It is small and hilly, and nearly every other shop along its steep, narrow streets sells wine. This is Saint-Émilion, the picturesque medieval town in the wine district of Saint-Émilion, 25 miles east of the city of Bordeaux and the oldest winemaking area in the Bordeaux region. While most people think of red Bordeaux as primarily made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Saint-Émilion is known for full, luscious reds based primarily on Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon plays a minor role in its blends. It is soil that largely determines which grapes grow best, and in Saint-Émilion’s soils, that is Merlot.
Bordeaux recently had two particularly great vintages — 2009 and 2010 — many of which I tasted during a recent visit to Saint-Émilion and at tastings in New York. In Saint-Émilion, I visited Château D’Arcole, the first winery in Bordeaux to be organic and one of the earliest to be certified biodynamic. With a blend of 70 percent Merlot and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, its 2009 shows a lovely balance of fruit flavors in its aroma and taste and a developing satiny texture. Its 2010 is also a rich wine, beautifully balanced, robust in structure, with vanilla notes from its time in oak and silky tannins. ($35–40)
Château Faugères 2009 is deep-colored with an intense and pleasurable aroma and rich, full-flavored, well-integrated taste. The 2010 is ink-deep in color, round with hints of anise and black cherry. The château plants 85 percent of its vineyards in Merlot. ($50–55)
Both Château Dassault 2009 and 2010 are exceptional: rich color; full, fragrant nose; ripe and juicy with a long, satisfying aftertaste. Its 2009 is based on 75 percent Merlot, its 2010 on 83 percent Merlot. Cabernet Franc plus 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon round out their blends. ($40–45)
Château Fombrauge plants its vineyards in 80 percent Merlot with 12 percent Cabernet Franc and 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. I enjoyed its 2009, a lovely, fruit-rich, delicious wine with a whiff of fresh earth in the nose. Its 2010 is a bright, fresh, open wine with rich fruit flavors and a medium-long aftertaste. ($50)
Saint-Émilion is surely a Merlot lover’s paradise.
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Since 1970, Goway Travel has been committed to providing customized travel experiences for world travelers. Few things are better evidence of this commitment than being awarded the 2019 Trazees award for Favorite Tour Operator. Goway Travel heartily thanks the readers of Trazee Travel for this honor and for their confidence in Goway’s work in creating travel memories that’ll last a lifetime.
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