lined by exotic bushes, to a steel-and-glass marquee. Beyond this temporary structure, which was erected the previous day and will be gone by morning, are more vineyards, undulating up towards Château Mouton Rothschild, over the brow of a small hill.

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Bordeaux vineyard close up shot of green vines

The Mouton Rothschild vignoble in Pauillac

As the sun goes down, guests sip Rothschild non-vintage Champagne or glasses of deep red Château Clerc Milon 2009, chatting about the show they have just seen. Suddenly, there is a musical introduction and all heads turn towards the stairs leading up from the lawn, from which 20 or so beautiful young people emerge, with a mixture of shyness and performance, and walk two by two through the crowds before dispersing into smaller groups and chatting to guests over glasses of Champagne.

The new arrivals were dancers from the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux; earlier, they had given the performance everyone had come for, in the marquee by the vineyard, in front of 100 seated guests. The show marked the second edition of the biannual Prix Clerc Milon de la Danse (Clerc Milon dance prize), awarded by the Philippine de Rothschild Foundation to two outstanding dancers from the Bordeaux ballet. The two winning dancers, Alice Leloup and Marc-Emmanuel Zanoli, had been awarded their prizes at the end of the show; now, after a brief interval, they and their colleagues were emerging, perfectly attired for the evening, to join the soirée. It was a magical moment during a spectacular evening.

Facade of a classical wine cellar with a huge arched wooden door

Wooden arched door to a wine cellar

The private wine cellar at
Château Mouton Rothschild

The prize is the brainchild of Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, and his siblings, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild and Camille Sereys de Rothschild. When their mother, the legendary Philippine de Rothschild, passed away in 2014, they inherited one of the most famous empires in wine. Their company, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, owns Château Mouton Rothschild, one of the five ‘first growths’ of Bordeaux and among the most celebrated and expensive red wines in the world; Château Clerc Milon and Château d’Armailhac, also classed-growth Bordeaux châteaux; the Bordeaux brand Mouton Cadet, and much else.

Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers, was famously fond of Brane-Mouton, as Mouton Rothschild was then known, and shipped some over to the nascent United States in the 1780s. But it was Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the grandfather of Sereys de Rothschild, who elevated the wine to worldwide fame, first modernising the estate in the 1920s and insisting on ensuring quality by bottling all wines at the Château, and then asking a different celebrated contemporary artist to create a new label for Mouton Rothschild every year. The labels read like a who’s who of 20th and 21st-century art: among them are Jean Cocteau (1947), Georges Braque (1955), Salvador Dalí (1958), Joan Miró (1969), Marc Chagall (1970), Wassily Kandinsky (1971), Andy Warhol (1975), Keith Haring (1988), Lucian Freud (2006) and Gerhard Richter (2015).

Portrait of Philippe Sereys de Rothschild with his daughter, Mathilde on their vineyard in Bordeaux

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild with his daughter, Mathilde

Grand garden with stone statue of a person leaning one hand on his head in front of a hedge

The gardens of the Rothschild estate

The Baron’s daughter, Philippine, strengthened the link with the arts – she herself had been a celebrated actress, and married one of France’s most famous actors, Jacques Sereys – while growing the business; and so, on this evening surrounded by vines under a sky washed by the nearby Atlantic, with stars emerging from the fading blue, it seems entirely appropriate that her children are both honouring their mother and supporting the arts with this new prize.

Read more: 6 reasons to buy a Hublot Classic Fusion Bucherer Blue Edition

Certainly, the winners seemed delighted: “I am amazed,” Alice told me, with a big, dimpled grin, her perfect, wavy hair and immaculate outfit belying the fact that she had been dancing on stage minutes previously. She was sipping at a glass of Champagne shyly, as if it were a rare treat to indulge. “It’s a great thing for them to do, although I never thought I would win. It just helps make all the hard work worthwhile.”

