Hotel Highlights

  • Learn wine-making from the hotel’s own vintners
  • Breath-stealing vineyard views
  • A short walk from mediaeval St-Emilion

Overview

Set on seven acres of rolling green vineyards in the heart of France's St-Emilion region, Le Relais de Franc Mayne hotel is an old estate with an elegant grey stone façade and a whiff of the mediaeval about it. An oenophile's delight, this family-run 16th-century chateau's cavernous cellars are packed with barrels of the house wine – made from grapes grown on-site – guaranteed to have you aching for another tasting.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Le Relais de Franc Mayne with us:

A bottle of Le Libertin de Lussac 2010 red wine in the room on arrival (subject to availability)

Facilities

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Need To Know

Rooms

12

Check–out

Midday. Check-in, 3pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $326.59 (€236), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.44 per person per night on check-out.

More details

Rates exclude breakfast (€18.80).

Also

During your stay at Le Relais de Franc Mayne, you’ll given a tour of the château’s wine-making equipment, including the impressive new vat in the reception area and the cavernous cellars where the seemingly endless row of barrels are stored.

At the hotel

Billiard room; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, La Compagnie de Provence toiletries.

Our favourite rooms

All of Le Relais de Franc Mayne’s rooms have been individually decorated, with varying degrees of decadence. Our favourite, Campagne Française, is one of the hotel’s biggest and, being south-facing, it boasts a grab-your-camera view of the pool, garden, and vineyards beyond. There’s a gorgeous white stone fireplace supporting an antique gold-framed mirror, and the whole room is softly lit by a golden chandelier. You’ll find brighter, bolder decor in Pop Art, all lime greens and dark woods, and Asian Mood, which features a blue and red colour scheme and an oriental birdcage. Indian Fusion features a four-poster bed and ornately carved wooden wall panels, and Out of Africa and African Lodge adopt a safari theme.

Poolside

The hotel’s natural swimming pool sits serenely under the cedar trees, overlooking rolling vineyards.

Packing tips

An extra suitcase to cram with the domaine’s wine – and something soft to wrap the bottles.

Also

Wine-tasting sessions are free for hotel guests. Non-smoking throughout.

Children

Cots can be provided for €25 a night, extra beds for €50.

Eco‐friendly

The chemical-free pool is self-cleaning thanks to specially selected aquatic plants and is heated by warmth-retaining stones.

Food & Drink

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Hotel Restaurant

There’s no restaurant, but the hotel can prepare a cold platter for lunch or dinner on request. The dining room – where breakfast is served – is an elegant, chandeliered space with rustic terracotta stone floors.

Hotel Bar

Le Relais de Franc Mayne’s cosy, burgundy-shaded salon has an ingenious Enomatic wine-dispensing system (in other words, an elegant wine vending machine), which keeps the wines at the correct temperature and preserves their flavour. Guests are given a card with €50 credit on check-in, which they can use to access the machine to purchase glasses of wine, which cost between €7–10 each; on check-out the card is checked and guests are charged for the number of glasses purchased during their stay. Beer is also available, if wine's not to your taste, but it's served in a less hi-tech fashion.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Dark colours to hide any wine spillages.

Top table

Take a glass (or a bottle) out on to the terrace and soak in the sun with the vineyard vista spread out before you.

Local Guide

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Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

A lively wine bar and restaurant on St-Emilion's rue du Clocher, L'Envers du Décor (+33 (0)5 57 74 48 31) offers one of the most comprehensive and highly esteemed wine cards in France, as well as generous helpings of local specialities, such as foie gras and confit. Worth visiting for its terrace views alone, Le Bistrot du Clocher is a pretty restaurant next to the church tower, at 3 place du Clocher, St-Emilion (+33 (0)5 57 74 43 04). Chai Pascal is a relaxed wine bar and eatery, with laidback staff, the most luscious local wines and tempting cheese, smoked salmon and charcuterie platters, at 37 rue Guadet, St-Emilion (+33 (0) 5 57 24 52 45).

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Rolling vineyards of St-Emilion

Le Relais de Franc Mayne

14, La Gomerie, 33330, Saint Émilion, Gironde, France

Planes

La Maison is 30 minutes from the airport in Bordeaux, which is served by BMI baby (www.bmibaby.com), British Airways (www.ba.com), EasyJet (www.easyjet.com), Flybe (www.flybe.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com). Follow signs to Libourne and then to St-Emilion, or take the airport bus to the train station (€7; 45 minutes), then the direct train to Libourne (30–45 minutes) and finally hop in a taxi for the last seven kilometres.

Trains

The hotel is a 15-minute drive from the station in Libourne; from here you can catch direct trains to several locations including Bordeaux in 30–45 minutes, Poitiers in an hour and a half and Toulouse in two and a half hours. For details on French trains in the region, see the SNCF website for Aquitaine (www.ter-sncf.com).

Automobiles

Le Relais de Franc Mayne is situated on the D243 road which links Libourne to St-Emilion. From St-Emilion, simply turn left toward Libourne at the roundabout in the higher part of the village; after a kilometre the chateau will be on your left. Parking is free. From the hotel, you can reach the Landes de Gascogne Natural Park in an hour, the coast at Basson d’Arcachon in an hour and a half, and Bordeaux in 40 minutes.

Reviews

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Anonymous review

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

We arrive in Saint-Emilion late evening, just in time to see shopkeepers closing doors on rows of gleaming ruby bottles. Stone roads meander away offering us more views to mellow buildings that reek of historical importance and the work of the great Dordogne valley in producing wines for kings and princes. Restaurants invite us to step out of the twilight into the promising glow inside, but anx...

