St Emilion is one of Bordeaux's largest producing
appellations, producing more wine than Listrac, Moulis, St
Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux put together. St Emilion has been
producing wine for longer than the Médoc but its lack of accessibility
to Bordeaux's port and market restricted exports to mainland Europe and the
region never originally enjoyed the commercial success which funded the great
châteaux of the Left Bank.
St Emilion itself is the prettiest of Bordeaux's wine towns, perched on top
of the steep limestone slopes upon which many of the region's finest vineyards
are situated. However, more than half of the appellation's vineyards lie
on the plain between the town and the Dordogne River on sandy, alluvial soils
with a sprinkling of gravel.
Further diversity is added by a small, complex gravel bed to the north-east
of the region on the border with Pomerol. Atypically for St Emilion,
this allows Cabernet Franc and, to a
lesser extent, Cabernet Sauvignon to
prosper and defines the personality of the great wines such as Ch. Cheval Blanc.
In recent years there has been an explosion of experimentation and
evolution, leading to the rise of the "garagistes", producers of deeply
concentrated wines made in very small quantities and offered at high
prices. The appellation is also surrounded by four "satellite"
appellations, Montagne, Lussac, Puisseguin and St. Georges, which enjoy a family similarity
but not the complexity of the best wines.
St Emilion was first officially classified in 1954 and is the most
meritocratic classification system in Bordeaux, as it is regularly amended.
The most recent revision of the
classification was in 20