Ballet dancers in motion with one dancer stretching on the ground

Ballet dancers in performance with a male lead

Dancers from the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux perform at Château Clerc Milon

A statue of an elf sitting on top of a column in a smart stately gardenThe next morning, I meet Philippe Sereys de Rothschild in a drawing room at Grand Mouton, the family’s traditional residence, a few hundred metres away in the heart of Château Mouton Rothschild. The room is square and traditionally decorated; four chairs have been placed facing inwards towards each other. Between two of them is an occasional table, on top of which has been placed a tray containing still and sparkling water, small bottles of tonic water, and two halves of a lemon on a saucer. Sereys de Rothschild walks in, erect, greets us and offers us drinks, before settling down in a chair, squeezing one of the lemon halves into his glass of tonic water.

He was up, he says, until past 2am the previous night after the party ended, doing a debrief with his nephew Benjamin, who had helped organise everything. “Yes, last night Benjamin said, ‘We’ve got to do a debrief to know if it went well or not,’ and I said ‘OK, OK.’ So, we went through all the stuff that went well and didn’t go well, and it was the best time to do it because we had everything freshly in our minds. When people visit Château Clerc Milon they know it’s the family, they know it’s the Rothschilds. So, the standard is up there and you can’t disappoint them. Nothing is worse than disappointing people who have come to have a great evening and don’t have a great evening.”

All three of Philippine’s children were at the event; while Philippe oversees, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, his younger half-brother, is responsible for the collaboration between art and wine at Mouton, and gave a casual and touching tribute speech on the terrace the previous evening, after the formal speeches in the marquee led by Philippe.

Ballet dancers in motion, performing against a backdrop in pastel clothing

It seemed to be quite a grand success for an event that is so young, I observe. “It is a young event and it actually happened much more quickly than I thought it would,” Philippe says. “The Foundation was created in 2015 and we did the first Clerc Milon prize in 2016. We wanted to start the foundation with something local. That was very important for us. Something local, something artistic and something linked to live performance. And all that was linked to my mother, because my mother was very close to the theatre, the Opéra de Bordeaux. Brigitte Lefèvre (president of the jury of the prize and a former administrator of the Opéra Garnier in Paris) really came in very quickly. I gave her a call one day; it was very interesting, she was outside on the street coming out of a documentary on ballet and I said, ‘I’ll call you back’ and she said ‘No, no, no, don’t call me back – what do you want?’

“I talked to her about the prize and everything and I said, ‘I’m looking for someone who could chair the jury.’ She said yes immediately, and it was in November 2015, so it was very, very quick. She was able to put the jury together quickly because after 20 years at the Opéra de Paris, she knows absolutely the whole planet in her world. So, the first prize was awarded in July 2016 and we were very happy.”

It was Lefèvre, he says, who had the idea of the prize specifically supporting young dancers and those who “cement the group together”. “And don’t forget,” he says, “the Foundation only has been going for three years. When we created it in memory of my mother, everyone knew she was very linked to the arts. As you know Mouton is also very linked to art: wine and art, art and wine. We knew we wanted a foundation carrying the name of my mother, and with an artistic purpose. That was very clear. So, we started there.”

Read more: Grand Luxury founders Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien on curating travel

A Harvard MBA, Sereys de Rothschild worked in the finance sector on graduating; in the late 1990s he was chief financial officer (CFO) of an Italian subsidiary of what is now the Vivendi conglomerate. He then ran a successful private-equity fund and created a high-tech investment fund. Was he always fated to take over the family company, I ask?

“No, not at all,” he says, very definitely. “I don’t feel that family businesses have to be run by families. Family business have to have family values, family principles, family ethics, family identities, yes. But that does not mean they have to be managed by the family, which is a completely different thing. We could have said, ‘Managers manage and the family is just there to define the values, principles, identity and culture.’ It was a choice, because it’s true that the family is very much linked to this company, and it was a choice that I made, to say that I was ready to spend much more time with the company, to make sure that we develop it the right way. There is a lot of development going on now, and I thought that the best way to ensure the development was done the right way was to implant myself more in the company. But it could have been different. I did many other things in my life before – some environmental projects, I managed a software company, I developed schools, I did a high-tech fund.

