Bordeaux Saint Emilion
St. Emilion could be the oldest active wine producing appellation in the Bordeaux region with a history that dates back to the times of the ancient Romans. Numerous Roman ruins are scattered all over the St. Emilion appellation. Interestingly, due to the ease of shipping, the wines of St. Emilion were some of the first Bordeaux wines sold for export. In the early 1300′s, when only a few vines were scattered in the Medoc, St. Emilion wine was already being shipped to England at the request of King Edward.
The terroir and soil varies quite a bit from property to property for the numerous, St. Emilion wine producing chateaux. In the best terroir, you have soils with limestone, clay, gravel, sand and iron deposits. The best St. Emilion wine comes from the estates located on the plateau of St. Emilion. With its massive layers and deposits of limestone, St. Emilion wine from the chateaux located on the plateau, or cotes, produce wines of richness, exotic textures and minerality. The limestone offers good drainage in the wet years, while retaining much needed moisture in the dry vintages while adding pH and various mineral elements to the soils. Wine from limestone intensive terroirs often display more minerality characteristics in the aromatics and flavors.

Most of the better St. Emilion wine comes from the chateaux located on the Cotes. The Cotes are the limestone, rich, hillsides that surround the picturesque village of St. Emilion. Out of the list of 15 Premiere Cru Classe wines, the vast majority of those chateaux are situated on the Cotes. To get a picture of the limestone terroir, you can visit several of the deep, underground caves that connect some of the chateaux like Beau-Sejour Becot, Canon and Clos Fourtet. Other top estates from the Cotes are: Angelus, Ausone, Beausejour Duffau, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie, Pavie Macquin and Troplong Mondot.

If most of the top Premire Cru classe wines come from the Cotes, what about the other St. Emilion wine producers? Cheval Blanc, which many tasters feel is the best St. Emilion wine made, comes from the graves section of St. Emilion that borders Pomerol. Other top estates from those terroirs are Figeac, and La Dominique.

Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the dominant grapes that make St. Emilion wine. Merlot gives the wine lush textures, richness and concentration with flavors of plums, blackberry, licorice, chocolate and black cherry. The Cabernet Franc adds aromatic qualities like flowers and spice as well as tannin and structure. However, other grape varieties are used to produce St. Emilion wine including, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Feeling left out of the 1855 Classification, St. Emilion created their own unique classification of St. Emilion wine. It is the only classisification that strives to keep up with the times.  St. Emilion wine is reclassififed every 10 years. The more recent classification took place in 2012.

There are four levels of classification in St. Emilion. Premier Grand Cru Classe St. Emilion wines are the First Growths of St. Emilion. Those chateaux are divided into two categories, Premier Grand Cru Classe A, of which there are only 4 chateaux entitled to use that designation and .Premier Grand Cru Classe B, of which 15 estates are allowed to use that wording on their label. The next level of Grand Cru Classe has a total of 63 estates in that classification. The level of quality and consistency varies widely in that classification.

St. Emilion wine makers are some of the most progressive producers in Bordeaux. In part, because the Right Bank estates are often smaller, they can more easily innovate and experiment. The short lived garage wine movement sprung up in St. Emilion. There are numerous small, dynamic, exciting St. Emilion wine makers striving to produce great St. Emilion wine from small bits of quality, unique terroir all over the appellation. St. Emilion wine is one of the best places for savvy, wine buyers to seek out the best wines for the money. St. Emilion wine comes in a wide array of styles, from rich, ripe, concentrated, bold, hedonistic wines offering decadent tasting experiences to more traditional, fresher, medium bodied wines. St. Emilion wine offers something for everyone. While many of the top St. Emilion wines can be enjoyed at a young age, they age and evolve as well as any of the top properties in the Left Bank.

With thanks to Jeff Leve from, for the invaluable information