Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers

The Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion.
View Gallery
17 Photos
The Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
Saint-Émilion's Monolithic Church.

The Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion.

There are over 200 kms of underground galleries in Saint-Émilion.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03590

There are over 200 kms of underground galleries in Saint-Émilion.

Views of the village from the Monolithic church.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03537

Views of the village from the Monolithic church.

Saint-Émilion is built on a hill overlooking its famous vineyard landscape.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03534

Saint-Émilion is built on a hill overlooking its famous vineyard landscape.

Where to Stay - Logis des Jurats is located on this quiet, cobbled lane and is only a short walk away to the main square. It's also steeped in history dating back to the 16th century.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03464

Where to Stay - Logis des Jurats is located on this quiet, cobbled lane and is only a short walk away to the main square. It's also steeped in history dating back to the 16th century.

Wear flat shoes when walking in Saint-Émilion - there are many steep, uneven cobbled streets.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03543

Wear flat shoes when walking in Saint-Émilion - there are many steep, uneven cobbled streets.

Emmanuel Macouin is an artist in Saint-Émilion who creates vibrant paintings using acrylics.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03477

Emmanuel Macouin is an artist in Saint-Émilion who creates vibrant paintings using acrylics.

Visitors can drop in to see Emmanuel in his studio.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03479

Visitors can drop in to see Emmanuel in his studio.

Maurice Barbette's "Douelle'men" pays homage to the people working in the vineyards.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03487

Maurice Barbette's "Douelle'men" pays homage to the people working in the vineyards.

Made of wine barrel staves and stainless steal, Maurice Barbette's "Douelle'men" are fun and creative works of art.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03491

Made of wine barrel staves and stainless steal, Maurice Barbette's "Douelle'men" are fun and creative works of art.

The vineyards of Chateau Troplong Mondot
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03624

The vineyards of Chateau Troplong Mondot

Proprietor Xavier Pariente showing us the vineyard's barrels used for aging.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03635

Proprietor Xavier Pariente showing us the vineyard's barrels used for aging.

Dining at Les Belles Perdrix, a top-notch Michelin star restaurant located at Chateau Troplong Mondot.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03659

Dining at Les Belles Perdrix, a top-notch Michelin star restaurant located at Chateau Troplong Mondot.

Bread made from tumeric - yum!
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03654

Bread made from tumeric - yum!

Even the butter has red wine in it!
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03653

Even the butter has red wine in it!

Dessert is divine at Les Belles Perdrix.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03670

Dessert is divine at Les Belles Perdrix.

Saint-Émilion is beautiful and felt safe to walk at night.
Saint-Émilion: A Medieval French Village Ideal for Art, Culture & Wine Lovers
dsc03545

Saint-Émilion is beautiful and felt safe to walk at night.

With its old-world architecture, Romanesque churches, limestone ruins, underground caves, steep and narrow cobbled streets, Saint-Émilion is a picturesque medieval French village surrounded by vineyard landscapes and world-renowned châteaux. It’s a surprising treat and an ideal starting point for travellers looking for a cultural escape in the heart of Bordeaux wine country.

Steeped in rich history and protected by UNESCO as a “cultural landscape,” visiting Saint-Émilion is like stepping back in time. The vineyards were first planted by the Romans in 2nd century AD; the town’s founder was an 8th century monk named Émilion who became a hermit; and since the middle ages, Saint-Émilion has been a pilgrimage site. The Monolithic Church with its bell tower was built between the 12th and 15th centuries and is the town’s highest point with sweeping views of the city and vineyards.

My recent visit to this cultural gem built on a hill had me meandering down its pretty lanes and up its cobbled inclines discovering art, culture and history at every turn.

Where Contemporary Art & Wine Blend Together
Paris may be home to the Louvre, but small villages like Saint-Émilion is where under-the-radar artists, artisans and galleries are unveiled. Due to its location and its environment, Saint-Émilion has always been an attractive place for artists, but it’s only been a couple of years where many new galleries have opened in the village.

Exploring up and down the narrow, cobbled lanes in Saint-Émilion, I stumble upon artisans in Cour des Arts on Rue de la Grande Fontaine. With its open space and vibrant, bold paintings, the studio of artist Emmanuel Macouin catches my eye. Sitting at a table surrounded by acrylic paints, Emmanuel works diligently on his paintings as visitors pop in and out of his studio. Although he speaks mainly French, he’s friendly and open to talking with tourists interested in his work.

