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Castles of Médoc in the Bordeaux region

Actually, I only drink water. But this presents no problem and does not prevent me appreciating the history of its wines, the multifarious  vineyard landscapes nor from trying to understand all that is happening in this field of work and art.

Now and again, I take the opportunity of doing a vineyard circuit to admire the architecture of the Châteaux. Careful, “Château” does not often mean palace.  If some do indeed resemble small palaces, others are much more modest. These quite enormous edifices are devoted to the running of vineyards and to wine making. Visits focused on wine tasting can be arranged by appointment but I prefer to concentrate on more cultural walks because the owners of certain châteaux are very attached to contemporary art and warmly welcome artists. You cannot see everything in one go, so to speak, so I limited my visit to a small area in the Médoc, returning to well-known places or setting out to discover new splendours.

Very near Bordeaux, the Château d’Arsac with with its bright blue winery, has 25 works of art dotted about the domain, permanently on display, that Philippe Raoux, the owner, has acquired over time. I particularly appreciated “The cloud measurer” by Jan Fabre, “The visionaries”, that recall wood-carved owls, Zebra 3, and the work entitled “le Chevêtre” by Bernard Pagès. But there are also works by Niki de Saint Phalle or César to mention but widely known artists.

Chasse-Spleen opened its art centre in an18th century Carthusian monastery and in front of its mauve painted shutters Lilian Bourgeat‘s two immense “Unsold” boots are displayed. The temporary exhibition until 15 October  is dedicated to Rolf Julius, a German artist born in 1939. His experimental and minimalist works are not generally accessible to the public. Next year, it will be the turn of Benoît Maire to exhibit his works.

As Lynch-Bages is under reconstruction, I returned to wander around the village of Bages, a gathering of more or less abandoned houses that the owner of the château, Jean-Michel Cazes,  purchased some ten years ago to reconstitute a traditional village with a bakery, general store called Bages’ Bazaar, and a cafe restaurant, Café Lavinal. As Jean-Michel Cazes is very attached to contemporary art, I went to take a further look at Cordeillan-Bages, his Relais et Châteaux, in which he exhibits paintings as he acquires them.

I wound up my expedition with a visit to Beychevelle. This marvellous Château dates from 1565, boasts a 300 year-old cedar in the interior court and its spacious grounds overlook the Gironde Estuary from afar . When Jean-Louis Nogaret of Valette, Duke of Epernon (Duc d’Epernon) and Lord High Admiral was the owner in the 17th century century, boats sailing on the Gironde would lower their sails as a sign of respect. In the vatroom and winery designed by Arnaud Boulain and inaugurated in 2016, glass works by Biot region artists such as Jean-Paul Van Lith, Luc de Muelenaere or Robert Pierini are on display until September 2. If you are unable to come this year, you can benefit from other artists’ works in 2018.

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