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Are all wines from St Emillion considered great?

Is St Emillion sort of like Chateau du Pepe of Provence?

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    1. weird question, maybe lost in translation?

      There are good, bad, excellent and horrible wines in St-Emilion (and in every wine regions around the globe).

        1. I guess what i meant was, is it always safe to choose wines from these two regions?

          2 Replies
            1. re: RCC

              Not from these two, not from any other.
              There are no safe bets in wine.

          1. You don't strictly chose wine by region. In France, the region may give you an idea of what type of blend and style it will be, but that's it. Quality varies from winery to winery and year to year. You might be fine if you were strictly buying Chateau Cheval Blanc or Chateau Ausone but most of us aren't going to be buying those bottles on a regular basis.

            And... Chateau Neuf du Pape? Good wines can be made there. They are not all great and some can be pretty bad.

            1. Monica, NO region on the planet is 100% "fail-safe."

              Every wine region is ***capable*** of producing great wines, and many DO produce great wines, but in every region -- be it Napa Valley in California, St.-Émilion in Bordeaux, Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône, the Barossa Valley in Australia (you get the idea) -- EVERY region produces some great wines, some not-so-great wines, and some downright horrid wines.

              Are some regions more reliable than others? Perhaps. But is it "always safe" to pick a wine from ________________? Absolutely not.

              1. If I may, I would like to modulate what some of the other posters have said.
                It is true that there is no guarantee that a St Emilion will be great, but the
                range of experience is likely to be somewhere in between great and
                dull/boring but still drinkable. The same holds of Chateauneuf du Pape.
                They are usually viewed in France as safer and more established
                appellations. At the other hand of the spectrum you have wines from
                the Languedoc or Roussillon. About 40 years ago, with a few exceptions
                wines from that area tended to be rather poor. Over the last 20 years
                there has been a lot of improvement, but not uniformly, so if you
                order a wine from Languedoc you have never heard about, it's
                like russian roulette. If the restaurant has a good sommelier, then
                you are safe, but if all you have is the description of a waiter,
                definitively I would say you are safer with a St. Emilion than a
                vin de pays with a recent appellation.

                7 Replies
                1. re: bclevy

                  "It is true that there is no guarantee that a St Emilion will be great, but the
                  range of experience is likely to be somewhere in between great and
                  dull/boring but still drinkable. The same holds of Chateauneuf du Pape."

                  I'm sorry, but, I've had wines that are worst than dull/boring from St. Emilion and CdP. They were simply bad and undrinkable. Just to reiterate on some posts above, just like any region/commne/appelation, there are land mines to be stepped on.
                  St. Emilion is a great example, imho, as this commune with its large number of producers relative to other Bordeaux communes, seemingly had a lot more plonk wines produuced in every vintage.

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Yeah. St Emilion is a very large appellation, and while the best wines are great, there are oceans of indifferent, overoaked, overripe wines that range from mediocre to undrinkable. As there are from many other regions.

                      Note that "St Emilion grand cru" on a label is close to meaningless. However, "Premier Grand Cru Classe A" (just Ausone and Cheval Blanc), ""Premier Grand Cru Classe b" and "grand cru classe" are, if not totally reliable, usually indicative of reasonably high quality.

                      1. re: craig_g

                        That's a good tip because i always thought grand cru meants high quality wine.

                        1. re: Monica

                          Yeah, "Grand Cru" and "Grand Crook" sound very similar.

                          1. re: Monica

                            It's an issue where I wish the French had more transparency. "Grand cru classe en 1855," for example, is a big deal: it means that the wine is one of the top Medocs (cabernet-based Bordeaux, from the left bank of the Gironde). This is very close to a guarantee of high quality, but comes at a price.

                            "Grand cru classe" for St Emilion, and especially "Premier grand cru classe," are meaningful. "Grand cru" without "classe" pretty much just means that the wines barely exceed the minimum to be called St Emilion at all, but it's obviously very easy to confuse the two, especially because in other areas like Burgundy and Alsace "grand cru" is the top tier.

                            1. re: craig_g

                              Just an aside on appellations -- if it's an appellation-controlled wine (AOC or AOP) the vintner has to take a couple of bottles from each cuvee into the group responsible for that particular appellation. It MUST meet certain criteria for nose and flavor characteristics, as well as requirements regarding where it's grown, varietals, even sometimes down to HOW the grapes were harvested.

                              If the board doesn't give their okay, that wine cannot carry the appellation label.

                              This means that you're not going to get much that you give up and pour down the drain, but there's absolutely no grade of quality after that. Having an appellation just means it meets the lowest common denominator.

                  1. I recently went to a tasting of 21 wines from St. Emilion. The wines were quite pricey -- the least expensive retailing for $85 a bottle and the most expensive for approximately $1,600 a bottle (2003 Chateau Ausone). All of the wines were rated Parker 92 and above.

