Wine in the French countryside

The French wine-making region of Saint-Emilion is one of the most famous in the world. But what’s it like to visit as a tourist?

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Visiting Saint-Emilion, France

Thank goodness for those Romans. Who knows where I would have ended up drinking wine if it hadn’t been for them!

Thankfully, because of their foresight, it was in the beautiful French country town of Saint-Emilion that I found myself.

It was in the second century – almost two thousand years ago – that the Romans first planted vineyards here at Saint-Emilion. From that time the region has flourished and it is now one of the best known (and rightfully so!) wine-producing areas of the world.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

The three main grape varieties of the Saint-Emilion region are Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

If that doesn’t mean much to you, don’t worry. All you need to know is that from these grapes are born some delicious red wines! And if you stay here, you can get a chance to travel around to some of the wineries and taste the best on offer.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France
Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

From the information office in the centre of the historic Saint-Emilion town, you can get maps of the local wineries.

These maps will tell you when the wineries are open, if they charge for a tasting, if you need to book a tasting, and the style of the vineyard.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

Many of them are close enough to walk to (although it’s an exercise-inducing walk, not a quick and easy stroll)… but a bicycle or a car would probably be best for exploring further afield.

There’s actually a really fun bike tour of the wineries, that I think is a great way to do tastings.

Or there are a few other good options for winery tours to consider here:

I had arrived in town on the train from Bordeaux, so a tour makes sense, but I get the feeling most of the tourists here are driving their way through France and have their own car.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

Saint-Emilion wine classifications

They take their wine seriously here in France – but no place more so than Saint-Emilion. Since 1955 there has been a special classification used to rank the wineries here.

Every decade it’s updated and a new one has just been released. There are now four winemakers who have achieved the top classification – ‘Premier Grand Cru Classé A’.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

It’s an important and prestigious business, wine-making, and the people here won’t suffer fools gladly.

That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate tourists and aren’t happy to explain things to novices like me. But they don’t seem to be impressed with the merrymakers who weren’t serious about learning and (importantly) buying.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

The good news is that the wine varieties are so affordable and of such a good quality, you will want to collect some bottles at every place you visit. Trust me on this one – the hardest thing will be limiting your purchases if you’ve only got a small amount of space to take them with you.

Vineyards of Saint-Emilion, France

How I wish I had a car… and a few weeks ahead of me in it. I would load up the boot with a few cases of this wine and merrily enjoy it for many an evening.

Saint-Emilion wine tours

So, some people just visit Saint-Emilion as a day trip from Bordeaux, and you can still pack in a lot. (Even half a day may be enough.)

There is a good private tour from Bordeaux that you can do. Otherwise, there are some other great options here to consider:

From Saint-Emilion, you can also arrange tours that will take you around to some of the best wineries. (It’s useful to have the insider tips – and to not have to worry about driving.)

I would recommend one of the following options:

However you choose to visit Saint-Emilion, my big tip is just to talk to the locals – whether it’s a guide, a winemaker, or someone you meet along the way. They are very proud of their industry and will be able to share lots of knowledge.


Staying in the town can be convenient if you don’t have a car, but there are plenty of other options in the countryside.


With a range of apartment sizes right in the town centre, Hôtes de Saint Emilion II is a great base that will feel a bit more homely.


The rooms are fairly standard, but the Ibis Bordeaux Saint Emilion is clean and comfortable and offers great value.


The French-style rooms have an artsy twist at Aux Ducs de Sienne, while there’s also a large garden and a heated pool.


It doesn’t get more luxurious than Chateau Prieure Marquet, with fabulous suites and panoramic views over the vineyards.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

15 thoughts on “Wine in the French countryside”

  1. Oooh, I need to visit! We love doing road trips and especially visiting wineries. Oddly, we had no interests in wine before moving to Europe. Now we include wine in almost everything we do!

    • I think it’s impossible to spend time in Europe and not get immersed in the wine. It’s so defining of so many of the cultures. Admittedly, all that drinking might not be so good for productivity… but that’s a whole other story entirely! 🙂

  2. Saint Emilion also offer travels to get the best quality of the wine. That is so affordable and so good quality. If you are nervous to select the best quality of the wine. In this case, Saint Emilion offices help such traveller.

  3. I wish I had seen this post before booking my non-refundable flight from Barcelona to Paris! I should have done the south of France first! Next time Thanks for sharing!I want back there NOW!!


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