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Le Relais de Franc Mayne

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

We arrive in Saint-Emilion late evening, just in time to see shopkeepers closing doors on rows of gleaming ruby bottles. Stone roads meander away offering us more views to mellow buildings that reek of historical importance and the work of the great Dordogne valley in producing wines for kings and princes. Restaurants invite us to step out of the twilight into the promising glow inside, but anxious to start tasting, we hurry on to Le Relais de Franc Mayne.

As well as producing Grand Cru wines on the outskirts of the mediaeval town of Saint-Emilion, much to Mr Smith's and my delight, the Château Franc Mayne has also created a rich and opulent bed and breakfast. We’ve heard that from the reception area of this elegant limestone house you can look down through huge glass windows and admire the gleaming stainless-steel vats below. Aphrodisiac indeed for our Smith escape.

The appropriately named Angèle had called us earlier to warn us that if we arrived after 8pm, we’d have to let ourselves in. At the top of the drive we punch in the digits she’s sweetly given us, the barrier flashes up and we sweep up in front of the house. Beautifully lit, this 16th-century property is typical of the region – a pale stone residence in miniature, with cooling stones and water features everywhere. Ensconced in seven acres of rolling green vineyards, Le Relais de Franc Mayne has been built in classic Girondine style – an imposing building in smooth grey stone with a whiff of the mediaeval about it. We find the front door, tap in the codes again, and creep in.

There is a great hush in the house, belied by an exuberant decor. We’ve heard each bedroom is different, with some rooms, such as the spacious Campagne Française evoking quiet rustic comforts, while others tend towards the endearingly eccentric – for instance, the hot pink motifs of British Landscape, or the zebra print and elephant portraits of safari-themed African Lodge. After a little wander around, we find our boudoir – the Asian Mood room.

Discovering a bath that fills like a whirlpool, I can barely recall the segue between post-drive soak and slumber, but being swaddled in thick bath towels definitely featured. And I certainly can’t remember the last time I slept so long and so soundly. In search of breakfast, we tiptoe downstairs and pass through the salon with the dining chairs hanging upside down on the wall, past the pot-bellied cabinet dipped in gold paint, and out into the sunshine on the paved terrace. We eat a very late, very calm breakfast, listening to the water falling into the natural pool and admiring the antics of a young red squirrel.

There seems to be no one else around; at first this is disconcerting, like a boutique guesthouse version of the Mary Celeste, but we soon savour the tranquillity. If we did want something, we could go and find someone who’d no doubt be delighted to rustle up whatever it is. I take this opportunity to mention to someone that I think we’ve been sleeping on a mattress cover. They assure me that it is definitely a bed sheet, but if I desire a different style they’ll happily supply it. And they even keep their mirth at my linen query hidden – well, until they close the door.

Reception has until now alluded us. When we finally find the operating heart of the place we discover all the staff are young, attractive, extremely friendly, and when it comes to grapes, they know their onions. Indeed the hotel’s nine bedrooms share space with all the trappings of oenology: an eye-catching renovated vat room where guests can learn about wine-making from the château’s expert vintners, as well as taste some of Franc Mayne’s finest vintages, and the underground caverns where barrel upon barrel of the lush liquid is stored. These very caverns provided the area with its beautiful and distinctive creamy stone, an extraordinary achievement that now provides perfect cellars for wine. We sign up for the official tour of the Franc Mayne vineyard, choosing the French version to stretch our linguistic skills. The vast limestone cellars are incredible, cool and aged and so vast they have to be seen to be believed.

Afternoon approaches and we keep the viticulture alive with a walk through the vineyards into St-Emilion for lunch at Bistrot le Clocher. With a town dedicated to wine and gastronomy right on its doorstep, Le Relais does not try to compete. Though you can order salads or a simple three-course dinner on the terrace, most foodies are out and about wine tasting and feasting nearby. We could spend ages exploring the town, but it is difficult to feel any sense of urgency, or accelerate beyond a gentle amble. I wander through a door in the back of the tourist office and find myself in a mediaeval cloister. Passing through that, I am in the aisle of a beautiful stone church. Created by religion, built up on wine, Aquitaine offers a lot to look at and learn about.

Eventually Le Relais lures us back for an afternoon swim in the natural pool. Floating here in the cool, chlorine-free water, I reflect on how wonderful the French way of life is: the pace is slower, lunch is as important as oxygen, and of course, there are all those fabulous wines on tap. Right now, surrounded by the vineyard views that surround the Relais Franc Mayne, the world could not look more perfect.

The Guestbook

Reviews of Le Relais de Franc Mayne from Smith members

Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…

GoldSmith

Stayed on 24 May 2013 no

We loved

I was in room Campagne Française – extremely nice with great views. Staff was unobtrusive but incredibly helpful and accommodating. Grounds are beautiful and the hotel's own vineyard with underground limestone caverns is fascinating. Food: breakfast was very good but guests need to be comfortable with the large, communal table. Fixed lunch or dinner is available every day.

Don’t expect

The bathroom – a separate shower should be available in this quality of hotel, although space is obviously a constraint.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 28 Sep 2012

We loved

The views from the Uxbridge room were absolutely incredible!! We were literally in the middle of a vineyard! The room was incredibly large and extremely comfortable! We stayed there for our last two nights of a 10-day vacation and it was quite a way to end!

Rating: 10/10 stars