Historia y vino en Saint Émilion
25 April, 2016
Named after a monk –Émilion, a sort of Robin Hood – this locality lies some 38 kilometres from Bordeaux, from which it can be reached by either car or train in about half an hour. By strolling through its steep, cobbled streets, the visitor becomes immersed in history… and wine. The aroma of Bacchus wafts through the whole town, located among vineyards planted with the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.
You can soak up most of its charms in a single day, but I assure you that you will want to stay there forever. Much of Saint-Émilion’s history lies buried in the earth, conjuring up a past full of Masonic societies and secret grottos swathed in an air of mystery, adding to the appeal of this World Heritage Site town.
A must-visit sight is the Monolithic Church, the largest of its kind in Europe. Carved out of a cliff, you cannot possibly imagine its sheer size from the outside. This architectural jewel also houses catacombs where the ancient nobles were buried. Guided tours are available in various languages and tickets can be purchased at the tourist office. They are well worth getting. The guided tour in Spanish always starts at 12 a.m.
If you are an enthusiast of underground worlds, you can also visit a number of wine cellars, notably the Chateau Cardinal Villemaurine, Clos des Menuts and Maison Galhaud, to name but a few. In all, there are over 100 châteaux where you can taste all kinds of wines with the DO Saint Émilion. A word of warning – during the tastings, remember to spit out the wine from time to time, to avoid it going to your head and having to regret something you did the day before.
Strolling Through the Town
The area surrounding the town offers picture postcard scenery and romantic walks. Strolling up and down the steep streets holding hands with your partner makes for what feels like an obstacle race over uneven cobblestones, as if it were a metaphor of love.
Your stroll will lead you to the Gate de La Cadène, an archway separating the upper part of the town, home to the wealthy classes, from the lower part, inhabited by the peasants.
In the Middle Ages, Saint-Émilion was defended by a fortified enclosure, the wall stretching some 1,500 metres. Access to the town was via six gates – the Porte Bourgeoise in the north, Porte Brunet in the east, Chanoines and Saint-Martin in the west, and Porte Bouqueyre or Bouquière and Sainte-Marie in the south. The Porte Brunet, which leads into the vineyards, is the only one which has been preserved virtually intact. It is well worth coming to this side of the town where all you can hear is the sound of bird song.
Another monument visible from most of the town is the King’s Tower. You can visit the top for €1.5 and soak up the views, which leave you speechless.
Macaroons For Afternoon Tea
Before Ladurée reinvented the formula, making them double and in various colours and flavours, macarons had long existed as a spongy almond biscuit with a great tradition in towns such as Saint-Émilion. In the 17th century, the Ursuline nuns in this locality were tasked with harvesting the almonds and using them in their pastries, which is how macaroons were created. They are still famous throughout the region. You can purchase them in two shops with a long-standing tradition in the town – Matthieu Mouliérac and Fabrique des Véritables Macarons. If you are really sweet-toothed and still require a further injection of sugar, try their canelés, small pastries typical of Bordeaux. The recipe was also developed by a monastic order, this time in the 16th century. Absolutely delicieux!
Brasseries, Foie Gras and Cheese For Dinner
There are numerous restaurants offering traditional cuisine, as well as brasseries, the ideal venues for having canard (duck) and entrecôte. If you fancy eating typical French cheeses, some foie gras and even some oysters while tasting a selection of wines, the restaurant L’Envers du Décor is the ideal spot. They have a small patio for warm summer evenings and their wine list is as long as a Cervantes novel. Let the waiter recommend what to order and abandon yourself to the aromas of Dionysius.
Discover the joie de vivre, book your Vueling to Bordeaux and have a good time!
Photos by Antonio Caballero
25 April, 2016