“But I’m not doing it alone, even if I’m managing this company with the objective of developing it, I’m doing it with the family. They are all on the board and we all decide together, and we all take decisions together and we all decide on the investments and whatever we want to do, together. I’m there to manage it and for the leadership, but they are there with me.”

Facade of Château Clerc Milon in Bordeaux

Architectural photograph of stairway leading up to a landing with a hanging light

Château Clerc Milon is a different kind of château with a modern vat house designed by architect Bernard Mazières

Is it different, I ask, managing a family business to running other businesses? “Well, although I’m completely conscious of the fact that it’s a family business, I really try to manage this business by asking myself, whenever I take a decision, is it good or bad for the company? Period. Because otherwise, you mix everything up. Don’t forget that we have 370 people working in this company, so what is important is to make sure that the company lives on and that I pass it on to the next generations. If I start thinking to myself I should do things differently because it’s a family business, then you make the wrong decisions. You have to make a decision, as a business decision, as a company decision.”

A bottle of Château Clerc Milon wine with two full wine glasses in the background

The Château Clerc Milon label features a pair of dancing clowns made of precious stones

Has his experience in the broader business and financial sector helped? “I think what has helped me is working with people with very different profiles. That’s been the most valuable thing. When you go from an environmental project to working with software engineers, working with more high-tech people, working with people in schools, you get used to going from one profile to another and to working with very, very diverse profiles. So, I can talk with people in the vineyards and I can talk with people on the market and I can talk to the people with the Ryder Cup [Mouton Cadet is the official wine of the Ryder Cup] or I can talk with the manager of the Festival de Cannes. They’re completely different types of people and the fact that I have had my own professional experience before has helped me to really make the difference between managing people with very different profiles. That’s probably one of the characteristics of the wine business, is that you really go from the vineyard up to the end of the line, who can be art collectors.”

A large wine cellar with rows of barrels and a crested back wall

The wine empire’s crest on the walls of the cellar

Over the past 20 years, wine has made a transition from being a drink enjoyed by those with the taste and means to acquire good bottles, to a trophy with, at the highest level, an ever-spiralling price. A case of Mouton Rothschild from a good vintage can cost as much as a new compact car, or a haute-horlogerie watch. Is Sereys de Rothschild in the luxury goods business, I wonder?

“No. I don’t really know which business I’m in,” he says. “In other words, in some ways we are in the luxury business, in some ways we are in the collecting business, in some ways we are in the limited series business, in some ways we are an agricultural product, in some ways we are in the tasting and drinking business. Where are we? I haven’t got the faintest clue. But that’s what makes it exciting and very difficult because we are not a luxury product, but we are in some ways a bit of a luxury product.”

Has China, which has been at the heart of the soaring demand for fine wines, affected the way the company does business?

“I would say it has affected it in the right way. What I like about the Chinese market is that it’s really a market of people who like wine, who drink wine, where wine has become part of their life. When they need to celebrate something they think about wine, which is very important, and it’s become a market of people who know wine well and who talk about wine in a very intelligent way. And don’t forget that Chinese people are very sensitive to education, and you cannot understand wine without having some sort of an education process. There is an initiation approach to wine and the Chinese people have understood that. And when you listen to Chinese people talking about wine, some are astonishingly knowledgeable. It’s real wine market in the long term, and a market of real, high-quality wine consumers.”

The wine world has evolved in recent decades. Mouton Rothschild and its fellow ‘first growths’ remain at the top of the ladder, but competitors have arrived from Napa, Italy and elsewhere, and the mid-market, where Mouton Cadet sits, has never been so crowded. What are the challenges facing the business?

“Staying at the top, which is sometimes more complicated than one thinks. The exposure that we have in the media has been multiplied [by the rise of digital media], which puts more pressure on us. It makes us more well-known, but at the same time if you make a mistake or if something goes wrong everyone will know it, so it exposes you much more. But at the same time, it’s very exciting because you’re much closer to the consumer. If they open the bottle and they don’t like it, you know. And 20 years ago, we could guess, but we didn’t know. So, you’re much more in contact with the end of the line, than we were before. Which actually makes things much more rewarding because you know what you’re there for. You know that you’re there to satisfy customers, much more than 20 years ago. So, it’s actually a very rewarding thing and the digital revolution is for me, very positive. The more I hear about the consumer and the more I know the consumer is happy, the happier I am.

