The Saint Émilion vineyards are located 35km near Bordeaux on the 'right bank' of the Dordogne River - where Saint-Émilion is registered as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Saint-Emilion's fame is due to its unique situation and soil to be found in the area.
For several historical reasons before the French revolution in 1789, St-Émilion's land was divided into thousands of plots. Thus, the current average size of the properties of Saint-Emilion doesn’t exceed 7 ha, which is small when compared to the Medoc wine estates being approx five times the size.
Fortunately this historical inheritance turned out to be an advantage when vines were planted around the small town of St-Émilion because of the astonishing diversity of the local soils.
St-Émilion is covered with a thick molasse layer of calcareous, sandstones, shales and conglomerates of shallow marine deposits. Saint Emilion is assigned into five main areas based on their type of soil: Côte Sud, or South - Graves de Figeac - the West coast - the North coast and the plateau of St-Martin. With the exception of the gravelly soil of the Graves de Figeac on which the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals are particularly well adapted. St-Émilion is the home of Merlot, which makes up a dominant portion of the crafted red wine blends.
The total area of wine-producing is made up of several communes: Saint-Émilion, Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, Saint-Hippolyte, Saint-Étienne-de-Lisse, Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, Saint-Pey-d’Armens, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens, Vignonet, and a part of the Libourne commune - all accounting for approximately 6% of the total Bordeaux vineyard area.
Since 1955, there has been a classification of Saint-Émilion wine, and is updated every 10 years or so (last in 2006), and consists of the following levels: Premier grand cru classé A, Premier grand cru classé B, and Grand cru classé - (18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 64 Grands Crus Classés). s of the new classification in 2012, there are currently four estates at the highest level: Château Angélus, Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Pavie. Previously, Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc were the only two estates at this classification level.
During the 1990s, a very surprising and exciting new category of wines appeared: the ‘garagiste’ wines, whose tiny production and extremely low yields result in highly fruit driven, rich, concentrated and perfectly extracted wines. The most famous ‘garage wine’ estates in the area are; Valandraud, Mondotte and Le Pin.
St-Émilion's Merlot dominated wines are often less austere than their cousins of the Médoc region. They Saint-Emilion wines are fully rich, velvety, fruity, elegant and powerful. After 10-15 years of ageing, the wines of Saint-Émilion tend to gain complexity from their initial aromas by integrating rich leather, earthy and spicy flavours.