St. Emilion is located on the East Side of the Dordogne, otherwise know as the Right Bank. Merlot is the most widely planted grape in this region accounting for about 60%, followed by Cabernet Franc at 30%, and Cabernet Sauvignon the remaining 10%. The soils are varied with limestone, clay, and sand, so the personalities of the wines can vary greatly.
The use of Grand Cru in St. Emilion can be confusing as any wine can be submitted for tasting and declared Grand Cru. However, a classified wine is labeled Grand Cru Classe. At the top of the classified wine hierarchy is Premieres Grand Cru Classe A and B. The “A” group is a short list including Cheval Blanc, Chateau Ausone, and the recently elevated Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie. The next tier is the “B” class., followed by grand cru classe. The classification is supposed to be reviewed every ten years, but recent attempts to revise rankings have been met with legal action. As it stands, the last revision was in 1996. As a consumer this is somewaht maddening. If producers would concentrate on improving quality rather than resting on laurels, the ranks of classified wines would only grow and demotion wouldn’t be an issue.
St. Emilion is also home to the garagista movement. Unlike the Left Bank, there are many small producers in the region. Bringing truth to the old addage “A man’s home is his castle”, In St. Emilion, many a winemaker’s home is his chateau, with a winery in the garage. The garigistas tend to produce modern-styled wine with broad commercial appeal.
For anyone who says they don’t like Merlot, wines from the region can change your mind. These wines are not the tooty-fruity Merlots that ore often produced in New World regions; however, these wines tend to be approachable earlier on than the Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blends of the Left Bank.
We have a growing list of wines from St. Emilion and its satellites. Below are some highlights from our selection:
Chateau Pavie 2006