Read more: Moynat unveils new collection of bags in London

“That’s the first thing. The second thing is that the market has become much more competitive, at all levels. In other words, it has become very competitive for Mouton Cadet because there are all the Italian wines, all the Australian wines, all the Chilean wines. So we have to fight for our space. But at the same time, it’s also true for cult wines and iconic wines. In other words, the first growths of 20 or 30 years ago were not quite alone, but the market was not too crowded. Today it’s getting more and more crowded. At the same time, it’s exciting because it’s a challenge and it puts pressure and you’re there to make things even better all the time.”

Château Mouton Rothschild has also been working to support the arts, in the form of the collections at Versailles, the legendary palace outside Paris. How do the two châteaux work in tandem, I wonder? “Mouton is linked to paintings, Clerc Milon is linked to dance. So that’s why we really have two very different things. Back at Mouton, because we’ve always been exposed to contemporary art, and it so happened that a certain number of artists that exhibited at Versailles – Anish Kapoor, Lee Ufan and Bernar Venet – also did the label for Mouton. We got in contact with Versailles and said, ‘Can we help you in any way with your contemporary art exhibitions?’ They were very enthusiastic and that’s what we decided to do. Without being immodest, Versailles is an institution, but so is Mouton in a way, although that’s not due to me, it’s been an institution since before I was born. Getting two institutions together that both represent in their own way the ‘art de vivre à la française’, I thought was… rather a great mix.”

There are sounds of activity coming from outside the room; Grand Mouton is gearing up for a celebratory meal with the jury. Sereys de Rothschild smiles as he shakes hands goodbye, and disappears through one of the doors for Sunday lunch with some leading lights in the arts, whom he is supporting. As I walk out along the perfectly raked gravel, and look at the immaculate lines of vine leaves alongside me, I reflect that the faces of the young dancers, the jury members and the patrons may be different, but everything they are doing is comfortably, commendably, consistent through the centuries.

Portrait of Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, head of the Rothschild wine estates

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild on his favourite vintage of Mouton Rothschild:

“It’s difficult! I could mention the greatest vintages: 1945, 1959, 1961. The trouble is, I drank bottles of 1961 when I was much younger – 18 to 20. I drank a bottle of 1961 for my sister’s wedding, and another on her 10th wedding anniversary. Some guests came from England and one person was born in 1961 so we opened a bottle. Each time was different, so how can I say which was the best 1961? The magic about these wines is that they are never the same. They are always fascinating, they are always fabulous. So, if you ask me whether I prefer the 1945 or the 1961, I’d give you one answer today, and a different answer in five years.”

Discover Château Mouton Rothschild: chateau-mouton-rothschild.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2018 issue. Click here to read more content: The Beauty Issue

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Aerial shot of Château de Versailles, France
Château Mouton Rothschild vintage wines with labels designed by contemporary artists

Five Château Mouton Rothschild vintages will be included in the “Versailles Celebration Cases”

Throughout Spring 2019, Sotheby’s will auction 75-limited edition cases from Château Mouton Rothschild to help fund restoration projects at the Palace of Versailles

Château Mouton Rothschild celebration wine case containing five bottlesRenowned French wine producer Château Mouton Rothschild  is auctioning 75 collector’s cases each featuring five vintages with labels designed by contemporary artists who have also exhibited at the Palace of Versailles, including Giuseppe Penone, Bernar Venet, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons and Lee Ufan. Aptly titled the “Versailles Celebration Cases”, funds raised will go towards supporting the ongoing restoration projects at the Palace.

