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Nature & terroir

Distinctive features

Distinctive features

BOTH DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE

The variety in Saint-Émilion’s wines resides in the area’s significant geological diversity, a micro-climate ideally suited to winegrowing and skilful blending of grape varieties. This combination, along with the care lavished by winegrowers upon the vines, provides ideal conditions for the nutrition and ripening of grapes.

THE ESTATES

A striking feature of the Saint-Émilion vineyards is their mosaic of separate plots, which results from the economic rules and organisation of property at the end of the Middle Ages. The four appellations of Lussac Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion and Saint-Émilion Grand Cru represent almost 970 registered winegrowers. In this light, the poetic description of the area as “the hill of a thousand estates” is particularly meaningful.

WEATHER PATTERNS

Saint-Émilion benefits from a temperate, oceanic micro-climate with evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year and hot, dry summers, under the influence of the two rivers Isle and Dordogne. They moderate the summer heat as well as the harshness of winter, thus providing protection against the risk of frost. The average yearly temperature is 12.8°C. Temperature swings are lessened. The evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year provides excellent conditions for vine cultivation.

Nevertheless, the variation in temperature and rainfall from one year to the next can be considerable, making vintages very different.

TOPOGRAPHY AND SOILS

Between vines and waterways, along wooded slopes and picturesque country roads, the Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion has a landscape of hills and gentle inclines that covers over 75 sq. km.

The terroirs of Lussac Saint-Émilion are the most northerly of the Saint-Émilion appellations. Facing south, the vines grow in a natural amphitheatre of plateaux and small valleys, which is very apt for vineyards that already enjoyed a fine reputation in the Gallo-Roman period. The hill is clayey limestone to the south and clayey silt to the north.

 

The Saint-Émilion and Saint-Émilion Grand Cru appellation areas are geographically intertwined. They are located in parts of nine village territories with Saint-Émilion at the core.

 The villages of Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse, Saint-Hippolyte, Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, Saint-Pey-d’Armens, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens and Vignonet complete the picture, to which a part of Libourne can also be added.

This area consists of a limestone plateau around the town. A vast terrace of gravel beds with siliceous clay extends towards Libourne, the clayey limestone hills and valleys, and the sandy gravel plain of the Dordogne Valley.

 

The vineyards of Puisseguin Saint-Émilion are located between the appellation of Lussac Saint-Émilion and the small Barbanne River. This appellation area, which looks across to the famous Saint-Émilion plateau, has a very uniform range of clayey limestone soils, with some spots of gravelly alluvium. The sublayer is limestone, which is an ideal backup during dry spells, releasing a reliable supply of water to the vines.

special features

soil description

A wide variety of quality soils have developed on two geological formations that have given the region a characteristic relief: from the tertiary era (silty clay, very often calcareous) and the quaternary era (gravel and/or sand). The nature of the soil and subsoil, the relief, the exposure, the water and nitrogen supply influence the early maturity of the vines and the level of ripeness of the grapes. This mosaic of soils and subsoils explains the wines with a variety of personalities according to their terroir of origin.
Indeed, the soil and more particularly the subsoil on which the vine is grown influence three aspects of the wine: its aromas, its colour and its gustatory properties. The same grape variety, depending on whether it is grown on a particular type of soil, will not have the same organoleptic characteristics.
CALCARIAN FLOORS
In general, they rest on the asteriated limestone rock. On these very superficial soils, the vine's roots are limited and yet the vine never suffers from excessive water stress. Especially in summer, when the water contained in the Asteria limestone (which is not colonized by the roots) actively participates in the supply of water to the vine through capillary upwelling like a sponge.
CLAY-LIMESTONE SOILS
Generally located on the slopes of the limestone plateaus, they rest on the molasses, a soft rock that allows good root exploration. Rainwater runoff prevents excessive water supply from the roots. The presence of clays in the subsoil ensures freshness and a sufficient water supply in summer.
Sandy-clay soils of the bottom of the hills
Located at the foot of the hillsides, these soils are quite warm and early. The vine's roots are rather deep, because there is nothing to prevent it from being prospected. The water does not stagnate and reaches the deep layers of the soil. The more clayey texture of the subsoil in some places prevents too severe water stress during the summer by gradually restoring the water.
Gravel soils
Recent deposits of the Quaternary period, gravelly soils can be found on the alluvial deposits of the Isle and Dordogne in the Saint-Emilion valley between Libourne and Vignonet. These soils warm up quickly in the spring. The water supply is not limited at the beginning of summer but can suddenly become deficient from the end of July in a dry year. Their origin is older in the northwest of the appellation where the fine soil contains a significant fraction of clay. In the Dordogne valley, the texture of the fine soil is more sandy.
Very clayey soils
There are locally very clayey soils, particularly in the extreme northwest of Saint-Emilion. The vine has a very particular behaviour here. It only partially takes advantage of the apparent water and mineral richness of the soil because it is very irregularly exploited by the roots, which remain located at the surface. In addition, the water is very strongly retained by the clays and only partially available for the plant.

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