A Wine Connoisseur’s Guide to Saint-Émilion

October 26, 2017

There is no better way to appreciate the verdant wine regions of France than to cruise sedately through them on a hotel barge. Rosa’s route along the Canal de Garonne allows you to discover more about the wines of both the Medoc and the diverse varieties in the Saint-Émilion area.

The Medieval Town of Saint-Émilion

Saint-Émilion is one of the oldest and largest appellations in Bordeaux, with over 5,500 hectares dedicated to growing grapes. In 1999 it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a resounding testament to the area’s viticultural importance.

The Terroir

One of the first things that visitors learn about the Saint-Émilion appellation on a Wine Appreciation Cruise aboard Rosa is the huge range of wines that are produced in this region. The terroir varies from château to château, largely as a result of the soil on which each one sits.

The majority of the Grand Cru wines in Saint-Émilion are grown on the limestone-rich hillsides surrounding the town. As well as changing the pH of the soil and providing minerals such as calcium that help the vines grow, limestone benefits from particularly good drainage. This ensures that the soil soaks up the rain, retaining it and releasing it when the soil is parched in summer. The châteaux at Clos Fourtet and Beau-Séjour Bécot produce rich, textured Grand Cru wines grown on these lime-rich hillsides.

Other chateaux, such as Canon La Gaffelière, benefit from a sandy terroir which results in lighter-bodied wines that are fruitier than their rich counterparts.

Saint-Émilion Vineyards in Bordeaux

The Grapes

The two most dominant grape varieties in Saint-Émilion are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The area’s Merlots are often lush with rich flavours of chocolate, dark cherries, blackberries and plums. Following the changes in climate in recent years, more and more vineyards are planting Cabernet Franc vines, which produce grapes that are aromatic and floral, with more structure and tannin than Merlot.

Grapes in Saint-Émilion

The Cruise

Guests aboard Rosa in Bordeaux are able to visit the town of Saint-Émilion and enjoy a wine tasting on our Classic Cruise. Real oenophiles, however, should consider one of our dedicated Wine Appreciation Cruises in the region, with more winery tours which allow you to discover – and of course taste – the vinous heritage of Bordeaux.