Photos can’t do justice to the imposing grandeur and sublime location of this chateau hotel in the South West of France near Cahors. From its elegant gardens and terraces, you have a dramatic bird’s eye view down to the dark emerald ribbon of the river Lot, snaking its way towards Cahors which is visible in the distance beyond forests and vineyards. You can see why this rocky outcrop was selected in the 13th century – to create an impregnable stronghold with a commanding position to defend against approaching enemies. Subsequently it was the bishops of Cahors who used the chateau as their palace. Today, the chateau is in much friendlier hands and the welcome is warm. It is owned by Georges Vigouroux, hotelier and winemaker, and is part of the Relais & Châteaux network.
For the last 30+ years Vigouroux has been developing the chateau and its vineyards in order to create a prestigious domaine and to launch his Malbec wines on the world stage. In fact, wine is very central to any stay here. You won’t just be able to taste their excellent Malbecs in the spacious and elegant dining room, you will also be invited to view the impressive winery built right down in the rock underneath the chateau gardens. Here, every year the harvest is collected and refined before ending up in oak barrels or state of the art steel tanks. A dégustation is recommended to reveal how different are these Malbec wines to their South American cousins.
As for the hotel, it feels more relaxed and homely than the exterior would suggest. There’s no sign of gilt chandeliers and faux Louis XV furniture here. A clever designer’s eye has been at work, bringing softer furnishings, subtle contemporary paint colours and modern artworks to the natural backdrop of tall ceilings, ancient stone flags, patterned encaustic floor tiles and wooden doors and beams.
There are 24 beautifully appointed rooms and six suites, all with a different vibe, some with private terraces or balconies and even one deluxe suite set in one of the round towers – Disney princess fantasy, anyone? The chapel makes the chateau-hotel popular with wedding parties.
In the restaurant, to accompany your tasting of the chateau’s wines, Chef Julien Poisot will surely be hoping for a Michelin star at some point if he continues to produce the creative and imaginative Quercy-Mediterranean dishes we tasted, with an emphasis on local ingredients such as truffle and saffron sprinkled throughout the menu. The chef’s signature dish, Gnocchi a la Cadurcienne, was a stand out as was the saddle of Quercy lamb with prunes and artichoke. Naturally you will want to accompany your meal with some of the chateau’s wines. Try the Chenin Blanc for starters and the sensational Cuvée Malbec “6666” for your plats. There’s also a bistro when you want something a little simpler.
The hotel grounds offer plenty of space to meander on your own and enjoy the views, discover wood land trails or just soak up some rays by the pool.
This part of the Lot and Quercy has much to offer, even though less well known compared to its northerly neighbour the Dordogne. But it deserves exploring for its charming villages, friendly people and the beautiful city of Cahors. If you do venture this way, you won’t find a better place to lay your head than Chateau Mercuès.
Chateau de Mercuès, Rue du Château, 46090 Mercuès. Tel: +33 (0)5-65-20-00-01. Double rooms are priced between 190-490 Euros. Suites are priced between 450-660 Euros.