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.
The town was named after the monk Émilion, a travelling confessor, who settled in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. It was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area.
Saint-Émilion is one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux along with the Médoc, Graves and Pomerol. The region is much smaller than the Médoc and adjoins Pomerol. As in Pomerol and the other appellations on the right bank of the Gironde, the primary grape varieties used are the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with relatively small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon also being used by some châteaux.
Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc are the only two wines currently classified as Premiers grands crus classes A (First Great Growths category A). There are then 13 Premiers grands crus classés B and 53 grands crus classés. In addition, a large number of vineyards are classified as Grand Cru.