                    That being said, the only two wines I would seek out again (and only if I were feeling very flush) were the 1990 Chateau Cheval Blanc (which you can find for approximately $950 a bottle) and the 1985 Chateau Cheval Blanc (which you can find for approximately $460 a bottle). The other wines I would not spend my hard-earned money on (with the caveat that others at the tasting with more wine experience than I have enjoyed them more than I did.).

                    The 1990 Cheval Blanc is definitely the greatest wine that I have ever tasted (with the caveat that I haven't tasted a lot of expensive wines). As stated above, we also tasted the 1985 Cheval Blanc which I liked (but not as much as the 1990) and the 1972, 1976 and 1982 from that Chateau.

                    But, in general, what I took away from the tasting is that St. Emilion wines are very pricey and vis a vis my own palate, you could easily spend $500 on a bottle of wine that, in my humble opinion, unless you are a tycoon with money to burn, is not worth it. But, ah the 1990 Cheval Blanc -- well if I ever find $950 burning a hole in my pocket, I will definitely pick up a bottle. Sublime. The nose was so amazing that I wish I could bottle it as perfume and wear it always.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: omotosando

                      Thanks for the report, omo. Those are VERY high wine prices generally, and may reflect a correlation you cited implicitly ("The wines were quite pricey... [All] rated Parker 92 and above.")

                      Name-brand St.-Émilions have long been pricey anyway. Even in the years BP, I recall an aged one from a good year (1964 Cheval-Blanc bought early 1980s) cost upwards of $200 in today's dollars. But while you _can_ spend $500 on mediocre wines, I believe that's not representative even of St.-Émilion. Another point worth knowing is that, like several other famous French wine districts, the name St.-Émilion has carried cachet for long enough to prompt hyphenated names from nearby communes borrowing the glow; thus Lussac makes "Lussac-St.-Émilion" wines. These peripheral districts generally lack the quality of the better true St.-Émilions but even more, they lack the prices. Around $20 (today's dollars) bought good examples, BP, and if any have managed to escape notice by critics that some consumers slavishly follow, there's where I'd expect the real bargains.

                      Completely agree with earlier comments here: no region produces only "great" wines. Some lately though produce steadily "great" prices.

                      "Rich but not so experienced wine drinkers, buying by name, often go for wines like Cheval-Blanc '21, '34 and '47, and this inevitably increases demand, in the same way as an international prima donna attracts to Covent Garden Opera the not-so-musical as well as the regulars." -- Edmund Penning-Rowsell. (_The Wines of Bordeaux,_ 5th Ed. 1985, ISBN 0932664512, Edition published by Wine Appreciation Guild, San Francisco.)

                      1. re: omotosando

                        Wow, thanks for the great report.
                        I will definitely keep this in my mind next time i am at a restaurant.

                        1. re: omotosando

                          I have enjoyed both Ausone and Cheval Blanc,, although thankfully someone else was paying for them. However, I have purchased and enjoyed countless St. Emilions for far less than $85 that were very enjoyable, and enhanced a meal immeasurably. One of my favorites is Chateau Tour-Simard, the 2nd wine of Chateau Pavie.

                          There is lots of vin ordinaire produced in Bordeaux. I would behoove you to make friends with your local wine merchant and spend some tiime discussing the various regions within Bordeaux and tasting some of them. There is also lots of very tasty cru bourgeois Bordeaux produced annually, much of it from the Médoc, which iis reasonably priced. It's hard to know which is good and which is not w/o the guidance of a wine "person."

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            It's interesting to hear that there are good (relatively) inexpensive St. Emilion's out there. I was so underwhelmed by everything at the tasting other than the 1985 and 1990 Cheval Blancs (although thinking back the 1972 was pretty good as well, although not spectacular -- perhaps past its peak) that I was thinking that if I am not totally enamored with these $300-$700 wines, imagine how I would feel about the "cheap" Bordeauxs. Perhaps part of the problem was palate fatigue and I might have enjoyed some of the other wines better if I was having a long leisurely dinner with just one of the bottles and the wine developed with the food over the course of the dinner. Or maybe I am just not a Bordeaux person, although the 1990 Cheval Blanc is still haunting me -- I truly think I will remember it the rest of my life.

                            1. re: omotosando

                              ChefJune's observations emphasize the difficulty of getting a representative idea of an entire wine region's offerings from one focused tasting session, or even several. Wine enthusiasts who come to know a region often do so over years and many tastes under varied circumstances.

                              But accepting the practical limits of quick study doesn't mean giving up. You can benefit from other people's longer experience if you seek their advice and taste with them, or as ChefJune suggests, find a good merchant. Wine professionals are often wine enthusiasts who are making a living at it, who resonate with other enthusiasts of all experience levels. They also taste many available wines in the course of buying for their market, by which means they will find things not trumpeted in the latest newsletter (and consequently unavailable).

                              (Incidentally ChefJune, that's about what happened to Ch. Pavie after the 1990s ownership change. Years earlier, when its quality level was still pretty consistent, Pavie despite high "classification" sold for a moderate $40-$60 in today's money. It was one of those lower-profile "gems" that enthusiasts seek, sort of a "second label" itself to famous neighbors like Ch. Figeac that cost much more.)