Vacations Spring 2018
VILLAGE OF SAINT-ÉMILION
“I’ll only pour a tear’s worth,” says Luke to the heavyset American who’s insisting on just “the tiniest taste” of the latest Bordeaux on offer at L’Essentiel wine shop. You can’t really blame the man for attempting to show restraint, the bulging knapsack at his feet betrays just how much wine shopping he’s already enjoyed. But indulging in wine is, after all, what Saint-Émilion was made for. Just 40 kilometres outside of the city of Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion is a clarion call to all wine connoisseurs all over the world searching for France’s – and possibly the world’s – best red wines. The region offers a dazzling array of more than 1,500 vineyards and a corresponding richness of quaint, photo-worthy neighbouring towns to explore. What makes this UNESCO Heritage site so remarkable is that, thanks to its
A TOAST TO SAINT-ÉMILION While the Bordeaux region of France is famous for its wines, charming villages like the medieval town of Saint-Émilion add an incomparable flavour to any traveller’s experience.
By Sandra MacGregor
ancient architecture, interesting sites and world-class restaurants, it’s an equally intoxicating destination even for teetotallers. Though the village is peppered with tasting boutiques like L’Essentiel, for a newcomer to the world of wine like myself, the Maison du Vin is the ideal first stop on a visitor’s itinerary. This unique shop sells wines from over 250 of the area’s vintners (at some of the best prices in town) but is even more worth visiting for its emphasis on wine education and its 90-minute introductory wine courses. Even kids will love the centre’s intriguing “aroma game” where guests can test their olfactory skills by taking a sniff of a cork-filled canister to see if they can identify notable wine aromas like strawberry or nutmeg. Though you’ll likely be spending a lot of time doing tours in the underground caves of numerous local wineries, arguably the town’s best subterranean surprise is the Saint-Émilion Monolithic Church. Carved out of a single giant piece of limestone in the early 12th century, the astonishing structure features a chapel, medieval paintings, catacombs and an underground church. If heights are more your thing, head to the top of the Monolithic Church by ascending its famed bell tower. My legs were burning by the time I climbed the 196 steps of the ancient winding staircase, but the views were well worth it. You’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of the township complete with verdant vineyards for as far as the eye can see. The entrance to the bell tower is locked and you’ll have to sign out a key from the friendly tourist office nearby, but it’s a wonderful excuse to visit the tourist centre, which was among the most helpful I’ve ever experienced. The multilingual staff helped me book tour tickets and a delicious creperie (Le Trouher Creperie Bretonne). The perfect respite to a long day of negotiating my way along narrow, serpentine streets and stairwells was to be found at Cloître des Cordeliers. At this wine bar-cum-architectural attraction, I sat in a garden among the ruins of a 14th century monastery and toasted this bewitching town with a glass of Cordeliers sparking wine.
WINE SHOP IN THE TOWN OF SAINT-ÉMILION ©SANDRA MACGREGOR
VINEYARD IN SAINT-ÉMILION
54 • Vacations ® • Spring 2018
Vacations® • Spring 2018 • 55
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