It seems that the Bordelais enjoy complicating their lives. On Friday, the latest official classification of St.-Emilion was suspended by a Bordeaux court.
As you may know, the St.-Emilion classification is revised every 10 years under the management of the INAO, which is the official governing body for the appellation system in France. Every 10 years, the estates of St.-Emilion have the possibility to go up in the hierarchy according to their work and investments in quality. Unfortunately, some estates could also move down if they performed not so well.
A judge decided that the classification that was published in June 2006 is to be suspended. A subsequent judgement (who knows when) should tell what should be done in the future. Until then, the top 2006 St.-Emilion estates that will be offered en primeur in the coming weeks will not have an official classification. The consumers may have a chance to buy Ausone or Angelus as standard St.-Emilion and not as premiers grand crus classés “A” or “B,” as they have been officially recognized before. It will be very interesting….
Another embarrassing situation is that in March, the latest Official Classification of the Crus Bourgeois of the Médoc was also annulled by a court in Bordeaux. Despite 10 years of very intense work, this new classification, announced in 2003, is no longer valid. This decision allows some 400 châteaus in the Médoc to call themselves crus bourgeois, making it nearly impossible for the consumer to distinguish between those who really deserve their title and others that are not so dedicated to quality.
Of course the consumers do not really take these classifications into account when buying the wines. Instead, they consider the critics’ reports, or their own taste. Nevertheless, it seems that the Bordelais enjoy shooting themselves in the foot.
What a shame when you think that the world of wine is looking at Bordeaux history as a reference. We are simply incapable of coming to an agreement to modernize our image and make it easier for the consumer to understand the various levels of vineyards.
The 1855 classification of the Médoc and Graves is very much established. Surely, it would be interesting to try to make some changes (would Cos-d’Estournel go up?). But one wonders if there could be any chance of success.
The classification system is deeply rooted in Bordeaux history. To a certain extent, it can be viewed as an aristocratic title given to a chateau at a specific point in time. It should not be considered an excuse to rest on one’s laurels, but rather an incentive to produce the best wine possible and justify this status.
Classified estates should accept the possibility that they will lose their titles if they don’t maintain a certain level of quality. If we (the Bordelaise) are incapable of modernizing ourselves and assuming our heritage, we shall have a difficult time ahead of us. In principle, however, I am very much in favor of the classification system, as it gives some information about the past and the present to the consumers. A judge in Bordeaux made a decision that has deep implications for the image, the perception and eventually the prestige of Bordeaux around the world. Is it really worth taking that risk?
Would the WS’s readers agree with me? Or do you feel that the market will make its own arbitrage?
Gil Schwarz — Las — April 4, 2007 11:56am ET
Steven Haught — Oklahoma City, OK USA — April 4, 2007 1:27pm ET
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Thomas A Mobley Iii — Tallahassee, FL — April 5, 2007 9:58pm ET
Ray Barnes — Surrey BC Canada — April 6, 2007 2:35am ET
Domaines Reybier Sa — france — April 6, 2007 6:38am ET
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Alex Salomon — Paris, France — April 16, 2007 3:56pm ET
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