A brief look back at the history of this vineyard with an exceptional longevity.

Leased by the Gallo-Roman poet Ausonius in the first century BC, the wines of Saint-Emilion have been appreciated for more than two thousand years.

First vines in Saint-Emilion

More than 30 000 years ago, the Paleolithic men settled in Saint-Emilion, attracted by the natural caves, forests and its generous waters. It was not until the Roman colonization, which began in 56 BC, that the first wine amphorae were produced there. It was at this time that the Cumbis forest was cut down and the first vines planted. The Romans then choose to graft varieties used around Massilla (Marseille), on vitis biturica vines, a vine present in the Southwest. In Saint-Emilion, the great history of viticulture began.

Saint-Emilion, the origins of the name

In the fifth century, the collapse of the Roman Empire marked the end of the Roman peace and prosperity that accompanied it. The survival and spread of viticulture was then much up to Christianity, which made wine a central element of worship. The religious cultivated the vine, but it was not until the eleventh century and the arrival of the Benedictines in Saint-Emilion that viticulture found a new boom. Meanwhile, the village had found a name inspired by an eighth-century monk from Brittany. On the way to Compostelle, Emilion stopped in a cave near the Dordogne and decided to settle there. On his death in 787, his followers built the famous monolithic church in Saint-Emilion.

The "Cru", a legacy of the age of enlightenment

The Middle Ages left significant marks on the landscape and structures of Saint-Emilion. The Jurade, founded in 1199, is a reminder of the English presence. The extreme fragmentation of today’s vineyards is also due to the small size of the medieval farms. However, the age of enlightenment shook Saint-Emilion. In the eighteenth century, a generation of owners marked their time developing new methods for viticulture. Passionate of agronomy, Combret de la Nauze or Jacques Kanon conducted major operations and completed the selection of grape varieties. With this work close to the terroir, the concept of "Cru" appeared for the best wines.

Winemakers’ solidarity in Saint-Emilion

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Saint-Emilion was not immune to the Phylloxera crisis that affected all French vineyards. Winemakers from Saint-Emilion collectively overcame this ordeal. In 1884, they founded the first Winemakers’ Union of France. Dynamic and innovative, the Winemakers' Union of Saint-Emilion originated, in 1931, as the first wine cooperative of Bordeaux. Later, in 1948, the winemakers of Saint-Emilion recreated the famous Jurade, which had been dissolved during the French Revolution. Since 2007, the Winemakers' Union of Saint-Emilion is associated with the Winemakers’ Unions of Lussac Saint-Emilion and Puisseguin Saint-Emilion, as a part of Saint-Emilion Wines Advisory Board.

Saint-Emilion, a world heritage

Throughout the twentieth century, the Saint-Emilion winemakers have worked to improve the wines and to define quality criteria. The establishment of the AOC Saint-Emilion and the introduction of a revised ranking in 1954 were crucial steps. They assert the huge reputation of Saint-Emilion wines in the ever increasingly international public’s minds. Moreover, this is where, on a global level, the unique history of the vineyards of Saint-Emilion is consecrated. In 1999 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the cultural landscape. This recognition salutes a history of over 2000 years of close interactions between the people and an exceptional terroir.

Dernière mise à jour le : 28/09/2015