With no shortage of picturesque towns, our river cruise aboard the Uniworld River Royale continued on to St. Émilion, France, a town with prehistoric roots and a rich architectural heritage. With a population of just over 2,000 people, St. Émilion is situated about 22 miles northeast of Bordeaux and is a must-see for any wine aficionado. And if you’re not big on wine? Go anyway! The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with welcoming wine shops, the town is also knows for its special almond-flavored macarons and the view is worth a trip of its own! What’s not to love?
French river cruise: St. Émilion
Day 5 of our France river cruise kicked off with a visit to St. Émilion and let’s start with that view. After discovering the town of St. Emilion a little bit (it’s actually named after a monk), we made a beeline for the stairs that would take us to a vantage point where this shot was possible. Limestone, lush greenery and a to-die-for view — French charm at its finest!
Discovering St. Émilion
To give you some history, the town’s official tourism site explains that “landscapes and culture are the spirit of the Grand Saint-Emilion area: from the banks of the Dordogne to the cultivated terraces or limestone plateau, including Romanesque, Gothic or monolithic churches, Châteaux and mansions, small man-made heritage from historic practices or megalithic monuments.” We were able to visit the monolithic church with a guide which dates back to the 12th century — the largest in Europe — but unfortunately no photos were allowed once inside. Here’s the view from outside:
Again, we lucked out with the weather and were able to discover the town on foot after our tour ended which is a must (as are good walking shoes since the cobblestone streets can be rough). I grabbed a famed box of the almond macarons and popped my head into a few of the wine shops we passed. Here’s a quick snap of one:
Luxury is the name of the game and some of the region’s finest bottles can be yours with a swipe of your credit card. Most of the shops can arrange to ship a case home for you and if you’re after a specific vintage, it’s guaranteed that you’ll find it in the wine shops here who cater to tourists. Even if you leave empty handed (aside from a macaron or two), St. Émilion is a wonderful place to visit and might even become a new favorite of yours based on charm alone.
Wine tasting at Château Soutard
Also while in the area, our group headed to the nicest winery I’ve ever been to — Château Soutard, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, that dates back to the 18th century and sits on about 74 acres. The vines’ average age is 35 and the grape makeup is 63% merlot, 28% cabernet franc,
7% cabernet sauvignon and 2% malbec, with the winery using traditional and sustainable cultivation methods that are specialized for each plot, type of soil and vine. In 2006, the property was acquired by insurance group AG2R La Mondiale, which already owned the adjacent estates, and carried out an impressive renovation.
About the château itself, just WOW. From a glass-walled elevator that descended deep down into the building to the modern tasting room to the custom concrete patterned walls in the cellar, Château Soutard was top notch and the wines were truly special. Our tasting took place in a dimly-lit room with the focus on the lit up table in the center which allowed us to examine the wines more closely. The vibe was really relaxed and if there was a DJ, the space could easily turn into a makeshift club. Cool doesn’t even begin to describe this winery. We tasted several reds and then continued our tour of the grounds.
With a slight buzz and a head full of wine facts, we made our way back to the ship and I decided to take a little nap before an afternoon Zumba class on the sun deck. 😉
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