Before we set off for our beery escapades in Belgium, a visit to France was a must. This is a destination I longed to visit for quite sometime. Our first stop was the beautiful city of Bordeaux. Here we spent 4 nights and one of my highlights was the trip to St Emilion. From the moment we stepped off the train and began our walk up to the town the excitement was building up nicely. It was a short walk but we really got to see some wonderful sights. I’ve never seen so many grape vines in my life. We passed by some beautiful Chateaux too. St Emilion dates back to prehistoric times and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We thoroughly enjoyed walking through the narrow cobbled streets and seeing the gorgeous buildings, the many wines caves as well as the churches and ruins. I even made it up the really steep hill without collapsing.
We planned to get in a full day here, but due to the lack of French vocabulary between Wayne and myself we had a slight mix up with the train timetables. However we got there and had so much fun. We literally packed in as much as we could here.
First thing we did was hit up the wine museum. Entry was free and there was a room with an aroma table to allow you to try the different nuances of the wine ‘nose’. I was quite surprised I got quite a few right. Also around the room were images and information of the processes of making wine. Through a small walkway led to a shop where the walls are lined with some amazing wines. Here you also had the opportunity to buy bottles, glasses, decanters and even bottle toppers.
After this we booked a tour. We opted for Le Train Des Grands Vignobles. This was a fun way to see the glorious hills and vineyards St Emilion is so well known for. There were two options: 1 a short 35 minute commented tour that showed off some fabulous Chateaux. 2 a chance to stop off at Chateau Rochebelle Grand Crus Classe. We went with option 2.
So on we get and i’m as giddy as a child in a sweet shop. We were taken on a beautiful route showcasing some 20 Chateaux. About half way through we reached Chateau Rochebelle where we got off and were met with a very friendly welcome. Our guide talks use through the history of the chateau before we were led through the amazing 18th century monolithic wine cellars. The cellars used to be limestone caves and quarries started by their great grandfather. This is where the name Chateau Rochebelle comes from as it translates into beautiful stones. They are kept in the original state and are ideal surroundings for maturing their wine in oak barrels. Which takes between 15 and 18 months.
The three hectare vineyard consists of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. The old vines are on average 45 years old with nearly 6000 vines per hectare. Approximately 18000 bottles are produced each year. After the tour we were brought to the tasting room. Here we enjoyed some gorgeous vintage grand cru. The passion and love they have for their wine is portrayed by showing us how to truly enjoy and savour the flavour. You can also purchase some bottles to bring home. Shortly after the tasting, the train came back and on we get again. We then continue through the rest of the tour enjoying the sights of all the vineyards.
After being dropped of we had the time to walk through the town and wander around some of the wine caves, most of which were offering tastings before you commit to purchasing a bottle. Before our train back to Bordeaux we stopped off in one of the many eateries. We chose Le Medieval where we enjoyed the most amazing croque monsieur I ever had with a gorgeous glass of red wine. How could we leave St Emilion without picking up a bottle of Chateau Hautes Graves D’Arthus, Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2009. In hindsight we should’ve bought some more and had them shipped home, we were thinking of our baggage allowance!!
All in all with the short amount of time we actually had I loved the experience of visiting St Emilion. One day I hope to return.