My husband and I are both red wine lovers. Enjoying a good bottle of wine is a regular occurrence in our household. Having never experienced a proper wine tasting and Bordeaux being one of my husband’s favourite wine regions, Saint-Émilion seemed the perfect place for our next get-away. What could be more pleasant than a delicious glass of wine whilst you enjoy the stunning French countryside. Both will not disappoint - the views are breathtaking and the wine so heavenly, you'll want it for brunch!
As you approach Saint-Émilion you see tiny vineyards crammed in to every available space that roll in to the distance and ripple like a green blanket. Each vineyard is accompanied with a stunning family-run château that leaves you fantasising about moving to France or wanting to redecorate your entire house.
Saint-Émilion is a beautiful French town located 40 minutes outside of Bordeaux. It’s known for two things: its delicious red wines and its well preserved medieval old town. As you can imagine, both of these draw crowds so it’s hugely popular with tourists. Saint-Émilion is a very magical place full of narrow, steep cobbled streets which are like a fairytale maze, where getting lost was never so enjoyable. The streets are filled with wine shops and you’ll be spoilt for choice with restaurants, from the casual to ones boasting a Michelin star. There’s a list below with some of our favourites.
All of its buildings are built from stone locally quarried out over the centuries, which has left a large network of passages and chambers that extend under the surrounding vineyards. Some of these chambers are so large that banquets for hundreds of people have been held in them. In times of war they even served as hiding places. Now they are mostly used to store the wine while the barrels age in the perfect temperature and humidity. You’ll get to see these on the wine tours.
The most dramatic sight is a steeple rising from the monolithic church in the corner of the Les Cordeliers. A 15th century bell tower, soaring up 53-meters high above Saint-Émilion. If you climb the 196 steps it rewards you with fabulous views over the surrounding vineyards.
Now the fun bit – the wine tours. The hotels have a collection of business cards to help you choose a vineyard. If that fails ask the hotel staff or other hotel guests for recommendations. You’ll need to call the châteaux and book your wine tour. They're usually 11am and 2pm. I cant recommend them enough. They’re interesting, informative and there’s never any pressure to buy. It really gives you an insight in why some wines are so expensive. You’ll pay around £12 - £15 each tour and you'll get to sample some of the finest glasses of wine you can imagine and a perfect justification for a pre-lunchtime drink – how decadent! We enjoyed the one in our hotel Le Raelais de Franc Mayne and at Chateau Beauregard as it’s a Pomerol vineyard which is probably my husband's favourite wine.
I strongly urge you to buy any wine from the producers. Buying from wine shops in Saint-Émilion is convenient but you’ll pay two or three times more.
If you fancy something good and simple for lunch, like croque-monsieur, I would recommend eating at your château. It will be better quality and more reasonable in price than eating in Saint-Émilion.
Don’t go to any of the restaurants that are in the squares in Saint-Émilion. They're tourist traps, bad quality food and will cost you a fortune.
Use the Vivino App when you are interested in purchasing wine. It will tell you how much the wine would be to buy at home. Not often but sometimes the wine isn’t cheaper.
If you haven't driven over, don't worry about shipping your wine home. It’s roughly £2 - £5 a bottle depending on how many you ship back and arrives in two days.
Hire a bike to get about. The roads are flat and the vineyards are very close together.
Make sure you take trainers or flat shoes for walking in Saint-Émilion. The cobbled streets are very slippery and steep.
Take a cardigan and scarf as you can have three seasons in one day, even in peak summer months.