“I consider myself a colourist who loves roundness; I like the perfection of a circle,” he says, describing his work. “I also try to put life, cheerfulness and a little humour [in my paintings].” For Emmanuel, making his art accessible is important. With visitors coming from around the world, Emmanuel’s paintings range in price from budget-friendly €50 all the way to €2500; he can also ship his paintings worldwide.

Close to Emmanuel’s studio, I discover the gallery of Maurice Barbette, a contemporary sculptor who transforms steel and wood materials into creative, fun characters. Many of his works are inspired by Saint-Émilion’s wine-making region. His collections Douelle’men and Hangover are unique examples of how to use staves of wine barrels to make contemporary art.

“My Douelle’men represent the hidden side of the barrels. When you open a bottle of wine, you can’t imagine the number of people involved in delighting your palate. I pay homage through my Douelle’men to these men and women who work hard on a daily basis in the vineyards,” he says.

“On the other hand, for those who exploit the know-how of the winemakers, I pay tribute to them with my new collection called Hangover – always made from wine barrel staves, but without stainless steel this time,” he adds. Maurice’s Hangover series are €90 and his Douelle’men are €450. He creates all sorts of artworks and also ships worldwide.

For Maurice, choosing to settle in Saint-Émilion was a natural fit. “My artwork made from casks of barrels fit perfectly with the terroir and its wine culture.”

To discover artists and artisans at your own pace, the Saint-Émilion tourism office also offers a map for a self-guided art tour.

A Bed & Breakfast with 16th Century Roots
Owned by friendly Dutch expats Arnoud Rietman and his wife Mariese de Monchy, Logis des Jurats, is the bed and breakfast where I stayed for a night. Arnoud and Mariese also own a wine travel agency and it was a natural fit for them to purchase their own B&B.

Logis des Jurats contains three apartments in three houses all next to each other on a cute, quiet cobbled street very close to the main square. Not only does the village itself have history, but so do many of the lodgings. The large house is from the 16th century and the smaller house next door is from the 19th century.

“In the house, you see many traces of its history like former passages and openings that have been refilled again,” says Arnoud. “When we bought the houses there were still wine-making facilities in the back, like big vats and other small tools for harvesting and winemaking.”

It took the family three years to renovate the houses. “In the houses, we clearly felt the past. That is why we of course respected the character of the house as much as possible,” he adds.

For Arnoud, settling in Saint-Émilion was the right choice. “It’s by far the most interesting and charming due to its combination of architecture and history, together with the most famous and prestigious châteaus of the world. The good thing is, except maybe for July and August, you can still walk around and enjoy it without the mass tourism that often spoils the experience.”

Wine Estates Passed Down from Family to Family
A visit to Saint-Émilion is incomplete without a wine tour. Pair your visit to the village with a trip to Château Troplong Mondot, a winery with history dating back to the 18th century. It’s perched on a hill overlooking the village and with its 33 hectares is one of the biggest estates in the appellation of Saint-Émilion. If budget allows, stay for lunch at the estate’s restaurant, Les Belles Perdrix de Troplong Mondot, a top-notch one Michelin star restaurant with a flawlessly executed menu that honours the vineyard.

Saint Émilion is where you come for the wine – and stay for the culture.

How to Get There
Fly to Bordeaux via Paris with Air France and take advantage of the free stopover, either on the inbound or outbound flight. From Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion is less than an hour drive away. 

Tourist Information
For trip planning help, visit: Atout France – ca.france.fr; Aquitane Tourism – tourisme-aquitane.fr; Saint-Emilion Tourism – saint-emilion-tourisme.com.

Note: I visited Saint-Emilion as a guest of Atout France.

Photos: Desi Globetrotter

Desi Globetrotter

Hi, I'm Parm, the founder and editor of Desi Globetrotter, an international online magazine + blog dedicated to inspiring people to travel the world independently. Based in Vancouver, Canada, I'm also a Marketing Coordinator at an art gallery, a Freelance Content Strategist and a Freelance Travel Writer with articles published in Conde Nast Traveller India, Huffington Post Canada, South Asian Woman Magazine, Mybindi.com, and MasalaMommas.com. I love exploring the globe to learn and to connect with the world I live in. Got a question or comment? Let's chat! You can email me at: parm[at]desiglobetrotter[dot]com. Would love to hear from you!

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>