Just a half an hour away from the city of Bordeaux, lies one of the most romantic and picturesque villages I’ve ever laid eyes on. The historic village of Saint-Émilion looks like something straight out of a postcard. With cellars and underground passages that have remained unchanged for centuries, the medieval village is a living history lesson. But despite its architectural beauty, Saint-Émilion is first and foremost known for its wine. During my trip to France this Summer, my girlfriends and I took a tour of Saint-Émilion’s wineries and it was one of my favorite days of the trip. So, if you ever find yourself in Bordeaux, book yourself a day trip to Saint-Émilion, because, wine not?
Château Grangey | Château Grangey was the first stop of our tour. The estate consists of five parcels and is absolutely gorgeous (I’m talking a castle upon rolling hills). Within seconds of pulling up to the estate, we were greeted by the owners, a young couple named Elodie and Franck. They were extremely gracious and welcomed us with open arms. Elodie shared with us the history of the estate which traces back to 1756. Franck’s grandparents bought the estate in 1954 and some of the grapevines were planted almost 60 years ago. Château Grangey is unique because it takes a modern approach to traditional winemaking (everything was computer-based).
From the moment we met Elodie and Franck, we could tell that winemaking was truly their passion — the couple handles all aspects of the winemaking process from mowing the rows in the vineyard to grape harvesting, to mixing the wine by hand. Elodie shared with us that her husband, Franck, actually straps himself to a railing above the barrels when stirring the batches of wine. Their specialty is red wine (mainly Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec) which was right up my alley. Needless to say, they had me at Merlot.
Château Tour Baladoz & Château La Croizille | Our second stop was a double feature! Château Tour Baladoz and Château La Croizille are adjacent wineries with two distinct styles of wine making. In 1996, the De Schepper family, who already owned Château Tour Baladoz, purchased the neighbouring estate, Château La Croizille in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes. While Tour Baladoz honors the older, traditional process of wine making, La Croizille takes a more modern approach.
I loved seeing the differences between the two facilities. Tour Baladoz had concrete fermentation vats while La Crouzille had top-of-the-line stainless steel equipment. The sleek, contemporary architecture of Château La Croizille was stunning and still well integrated into Saint-Emilion’s landscape. The building has bright orange detailing, which we later discovered was an ode to the owners who were from Belgium. And my favorite part: at the end of the tour, we were given crackers and chocolate to pair with the wine tasting! Overall, this hybrid Chateau was the perfect blend of old and new.
Château du Tailhas | Château du Tailhas has been a small family-owned winery since 1932. Much like the first winery, Château du Tailhas offers only red wines (80% are Merlot, 10% are Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% are Cabernet Franc). The wines of Tailhas have many of the same characteristics of the wines of Pomerol. For those not familiar with Pomerol, Merlot is the dominant grape in Pomerol and plays a large part in making these rich wines smooth, while also being capable of extended aging. Cabernet Franc is also often present, adding a savory spiced flavor. These characteristics make Pomerol very popular in the international market. We learned that in 2017, a frost killed off 90% of the crops producing these wines. However, it was a great year for the ones that survived. If you can find one of the bottles produced from 2017, it’s not only rare but also delicious.