French wines are a national treasure. As such, they are very heavily guarded and regulated. The St Emilion region is one of the best so all the Chateaux are subject to inspections by the government and need to comply with certain rules in order to be classified as the best. St Emilion Chateaux were classified 100 years later than in Medoc, in 1955. The list is modified every 10 years. Originally there were 12 Premier Grand cru classes (now there are 18) and 63 Grand Cru classes. Premier Grand Cru are the best and are divided in A & B classes. New to wine people should remember these 4 Premier Cru Classe A: Chateau Angelus, Chateau Ausone, Chateau Cheval Blanc & Chateau Pavie.
We visited two Grand Cru Classe vineyards, Chateau La Dominique and Chateau VilleMaurine. At Chateau La Dominique we also had lunch in their Terrace Rouge Restaurant with gorgeous views of Cheval-Blanc, Petrus and other vineyards. The building was designed by renowned French arquitect Jean Nouvel. It was an incredible experience. The wine is mainly Merlot with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. My rating: SIGHT (+1) beautiful dark purple color, NOSE (+1) Black cherry and white pepper PALATE (+.5) Tannins and acid are very present. FLAVOR (+1) long finish, truffles and woody aromas present in palate. BALANCE, LENGTH, COMPLEXITY (+1) even though tannins are not as silky, I found this wine had many aromas and a nice finish. FINAL SCORE: 4.5
Chateau VilleMaurine has a very nice, complete tour. They take you to the underground caves where they cellar the wines. We learned some history of the region, very interesting. Then we got to taste at least four of their labels. We highly recommend this tour. This wine is also mainly Merlot with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. FINAL SCORE: 4.0
TRIVIA: in St Emilion some wines are labeled Grand Cru. These are not comparable in quality to Grand Cru Classes. With French wines we have to read labels carefully!