Saint-Émilion Old Town

Saint-Émilion, France

Saint-Émilion is a picturesque medieval village renowned for its well-preserved architecture and vineyards. The town and surrounding vineyards was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, owing to its long, living history of wine-making, Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets.

An oppidum was built on the hill overlooking the present-day city in Gaulish times, before the regions was annexed by Augustus in 27 BC. The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. In the 4th century, the Latin poet Ausonius lauded the fruit of the bountiful vine.

Because the region was located on the route of the Camino de Santiago, many monasteries and churches were built during the Middle Ages, and in 1199, while under Plantagenet rule, the town was granted full rights. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the wines produced in the area were well-renowned for their quality, although political instability during the European wars of religion negatively affected the vineyards. The region only began to recover in the late 19th century.

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