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French Government Reinstates St.-Emilion Promotions

New law includes an amendment geared to satisfy all parties

Diana Macle
Posted: May 20, 2009

The French government has settled the clash over the 2006 St.-Emilion grands crus classification once and for all—or at least for the next two and a half years. The eight châteaus promoted in the 2006 classification, which was annulled by a court decision in July 2008, have been officially added to the 1996 classification, which the government had reinstated.

It's a solution any politician could love—it satisfied all the disgruntled parties. Last week, the government published an agricultural law that included a footnote on the classification, allowing Châteaus Bellefont-Belcier, Destieux, Fleur Cardinale, Grand Corbin, Grand Corbin-Despagne and Monbousquet to put Grand Cru Classé on their labels and allowing Châteaus Pavie-Macquin and Troplong-Mondot to use Premier Grand Cru Classé on theirs. Strong lobbying of St.-Emilion winegrowers and local politicians led to the provision's inclusion.

"The amendment is retroactive so that these wines can bear their classification status on the labels of their 2007 and 2006 vintages," said Emmanuelle Ponsan-Dantin, a spokesperson for the St.-Emilion winegrowers.

The fracas began when four châteaus demoted in the 2006 reclassification filed lawsuits, claiming the process was biased because members of the classification panel were in the wine industry and had conflicts of interest. A court agreed and invalidated the classification. The government responded by reinstating the old 1996 classification. That left the eight promoted châteaus, most of whom had labored for a decade to improve quality, in the lurch.

The appellation now has less than two years to devise a new classification procedure as the law only extends through the end of 2011. While the classification system has been an effective marketing tool for some properties, others argue most consumers care little for whether the label reads Grand Cru, Grand Cru Classé or Premier Grand Cru Classé.

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