When I think of France, I think “Home sweet home”. To that point, welcome to my home, Saint-Emilion. One of the world’s first heritage villages, Saint-Emilion is located in the heart of French wine country.
Perched on a rocky headland, Saint-Emilion is not just famous for its wines; it’s rich in history with buildings built by the Unesco World Heritage in 1999. Rising above the vines with breathtaking views, be prepared for an adventure that may surprise even the most sophisticated wine lovers. From the Monolithic Church to the extensive underground quarries, and wine tasting at some of the most prestigious wineries in the Bordeaux region (Château Cheval Blanc or Château Ausone), it’s a vacation of a lifetime.
More than 13 centuries of history…
The village of Saint-Emilion is an authentic open-air museum dating back to the legend of a humble hermit. In the 8th century, a Breton by the name of Emilion left his homeland to become a monk and moved to Ascombas, now known as Saint Emilion. Famous for his miraculous acts, he founded the first religious community and evangelized the population, creating a large monastic town named after him. After the holy man had died, many religious communities flocked to the village. Benedictines, Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Ursuline Nuns followed one another to settle in the city of Saint-Emilion. Still, present today, the religious monuments are architectural treasures, drawing us in with centuries old stories waiting to be retold.
The Birth of a Unique Medieval Village
Throughout the 13th, 14th, and 15th century, the medieval city of Saint-Emilion was occupied by French and English armies, which influenced the architectural layout of the city. Built out of limestone, ramparts and fortifications were commissioned by England in the 12th century to protect the village and showcase their ruling power.
Today, you can still admire the Great Wall; thus a majority of old fortifications were destroyed during religious wars in the 16th and 19th century. Over 200 km of underground limestone caves under the village still exists. That’s a lot for a small town, and locals often joke comparing it to Gruyere cheese…
Great terroir and quality wines
Saint-Emilion has centuries worth of wine history, attributing the high-quality wines to the renowned terroir.
The Romans were the first to introduce viticulture to the fertile region during the Middle Ages. The terroir of the Saint-Emilion region consists of limestone and clay, which gives the wines their intensity and vibrant personality. The key, however, is the combination of both the land and temperate oceanic microclimate. Together, the two allow for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc to shine with unique character, balance, and elegance.
With 12 distinct appellations, 5400 hectares of vineyards, and more than 800 wine estates, Saint- Emilion is sure to have just the wine for you. To obtain the appellations AOC Saint-Emilion or Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, wine estates must be located within a strictly defined territory and follow many rules and regulations, including the mandatory production of red wine. Reviewed every 10 years, the best wines of Saint- Emilion Grand Cru are rewarded and ranked according to their level of quality:
- Grand Cru Classé
- 1er Grand Cru Classé B
- 1er Grand Cru Classé A (highest ranking)
Not convinced yet? Here are my top 3 St. Emilion places and experiences you can’t miss!
#1 The Monolithic Church and Catacombs
Made from a single block of stone, Saint- Emilion is home to the largest Monolithic Church in Europe. Immerse yourself in the city’s cultural myths, beauty, and history with a 2-hour guided tour, including a walk through the catacombs, Hermitage cave, and chapel. It is the perfect activity to cool down after a walk through the village on a hot summer day.
#2 The Great Vineyards Train
Take a memorable ride and discover the Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Crus Classes. Witness the stunning vineyard views and learn more about these flagships with tours available in English. Don’t forget to include a wine tasting experience at Chateau Rochebelle (a personal favorite) in your itinerary.
#3 Sparkling wine and macarons pairing
Have you had enough red wine? End your day with a glass of sparkling wine and locally produced macarons in Cordeliers cloister, a local gem featuring lush gardens and timeless charm.
There you have it… Now you are ready to experience my home like a pro… The perfect destination for wine lovers that will leave you with memories for a lifetime. A bientôt, (see you soon) in Saint- Emilion!
Do you have any special tips for Saint- Emilion?