St-Émilion

The Merlot vine reigns here on the right bank (of the Gironde), as it does in the greater Bordeaux region, producing generally warmer, more obviously fruity wines than in the Médoc and Graves, most of which mature between three and 10 years earlier. It is typically blended with some Cabernet Franc, the aromatic, lighter-bodied parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is easier to ripen than Cabernet Sauvignon in St-Émilion, which is less temperate than the heavily maritime-influenced Médoc.

The medieval town of St-Émilion can supply the wine tourist with everything the Médoc lacks: pretty countryside round about, cobbled streets, a ruined but cavernous church, cloisters and literally scores of wine shops dedicated, almost too rapaciously, to selling wine by the bottle to visitors. St-Émilion has its own classification system, revised every decade. Only wines described as Grand Cru Classé on the label are seriously superior and Chx Ausone and Cheval Blanc share the same ranking as a Médoc first growth; the words Grand Cru alone mean little. At the turn of the century St-Émilion saw a rash of small-production, so-called 'garage wines' with particularly ambitious pricing and varying degrees of success.

Some favourite producers: Angélus, Ausone, Canon, Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Pavie Maquin, Tertre-Roteboeuf, Valandraud. 

In a nutshell

Merlot's heartland.

Main grapes