Nestled in the French countryside between Libourne and Castillon-la-Bataille, the small village of Saint-Émilion is a jewel of the Bordeaux wine region. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town offers stunning views of vineyards and beautiful examples of architecture from ancient times to modern day.
Saint-Émilion is world-renowned for its red wines, specifically their Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Due to the variety of different soils in the area, this appellation is said to offer the most diverse range of wine styles in the Bordeaux region. Wines from this town can range from light and fruity—with grapes grown in sandy soils—to richer and darker tastes due to the clay and limestone in the earth.
The beginning of the wine tradition in this town dates back to the Ancient Romans, earning Saint-Émilion the title of the oldest wine producing appellation in the Bordeaux region. Decimus Magnus Ausonius, a famous Roman poet and namesake of the Château Ausone, lived in this region and wrote about the bountiful fruit and the delicious wine it created. You can see examples of ancient architectural ruins from this period throughout the town.
The town did not carry the name “Saint-Émilion”, however, until much later. In the 8th century, a monk named Émilion fled persecution in his Brittany homeland and settled in a hermitage amongst the natural limestone caves in the area. From there, Émilion gained a following by performing small miracles, and the town grew up around him as more people flocked to the region. With this influx, the construction of the town began, including the beginnings of what is now a massive, monolithic cathedral.
The Saint-Émilion Monolithic Church is impressive, with soaring spires and a 53-meter-high bell-tower. However, the true majesty of the structure is subterranean. Beneath the main chapel is an immense church carved completely out of the limestone that is the bedrock of the entire Saint-Émilion area. Walking through this underground section, you can feel the solemnity and quiet that permeates the air and stone, and the weight of the area’s long history falls on you as you walk between the giant pillars and beneath the towering ceiling.
On the Taste of Bordeaux river cruise, guests will have the opportunity to join an excursion to the town of Saint-Émilion. There, you will attend a Grand Cru Classé wine tasting and experience the top wines of the region. Guests will also tour through the famous cathedral, and explore its catacombs and massive underground church. This excursion through history will pull you from ancient times to the early years of the Christian Church. After these guided tours, you will have the opportunity to explore the town through your own eyes during a period of free time. There are plenty of sights to see and shops to explore, including a large assortment of macaron shops, as Saint-Émilion is said to be the birthplace of macarons!