Saint-Emilion is Bordeaux’s most important wine town and the region’s hottest attraction. This walled, medieval village, perched atop a series of hills and surrounded by vines, is unquestionably the most beautiful wine village in all Bordeaux. Indeed, it is arguably the most beautiful wine village in all France. Nearly everything about Saint-Emilion is centered on wine; even the church in Saint-Emilion is a cellar. And lest you think that Saint-Emilion has just recently succumbed to contemporary commercialism or sold itself to the modern mania for all that is Bacchanalian, rest assured that very little has changed in principle in this village since antiquity: Saint-Emilion was founded by the Romans, who used it as a viticultural bastion in the then burgeoning area know as Burdigala.
Saint-Emilion is situated about twenty-five miles due east of the city of Bordeaux on a high escarpment above the winding Dordogne River. From the village of Saint-Emilion, one has a commanding view of the entire Saint-Emilion appellation, where vines descend the slopes to the river and then occupy the nearby plateau that flows seamlessly into neighboring Pomerol. It is from this great appellation that many of Bordeaux’s finest wines flow, including the world’s very best Merlot based wines. It is in Saint-Emilion that Merlot reaches its apogee. Here, Merlot is king, supported by varying amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc as noble vassals. The only notable exception to the dominance of Merlot in Saint-Emilion is the venerable wine of Cheval Blanc, which is largely comprised of Cabernet Franc. Otherwise, the result is the fleshiest, juiciest, roundest, and most popular wines of all Bordeaux – testament to just how great Merlot can be.
Interestingly, there are two distinct districts of Saint-Emilion, each possessing its own special terroir. Both produce compelling wines, but of a different sort.
Typically, the côtes or hills upon the escarpment yield the fullest, slowest to mature wines of Saint-Emilion. Here the soil is nearly all limestone and the resulting wine is more apt to act like a great Cabernet based wine of the Medoc. The other distinct district of Saint-Emilion lies on the plateau adjoining Pomerol, where the soil is comprised of sand and gravel. It is in this well-drained soil that the fleshiest wines of the appellation are born. Each style is authentic St. Emilion, which allows for double the pleasure.