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Aerial shot of Château de Versailles, France

Château de Versailles. Photo by Thomas Garnier, Courtesy Château de Versailles

The auction will begin in Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 1 April, followed by London on 17 April and concluding in New York on 4 May. Successful bidders will also win an invitation to a private tasting at Château Mouton Rothschild, as well as two tickets to the Versailles Celebration Gala Dinner at the Palace of Versailles in September where ex-cellar vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild will be served.

Discover Château Mouton Rothschild’s full list of collaborating artists and labels: https://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/label-art/discover-the-artwork

 

 

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Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture
Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture

Chais Monnet is a luxury country and spa hotel near Bordeaux

Last week saw the official opening of the most swanky hotel in southwest France, by Anglo-Iranian entrepreneur Javad Marandi, owner of the beyond cool Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, England.

A very welcome addition to the luxury hotel scene near Bordeaux, Chais Monnet is a converted former Cognac warehouse transformed into a very lavish hotel, spa, and conference centre with some breathtaking architecture by Didier Poignant. The interior design is contemporary-luxe auberge, if you can allow yourself to imagine such a thing, and the cuisine has a lightness of touch and umami influence from Sebastien Broda, who earned a Michelin star at his former employer in Cannes.

Luxury Hotel Chais Monnet resides in a former Cognac warehouse, transformed into striking contemporary architecture

The hotel was built out of a former Cognac warehouse by architect Didier Poignant

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Chais Monnet offers riding holidays, picnics in the sun-dappled vineyards of Cognac in classic cars (guests can just jump into the hotel’s vintage Citroen and drive away), wine and cognac tastings and tours of the local Cognac houses such as Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin, as well as visits to the great Chateaux of Bordeaux, and a spa and full-sized indoor-outdoor pool.

Dancers perform with flaming torches at opening celebration of luxury country hotel Chais Monnet

A local troupe performs a fire dance at the opening of the luxury Chais Monnet hotel

Read more: An exclusive preview inside Hôtel Chais Monnet

At the launch event last week, we were content to sip Cognac cocktails (and some very refreshing local Chenin Blanc) while indulging in the festivities and a feast inside the old chais, or cellar, surrounded by ancient ageing vats. Oh, and then we partied away to a jazz band in the extremely cool converted barn-bar. A new reference for this part of France.

Panel of speakers standing on a stage at the inauguration of luxury hotel near bordeaux Chais Monnet

From left to right: Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas, architect Didier Poignant, Daniel Theron of ACPH, Xavier Arm from Vinci construction, and hotel General Manager Arnaud Bamvens

Owner Javad Marandi attends opening of hotel Chais Monnet in southwestern France along with Cognac Mayor and the hotel manager

Owner Javad Marandi, Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas and hotel manager Arnaud Bamvens

Making of an oak barrique at the opening ceremony of Chais Monnet

The making of an oak barrique, part of the display at the opening of Chais Monnet in southwest France

Book your stay: chaismonnethotel.com
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Maroon Maserati GranTurismo sportscar pictured on a drive in the woods
Maroon Maserati GranTurismo sportscar pictured on a drive in the woods

The Maserati MY18 GranTurismo MC is a candidate for the most beautiful car on the road

We take the Maserati MY18 GranTurismo MC on a road-trip through France to test for comfort, power and satisfaction

Focus groups, aerodynamics, safety laws – there are a lot of elements to blame for the standardisation of today’s car designs. A room full of cars from the 1960s is a panoply of distinctive, flamboyant creations. As we approach 2020, a common critique is that often you can’t tell one car brand from another.

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Which gave us particular joy as we bowled through the French countryside in the Maserati MY18 GranTurismo MC. The car’s sweeping curves look stunning – it is a candidate for the most beautiful car on the road – and its engine, derived from Ferrari’s V8 engine which powered the 430 and 458 supercars, sounds wonderful – in fact, Maserati have coaxed an even better sound out of its version than Ferrari did from theirs. There’s a long, hollow bellow every time you even think about accelerating.

The GranTurismo wants to be everything: it sounds like a Ferrari, but the suggestion that it’s a ‘Grand Touring’ car means it also wishes to be a laid-back cruiser across continents, and that’s exactly what we used it for.

