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top flight:

a french escape 
with caudalie

VIOLET GREY's Beauty Director Jayme Cyk travels to the storied French brand’s charming Bordeaux getaway to learn about their latest skin care hero.

Written By JAYME CYK

Photography By ALEXANDRA UTZMANN

CHÂTEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE


I first learned about Caudalie six years ago as a budding beauty assistant. I vividly remember the cofounders, Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas, speaking to an audience at the annual WWD Beauty Summit in New York City, eloquently describing the brand’s French heritage rooted in it’s tranquil vineyard and spa, Les Sources de Caudalie, and resveratrol, the grapevine-derived phytonutrient that anchors their product offerings. 

Little did I know that, just a few years later, I would make it to the charming city of Bordeaux and experience the magic firsthand. Think: bucolic architecture composed of recycled materials, delectable French food plated to perfection, a Caudalie-stocked spa for the utmost relaxation, and a picturesque vineyard that produces the most exceptional wines.


My three-day jaunt included a tour of Mathilde’s family vineyard, Château Smith Haut Lafitte; treatments at the Vinothérapie Spa; and an education in Caudalie’s rigorous sourcing protocol. But while the trip was a celebration of Caudalie heritage, the spotlight was on the brand’s newest discovery: vinergy. A patented blend of resveratrol, macro hyaluronic acid, grape seed polyphenols, viniferine, and betaine plant extract, vinergy was created in collaboration with Dr. David Sinclair, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. The proprietary formulation, which helps restore the metabolic function of skin cells, is the workhorse behind Caudalie’s latest hero product. More on that in a second.  

Bordeaux was amazing, and a must-visit for every beauty lover. But since Caudalie’s very kind invitation stopped short of providing airfare for the hundreds of thousands of VIOLET GREY readers—the spa would have been too crowded anyway—I decided to do the next best thing: share the highlights of what I saw, learned, touched and drank. So what’s it like living on a vineyard in the French countryside for three days? See below. 



PREMIER CRU

A rather literal crème de la crème, the Premier Cru range is Caudalie’s most active anti-aging collection—and vinergy powers the line’s newest formulation, the Premier Cru Serum. Together, Thomas and Sinclair walked me through the ingredient’s incredible benefits, which include firming, hydration, and reduction of dark spots and wrinkles. “We discovered that betaine, an amino-acid-like molecule, is a potent activator of mitochondrial function, to boost energy in cells,” says Sinclair. “When combined with resveratrol, the effect is even greater. In clinical trials, the combination of these molecules had a dramatic effect on reducing the signs of aging.”  

Thomas notes that, in combining the new serum with the Premier Cru Cream, the benefits are seven times more effective in treating wrinkles. But you can’t forget the sensorial experience of this fluid-like formula. “For the scent, I was inspired by roses in an open barrel,” says Thomas. “For the texture, which is oil-free and very light, I was inspired by Korean beauty—I live in Hong Kong and I would take a trip to Seoul every single month. Through that, I discovered this incredible consistency.”



The most important element when creating the spa was to have a 360-degree lavish brand experience, and you felt as though you were immersed in the heart and home of Caudalie.

— MATHILDE THOMAS, CO-FOUNDER OF CAUDALIE


In clinical trials, the combination of [resveratrol and macro hyaluronic acid] had a dramatic effect on reducing the signs of aging.

— dr. david sinclair, harvard medical school


Les Sources de Caudalie


CHÂTEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE

Château Smith Haut Lafitte has been in Thomas’ family for 27 years and was the starting point for the creation of Caudalie. A little background: In 1993, Thomas met someone that would forever change her life. Professor Joseph Vercauteren, the Director of the Laboratory of Pharmacognosy at Montpellier’s University of Pharmacy in France, visited the vineyard during harvest season. While touring the property, he explained that they were tossing out all “the good stuff”—i.e. the winemaking byproducts that provide exceptional benefits to the skin. At this suggestion, Thomas got to work immediately and Caudalie was born. 

Fast forward to a couple of months ago. My experience at Château Smith Haut Lafitte was one you might think only exists in the movies—I’m talking gorgeous vegetation like in The Wizard of Oz. Except, instead of a field of poppies, I’m surrounded by lush, tall grapevines, and the end point isn’t Oz, but expertly balanced bouquets of red and white wines. And while I’m no sommelier, I learned a few things about Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s operation and how Caudalie is part of the process.

Lesson 1: Just like The Violet Code, the vineyard’s grapes go through a vetting process. Only instead of vigorous testing by artists, they are entered into a optical machine that spits out any suboptimal fruit. 

Lesson 2: White grapes at Château Smith Haut Lafitte  provide the polyphenols that are used in Caudalie products. Caudalie also sources additional raw materials from vineyards in the Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy regions that are organic, environmentally safe, and use no GMOs or chemical pesticides.

Lesson 3:  When you extract red grape seeds, you want to let the berry macerate for eight weeks. All the good polyphenols migrate from the grape seed to the grape juice (which is part of the reason red wine is healthier than white).

“Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Caudalie work together on many different levels,” says Thomas. “Let’s use the Caudalie Grape Water as an example. Back in 2000, my dad purchased a machine to extract grape water from the grape juice during the first week of the harvest to concentrate his wine. He said he was going to trash this precious water [but] I decided to take it to a lab and run tests on the incredible hydrating and soothing benefits on the skin. This was how the Grape Water was born!”


VINOTHÉRAPIE SPA


VINOTHÉRAPIE SPA

Honestly, I would have been happy to just sit in the relaxation room eating grapes, and drinking herbal draining tea, but my facial and massage at the Vinothérapie Spa were definitely among the highlights of my trip. The 19-year-old spa resembles a large cabin—but not those of the Jewish summer camp variety. Instead, picture a serene chalet, replete with vintage French farm doors, comprised of organic materials that are designed to harmonize with the landscape of the vineyard.

First, I had a massage in which I requested a body oil to promote circulation (flying from Los Angeles to France really took a toll on my body). It was so deeply satisfying that, after the one-hour rub-down, I practically had a new sense of self. I rinsed off and hopped back on the bed for my Premier Cru facial. It started with a deep cleanse, followed by derma rolling—a roller made up of uber-small needles, which creates tiny punctures on the skin to help build collagen and elastin—and a lengthy facial massage with essential oils. I fought hard to stay awake and enjoy every bit of this magnificent facial, but I passed out due to jet-lag. At the end, however, I woke up to a glowing complexion after the aesthetician layered on the Premier Cru Serum and Moisturizer. Talk about beauty sleep.    

“The Vinothérapie Spa opened in September of 1999,” says Thomas. “The most important element when creating the spa was to have a 360-degree lavish brand experience, with the best therapists, protocols, treatments, and products and you felt as though you were immersed in the heart and home of Caudalie.” Let’s just say, I felt it.