The wine of Saint-Emilion
is known and renowned around the world. It is even called the “King of Wines” by the English! This appellation in Southwest France extends into a number of different villages: Saint-Emilion, Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, Saint-Hippolyte, Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse, Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, Saint-Pey-d'Armens, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens, Vignonet, and part of Libourne. The Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape—a testament to its quality and authenticity that recognizes the exceptional viticultural terroir and the beauty of this land. Unlike other winegrowing regions, Saint-Emilion is arranged in an amphitheatre shape that has earned it the nickname “the hill of a thousand châteaux.” Two monikers that suit this region to a tee.
There are four distinct types of terrain in Saint-Emilion: a limestone plateau from the Tertiary period, in the center of the appellation; limestone soils with a clay-silt texture, also known as Molasse du Fronsadais (molasse from the area around Fronsac), which is found all around the plateau; a sandy layer that covers mainly clayey soils, to the northwest; and lighter soils of gravel and sand alluvium, to the south, in the Dordogne Valley. Thanks to its proximity to the Dordogne, this region enjoys a moderate oceanic climate, with mild summers and springtimes that rarely see a frost—a boon for the vines. The last months before the harvest tend to be quite sunny, providing the grapes with ideal conditions for maturation.
The dominant and best-known grape in Saint-Emilion is Merlot, which is often blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. But each wine grown here has its own unique flavor and aromas. Those that are born on the limestone plateau are powerful and concentrated, while those that come from the lower, alluvial terroirs tend to be much more elegant and delicate. Producers such as Château Dassault and Château Rocher-Figeac offer top-quality wines.
The reputation that Saint-Emilion enjoys in France and worldwide is thanks to the quality of its wines. Producers here respect and apply very severe criteria that reinforce the unique character of each cru. In 1955 a ranking system was instituted to hone the standards of the appellation. Over the years this tool became a benchmark for consumers and oenophiles, who consider it an additional gauge of reliability. Every ten years the rankings are reevaluated.
In 2006, for example, 61 Saint-Emilion estates were classified Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé (divided into two categories, A and B) or Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé. (Thirteen were demoted to Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.) Among the most recent additions to this prestigious list are Château Cheval Blanc, Château Angelus, Château Larcis-Ducasse, Château Pavie, Château Ausone, Château Figeac, Château Valandraud, Château la Dominique, Château Jean Faure, and Château Beauséjour-Bécot.
More informations on the website of the wines of Saint-Emilion