Black interiors and steering wheel of the Maserati GranTurismo

The ambience inside the car is exactly right

It’s certainly never dull. Whether flying out of a toll booth or opening up after leaving the confines of a village, it emits a rising series of gurgles and roars that signal its enthusiasm for gaining speed. ‘MC Stradale’ signifies Maserati’s most sporting setup, and, with the suspension in its firmest mode, it corners flat and fast, although drivers of Ferraris would wish for more feedback from the steering and the chassis. It’s rapid and secure, but perhaps less of a sports car than you might expect, the long nose and overall weight making you remember you are in what is quite a large car, despite its sporting ambitions.

Set the suspension to its softer setting and the ride is comfortable to match the Grand Touring ambitions, but this also results in quite a lot of body roll if you try and corner fast.

Read more: Instagram influencer Tamara Koen’s guide to Milan

The interior feels delicious. In German cars, leather often looks and feels like plastic; in British cars, it smells like an old Chesterfield; somehow the Italians got the texture and ambience inside the GranTurismo exactly right. Many cars of this category offer only an excuse for back seats – if you try and get anyone with legs in the back of a Ferrari California, you’ll rapidly hear protests – but the Maserati is moderately comfortable in the back, even over a long journey, although headroom is limited and basketball players, for example, would emerge with cricked necks. The front is comfortable, but we had a couple of niggles: we never quite fell in love with the driving position; the seats seemed to slightly lack shape and support; the engine does feel loud on a long drive; and the sat-nav system isn’t as advanced as on some cars.

If there’s one word that summarises the GranTurismo, it’s ‘character’. Many cars, even high-performance ones, look, sound and drive in an anodyne way. The Maserati looks and sounds brilliant; if it only drives well, and not brilliantly, that likely won’t bother most prospective buyers.

LUX Rating: 18/20
maserati.com

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view of luxury penthouse suite with wooden decking and outdoor seating areas
view of luxury penthouse suite with wooden decking and outdoor seating areas

View from a penthouse in the Parc Du Cap development by the Caudwell Collection

In 2006 British entrepreneur John Caudwell sold his pioneering telecommunications company, the Caudwell Group, which included high-street mobile phone retail giant Phones4U, and turned his attention to property and philanthropy. His luxury residential development company, the Caudwell Collection boasts a portfolio of properties in prime locations across the UK and France whilst Caudwell Children is one of the leading charities in the UK for children’s disabilities. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to the billionaire about real estate, Brexit and building a centre for autistic children
Portrait of british entrepreneur John Caudwell in front of Caudwell Children sign

John Caudwell

LUX: You were known in the UK as one of the big mobile telephone entrepreneurs back in the 90s, 2000s, but now you are involved in property development. How did that happen and has high-end property always been one of your passions?
John Caudwell: I wouldn’t say it was a passion because for one thing I would never have had the money to exercise or endorse that passion, but I’ve always had a passion for beautiful things, especially beautiful architecture. So, my factory, for example, the Victorian tile factory, that was completely derelict until we took it over. We completely restored it and made it into a really fabulous headquarters for the business. So I guess I’ve always had that interest but not as a property developer, more in terms of developing properties for my own business use.

Then the crash happened, and it was almost impossible to find anywhere to put your money that was safer than under your bed, so you have mattresses stuffed full of £50 notes everywhere. The world was so fragile that you could not have any confidence that it was going to pull through and that your money was going to hold its value. So I decided to put my money into equities that I thought were resilient to a world collapse.

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LUX: What kinds of equities?
John Caudwell: So essential commodities and essential items, things that are always going to be there. For example, there’s always going to be farming, there’s always going to be land and water. Not so much oil these days because that’s a thing of the past, but there were items you could recognise that were probably going to be reasonably – not recession proof – but certainly collapse proof because they would always be needed. Of course even those things were fragile because everything took a big hit, but because commercial property had dropped in value enormously, I decided to start buying property that had long lease holds or even in some cases, shorter lease holds that I could develop and try and add extra value to. That’s how I got into property, but it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or beautiful property, it was was purely to protect myself commercially. And it did quite a good job – I built up quite a good portfolio, it wasn’t meant to make a lot of money, it was meant to be a protectionist measure. But from that, agents who were having a tough time as you can imagine, came to us with various properties and people came to us with properties that I was actually interested in, things of beauty. For instance, one of the ones we bought was Provencal in the South of France.

