As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Bordeaux is a famous wine-growing region in southwestern France. You can’t visit Bordeaux without sampling some wine!! My friend and I booked a day trip through the Tourist Office to visit a nearby vineyard and the medieval town of Saint-Émilion. The day trip only cost 30€ and included two glasses of wine at the vineyard!
Saint-Émilion is a World Heritage Site named after a monk who settled there in the 8th century, though the history of the town goes beyond that. Romans planted vines in this area as far back as the 2nd century! The city is well worth a visit and I highly recommend doing it through the tourist office like I did! Below are some of the highlights from our day tour.
Saint-Émilion Monolithic Church
The tour of the town included a visit to the monolithic church. This church was dug into preexisting rock in the 12th century. There are three entrances, including a Gothic portal that is usually closed. You can climb up the 68-meter-high bell tower above the church! Though not as expansive as the view from the bell tower, there is a great overlook right beside the church.
My favorite part of this town, aside from looking out over the beautiful rooftops beside the monolithic church, was the tertres. Saint-Émilion is built on hills or tertres, and they embraced the natural lanscape by building the town around them. There are four steep, narrow cobblestone streets that connect the upper part of the city to the lower part. I especially loved the Tertre des Vaillants. Interestingly, the stones themselves originate from England from when the region was ruled by the English (1152-1453). The stones were used to weigh down boats from England and then swapped for wine barrels!
Église Collégiale et le Cloître
Another church worth visiting in Saint-Émilion is Église Collégiale et its cloister. The church was built between the 12th and 15th century with a combination of Romanesque and Gothic style architecture. This is actually the location of the Saint-Émilion tourist office. The cloister area is accessible through the collegiate church or through the tourist office.
Canelés are the pastry speciality of the Bordeaux region. You absolutely must try one when visiting the area! They have a caramelized crust and a soft, spungey center. I stumbled upon a cute bakery in one of the Tertres in town and grabbed one for the road!
The tour brought us to Château Haut-Villet, a Grand Cru vineyard near Saint-Émilion. Grand Cru means the Château has a good reputation as a vineyard. This was a bilingual tour, so the information was provided in both French and English. For me, this was fun because I could listen in French but the info was reinforced for me in English if I missed something.
We got to try a glass of 2007 vintage and a glass of 2003 vintage. He told us that he gave us the younger wine first, because if we tried the older wine first we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the 2007! He refuses to open wine bottles unless they are at least 5 years old, and he said even that was very young for his preference.
The Director explained what you’re supposed to do when tasting nice wine (see, smell, taste) which was awesome for newbies like me. I’m not gonna lie, that’s about as classy as I’ve ever felt in my life! The wine at Chateau Haut-Veyrac is made with 75% Merlot grapes and 25% Cabernet grapes.