Saint-Émilion’s history goes back to prehistoric times and is a World Heritage site, with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets. The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. In the 4th century, the Latin poet Ausonius lauded the fruit of the bountiful vine. The town was named after the monk Émilion , a travelling confessor, who settled in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. It was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area.
Sights:- Romanesque church and Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff
There is a very unusual place not to be missed in the heart of the town, near the St. Emilion cave: A Romanesque church with catacombs that is as large as a cathedral: 125 ft long, 66 ft wide and 36 ft high. All you can see from the exterior are a few windows on the one facade and the steeple, topped with a Gothic arrow 174 ft high, that seems to have been set on the very ground at the top of the limestone cliff. Benedictine monks were inspiration for this church carved out of solid rock which is Europe’s largest monolithic cathedral! This very strange sanctuary was built fairly quickly in the 11th century, taking only 40 years. After following a long gallery, one comes across an altar oriented towards the west, rather than the east as is the Christian tradition. The sobriety of the ornamentations stands in stark contrast with the wealth of lessons to be learned from them. Unfortunately, in the 18th century, revolutionaries scraped the church walls to collect the saltpeter they used as a base ingredient in gunpowder. A lot of damage was done to the murals, but thankfully some very beautiful samples were spared. This very original place of worship is definitely worth your extended visit.
Emilion was born in Brittany in the 8th century, to a modest family. The count who ruled the province chose him to be his financial steward, which turned out to be an unfortunate distinction in his life: Jealous rivals accused him of thievery to discredit him in the eyes of his master and confidant. One day, as he set off to distribute bread to the poor, the suspicious count asked him to open his coat. Miraculously, the pieces of bread that he had hidden inside of it had changed into old bundles of firewood. After this sad experience, the pious young man decided to go on a pilgrimage. His path eventually led him to a forest where, captivated by the serenity of the area, he dug out a cave and dedicated his life to God. After his death in 767, the hermit had performed so many miracles and done so much good around him that his name was given to the place where he had lived which became known as St. Emilion.
Information courtesy of France Monthly
Saint-Émilion is one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux along with the Médoc, Graves and Pomerol. The region is much smaller than the Médoc and adjoins Pomerol. As in Pomerol and the other appellations on the right bank of theGironde, the primary grape varieties used are the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with relatively small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon also being used by some chateaux.
Saint Émilion wines were not included in the 1855 Bordeaux classification. The first formal classification in Saint-Émilionwas made in 1955. Unlike the 1855 classification, it is regularly revised.
Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc are the only two wines currently classified as Premiers grands crus classes A(First Great Growths category A). There are then 13 Premiers grands crus classés B and 53 grands crus classés. In addition, a large number of vineyards are classified as Grand Cru.
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