Luxury living room decorated in blue and white

The living space in Les Oliviers by the Caudwell Collection

LUX: How’s the development going? Is there a scheduled completion date?
John Caudwell: In the South of France we’ve completed Parc du Cap – a luxury development with 88 1-4 bedroom apartments and penthouses, and Les Oliviers – 6 spacious apartments in a beautifully restored Art Deco building, both in Cap d’Antibes, and we’ve got other Caudwell Collection projects there as well, like Provencal. We’ve been working with the authorities to get Provencal to a point at which we believe it is developable – and after several significant challenges we’re now in a place to say work is fully underway to create 35-40 ultra high-end apartments there. We aim to launch in 2021-22. Over in London, with the Audley Square property, we’ve had to work very, very closely with Westminster council and the planners, and obviously everyone’s got their own angle but there’s been a real spirit of cooperation because everybody wants to see it happen. It’s good for the city because it turns an eyesore into a beautiful building, not to mention the jobs it creates through the building work.

Read more: Inside Lake Como’s luxury residence, Villa Giuseppina

LUX: And with the London developments, such as Audley Square, how did that come about?
John Caudwell: It came about as a result of us becoming aware of the site and contacting Nama, who were the people who held all the debt. You might know Nama as the Irish bank that took all the property debt? We ended up in a two-year negotiation with Nama on the site. It took a long time because there were a lot of fundamental problems with the site, there were a lot of risks at that time and the price they were asking for was too high. But eventually, whilst we were negotiating. we worked through some of the problems and did a whole range of due diligence exercises to try and assess and minimise the risk as well as reduce the price. Eventually, it got to a point where it was acceptable so we did the deal and then that was the start of all the work!

Luxury bedroom with double bed and white and blue furnishings

Les Oliviers was partly restored using local materials and products

LUX: The properties that you’re creating are very high-end, sophisticated, luxury – is there a plan to broaden the brand, the Caudwell Collection, beyond property?
John Caudwell: Well, we are already doing that partly, but depends on the success that we have and we do expect it to be extremely successful. But you know the situation in the UK at the moment is not so good with stamp duty, and the Brexit situation. I mean London is the powerhouse of the world, it’s a fantastic city and will remain a fantastic city – I am extremely positive about the future, but I am a bit concerned about the effect stamp duties have had on the market. I don’t disagree with it incidentally, I think it’s fair enough to raise all these huge sums of money from wealthy people who can afford very expensive properties, but it has damaged the property market. The non-doms, I don’t disagree with either, I don’t disagree with it from a moral point of view because I think the rich have to pay their appropriate share of the taxes, but it’s not good if you start losing very wealthy people who take their economic interests to other countries like Paris and New York and Monaco and so on. Those countries that welcome them, are then taking our livelihood away because those people, by being financially centric to London, also tend to then have a lot of their business interests in the UK and tend to be much more likely to have business centres in the UK.

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And then of course Brexit as the next stage of that whereby I was very strongly pro-Brexit. I wanted a clean proper Brexit with a strong government and I said that when the Conservatives called the election, I said if there’s no other reason why the people vote Conservative, it needs to be to give the power to the party to negotiate a deal. And now where are we? Nearly two years down the line, we’ve got a very, very weak Conservative government with no majority, with a lot of back biting from within, with the house of Lords almost seeming to sabotage the position. I think, at the moment, it’s all very worrying because we needed a strong powerful Brexit or we needed to stay – we needed to either be properly in or properly out, not some horrible mishmash in the middle that doesn’t deliver the benefits. If we’re not careful we’re going to have all the pain of Brexit and limited benefits, which would be a fiasco. So, I am a bit concerned about that, it’s long answer to your question but the answer does relate to how far I see the Caudwell Collection going. And also, opportunities because opportunities like the Audley Square, that allow you to turn something that’s very, very ugly into a thing of beauty, or Provencal, which has been derelict for thirty years, but if we do what we’re planning to do there will become a most magnificent property, on par with some of the properties in Cannes. Those sorts of opportunities don’t come up every day and to be able to make those into a commercial success as well as an aesthetic success, is something that plays very much into my absolute ethos.

