A red wine from around the town of St-Emilion in Bordeaux, France. Like its neighbouring Pomerol, St-Emilion is known for higher levels of merlot than a typical Bordeaux wine. Most St-Emilion wines will also include cabernet franc and possibly cabernet sauvignon; malbec is permitted but does not appear in significant quantities.

All good St-Emilion wine will be marked Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée or AOC; wine which does not carry this mark does not meet basic production standards and should be avoided. St-Emilion was not part of the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, but since 1878 it has had its own classification. The additional marks which can be awarded are as follows:

Premier grand crus classés A
The very best wines. Only Château Cheval Blanc (which is on the border with Pomerol and carries Pomerol's characteristic fruitiness) and Château Ausone can carry this designation. Both are brilliant wines, but whether they are truly worth the price they carry is a matter of considerable debate.
Premier grand crus classés B
Extremely good wines. In practice, these are just as good as the classés A, but the slightly reduced hype makes them slightly more accessible to people who are only moderately rich. There are a dozen producers in this category — wines to try include:
Grand crus classés
Very good wines. These are still not every day drinking wines, but a bottle or two on special occasions will not break the bank. Some suggestions:
  • Château Faurie. Typically around 65% merlot, 25% cabernet franc.
  • Château la Serre. Typically around 80% merlot, 20% cabernet franc.
  • Château l'Arrosée. Made from 60% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon. This is a rather unconventional wine, but good for those who prefer a slightly less fruity taste.
Grand crus
Supposedly good wines. This is a rather large category; whilst some of the wines in this category are as good or better than the grand crus classés, others are nothing special. Château Faurie-la-Rose and Château Moulin de Lagnet are personal favourites.

Amongst the unclassified Appellation wines, quality varies considerably. Some are excellent wines, many are unremarkable and a few are suitable only for killing off nasty things growing in the sink.

All Appellation St-Emilion wines can be marked Grand vin de Bordeaux or (for those with a higher alcohol content) Grand vin de Bordeaux Supérieur. This is often written along the top of the label; some producers choose to omit this mark.

A St-Emilion should be aged for at least three years before drinking. The higher quality wines tend to need longer — five years is a better minimum, but for full effect ten to thirty years is recommended.

Despite its fruitiness, a St-Emilion is a strong wine and will play a large part in the flavour of the meal. It makes a good accompaniment to steak or a traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and can work well with a meaty lasagne bolognese. Do not serve this wine with food with lighter dishes — in a fight between St-Emilion and a lovingly prepared delicate sauce, the sauce will lose badly.

Like other Bordeaux reds, St-Emilion should be decanted at least an hour prior to drinking and served at room temperature.

Sources: The characteristics and compositions of the various wines came from my notebook; http://www.terroir-france.com/wine/grandscrusemilion.htm was used to verify the classifications.

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