In 1999 the jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion, covering over 7,500 hectares, was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The borders were established at the end of the 13th century, by Edward 1st of England and it's important to realise that the region is made up of a total of seven other communes. Now we’ve drunk a fair bit of their wine, and we were intent on exploring this town renown for its prolific production of top rated red wine. The wine we knew to be supple and fruity with a fair degree of alcohol giving a well rounded and full-bodied taste. We also knew it to be in the higher price range of quality wine. So you won’t be surprised that we decided to have a tasting or two. Indeed the small chateau that we opted for insisted that we try a dozen wines in total and he tempted us with six "full-blown" St Emilion and half a dozen from outside of the appellation which he described as "good quality" Bordeaux. The monsieur created a game out of the tasting and wanted us to guess the appellation and rate the wines in our preference. Not being wine connoisseurs (although we know a bad bottle when we taste it!) we entered into the spirit of the contest with a little apprehension. But as we progressed (I had to be careful to "spit not swallow") we got into the routine and had, somewhat alarmingly, the higher priced St Emilion wine in our top five. The proprietor was delighted because the one we had rejected was a younger wine and a "little thin".Having spent a good 45 minutes tasting the wine and attempting to make full use of my school boy French we decided to examine the price guide. Our top rated wine was a little on the pricey side, even by UK standards, but we did leave with half a case of mixed St Emilion. Strange they never did make it out of France as we just had to "try them again" as we tarried over our evening meals back at the Gite and considered the splendour of the St-Emilion communes.There's Saint-Christophe des Bardes, with its ancient fortress, perched on a plateau overlooking the Dordogne valley; St-Etienne de Lisse a pretty village with a delightful 12th Century church; St-Hippolyte near the great 16th Century chateau and the Ferrand grottoes; St-Laurent des Combes with superb views over the Dordogne landscape; St-Pey d’Armens, noted for a magnificent Romanesque church; St-Sulpice de Faleyrens, boasting a 5m high menhir that even Asterix would be proud of; and Vignonet, at the bottom of the St-Emilion plateau, and almost surrounded by a loop of the Dordogne river.
The area abounds with fields of vines, there are some superb vistas and of course there are no shortage of chateaux for tasting! À votre santé!