detail of spiral staircase and glass lift shaft on a building

The original building façades of Les Oliviers were maintained during the development

LUX: Do you find this new business as consuming as Phones4u and your other previous companies? Or is it more of a side-line in terms of operating?
John Caudwell: Totally different. Phones4u was my life, my absolute life. Most people know of it because of the high street brand, but we were the world’s biggest in nearly every area in which we traded, which was accessories, hand set distribution, we even had our own in-house recruitment company with about 70 or 80 employees there, and we even recruited for other people. Same with security, we did our own security but then did it for other people, so we grew into what was a bit of an empire really, where several of my businesses were the biggest and best in the world. So, it was a complete and utter all-consuming thing, and also it was my entire wealth, so you know, fail at that and I would have been entirely broke, probably not totally broke, but I would have been broke.

Aerial shot of seaside apartments with roof gardens

An aerial view of the Parc du Cap development

Succeed at that and then the result is the result that I got. But it was also extremely stressful, every minute of every day was extremely stressful, and I could never live that life ever again, nor would I want to, so that’s gone, and I am glad it has, but they were very special years. It’s different now, these businesses I didn’t need to do because my life now is all about philanthropy. But when they came along, and I saw them, I thought well, that’s a really interesting challenge. It gives me the opportunity to create a thing of beauty, put my stamp onto London with a building that’s going to be beautiful and timeless and make money as well. It’s a unique situation and a lot more pleasurable. I’ve got a great team of people who are helping me to run all of this and it’s a much more relaxed situation. I’m nowhere near as dedicated to it in terms of my time and effort because I have people who do that, but also its not as stressful and threatening as the mobile phone business was, which was ferocious, every minute of the day. That doesn’t mean its easy – it isn’t, we’ve got to be smart, we’ve got to be clever. Lots of problems to address and solve and we’ve got to create the vision of beauty that we promised.

Luxurious rooftop swimming pool with wooden decking and views of the ocean on the horizon

The view from a penthouse in Parc du Cap

LUX: How important is it for you that people talk about the Caudwell brand in relation to the properties you develop?
John Caudwell: The brand stands absolutely for quality. When people go to the Parc du Cap building, which is the one that I wouldn’t have built, but it is a beautiful, beautiful development, and most people who’ve visited it, say it feels quite pricey, and they understand why it is quite pricey, because the quality is exceptional for that coastline. And everybody says they’ve never seen another development of that quality which is quite nice to hear and that’s sort of part of the Caudwell collection brand. We got the same feedback with Les Oliviers it was the same feedback; it is a building that is really a fantastic quality throughout and is really desirable to live in, and that’s exactly what we’ll do with Provencal once we get started. We are creating these buildings of huge quality and recognisably of huge quality, it’s not just me saying it, but these properties stand the test of third parties too, whether they’re agents or buyers, everybody thinks they’re beautiful.

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LUX: There are parts of Les Oliviers that you restored, using local products and materials. Is restoration an important aspect of your developments?
John Caudwell: Our design approach with Les Oliviers was to carefully restore the original building façades and use some locally sourced materials including natural stone for the terraces and loggia floors, and Provencal limestone paving around the swimming pool. The quality of the finished product is exceptional – from the apartments fitted out with high tech features and contemporary yet classically inspired interiors through to the beautifully manicured Provencal style gardens. You can’t necessarily use local materials all the time and of course it’s a commercial venture, so I don’t put local materials as the priority but what I do put as the priority is that it must be as environmentally friendly as possible. For instance, with Audley Square, we’ve put geothermal in, and I’ve just put geothermal into my house. The whole point is to try cut down on pollution and energy loss.