The sap that leaks from cut grapevines is believed to have magical properties in Bordeaux. "We say the vine is crying," says Mathilde Thomas, estate owner and pioneer of vinotherapy, the use of grapes and vines in skin care. "But these precious teardrops are enough to put a smile on any woman's face."
Grape skins and seeds have long been known to possess antioxidant powers. Thomas and her husband, who own the Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte estate outside Bordeaux, joined forces with a local pharmacology professor to figure out a way to harness their fragile polyphenols for cosmetic purposes. Today, at their Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa in Bordeaux-Martillac, guests can enjoy the Barrel Bath treatment, in which bubbling hot spring water is enriched with superfine pieces of grape skin, the Honey and Wine Wrap or the Crushed Cabernet Scrub (caudalie.com). There are also Caudalie spas in Italy's Piedmont region and Spain's Rioja valley. In October, New York's Plaza Hotel will open a center where guests will experience the full menu of treatments, as well as a wine lounge for tastings.
Other luxury spas also offer grape-based treatments. In the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, the ancient thermal-bath center Terme della Salvarola offers exfoliation and massage treatments using local Lambrusco di Grasparossa grapes (termesalvarola.it). And at the luxurious Four Seasons Spa in Carmelo, Uruguay, the Silk Wine Treatment mixes Uruguayan wines with pine oil and eucalyptus honey in a full-body-enveloping treatment (fourseasons.com/carmelo/spa). It's body pampering that will leave you drunk with euphoria.