By Lisa Rowlands

Covering an area of 5,400 hectares and with a viticultural history dating back many centuries, the vineyards of the appellation account for just over one twentieth of the entire Bordeaux region and include the eight communes of Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, Saint-Hippolyte, Saint-Étienne-de-Lisse, Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, Saint-Pey-d’Armens, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens, Vignonet and Saint-Émilion itself. Four other red wine AOCs to the north / northeast of the appellation - Lussac-Saint-Émilion, Montagne-Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion and Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion - are collectively known as the Saint-Émilion satellites, and produce stylish, affordable blends in the traditional Bordeaux style.

Saint-Émilion itself benefits from a temperate climate with extremes of summer heat and winter frosts moderated by the close proximity of the Dordogne river. Soil diversity is a key feature of the appellation’s terroir with the central limestone plateau characterised by chalky, clay soils and the north and northwest of the appellation having a more sandy, gravelly composition.

Wines from Saint-Émilion are typically a blend of two or more varieties, the most common components of which are Merlot (accounting for approximately 60% of the appellation’s vineyards), Cabernet Franc (almost 30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (roughly 10%). Other permitted grape varieties are Malbec, Petit-Verdot and Carménère although these are grown in minuscule quantities by comparison with the three leads.