7,846 hectares of property and 8 municipalities make up this Jurisdiction, laid out by Edward 1 in 1289. Long before the wine estates associated with viticulture appeared, which for the most part date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, feudal castles were scattered on the dominant sites as early as the 13th century, such as Laroque Castle in Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes. The vast expanses of vineyards cover almost all of the classified area (excluding urban boundaries).
The Jurade, the Brotherhood of Saint-Emilion Wines, was established in 1199 by John Lackland, King of England. This regulatory body verified the quality of the Saint-Emilion wines, only giving this “appellation,” or designation, to a limited number of wines. A wine’s quality was subject to review by the Jurade (with the official seal) before transportation to England.
The king delegated his economic, political and judicial powers to local dignitaries and magistrates to manage the general administration of the city. In exchange for these new rights, Britain could then enjoy the "privilege of wines from Saint-Emilion". Honorary wines were produced, presented as gifts to kings and important people. For three centuries under English influence, the Jurisdiction benefitted from a special status, resulting in political, social and economic autonomy.
In 1289, Edward I, King of England, signed the act that would widen the area under the control of the Jurade and define the new frontiers of the Jurisdiction, which would then include Saint-Emilion, Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, St. Laurent-des-Combes, Saint-Hippolyte, Saint-Pey-d'Armens, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens, Vignonet and Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse. The authority of the Jurade continued until the French Revolution in 1789.
In 1948, the Brotherhood was restored and became an ambassador for Saint Emilion wines worldwide, its aim to guarantee the authenticity and quality of wines from this region. The Jurade organizes the annual Spring Festival in June and the Harvest Festival (opening of the harvest season) in September. At these events, members of the Jurade parade through the city in traditional red dress, reminiscent of the all-powerful Jurade of former centuries. Composed of 54 aldermen, it is administered by the 12-member Board of the Jurade.
In June as in September, after attending Mass, the aldermen go in the cloister of the collegiate church or in the monolithic church to begin the inductions. Then they go to the Tour du Roy in procession, at the summit of which they solemnly proclaim the harvesting season open or proceed to the judgment of a new wine, intended to predict the quality of the year’s wine.
The wines of Saint-Emilion owe their exceptional nature to the quality and diversity of the soils in which they are produced. The variety of wines produced within such a small area is due to the diversity of this extraordinary terrain: limestone, clay, sand and gravel soils, and a very favorable microclimate for viticulture. Add to that the ancestral tradition of wine cultivation and trade, and all of the conditions are aligned to produce a high quality wine. The identity of each wine is defined by the assembly of varieties it contains : Merlot is predominant, and is associated with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon or even Malbec.
The world-renown of wines from Saint-Emilion is a result of the work of the Jurade, which never ceases to promote and recognize its wines. The union created two Controlled Designation of Origin (AOC) wines: Saint-Emilion and Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. It establishes a revised ranking every 10 years.