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St. Emilion Producers continue Legal Battle

Posted: Thursday, 17 January 2013 11:09

St. Emilion Producers continue Legal Battle

Jan 17: The official classification of St. Emilion which was last updated in 2006 is under fire once again with three producers, Château Croque-Michotte, Château La Tour du Pin Figeac and Château Corbin-Michotte taking the matter to courts, unhappy with the decision of Classification  

Château Croque-Michotte, Château La Tour du Pin Figeac and Château Corbin-Michotte all claim that the selection process is defective, finding fault especially with the tasting panel. Unlike  Medoc and the famous rock-steady 1855 Classification, St. Emilion started classifying its wines only in 1955 and based on tasting, aging capabilities and the celebrity status enjoyed by the wines, the wines are reclassified almost every 10 years, the last two being in 1996 and 2006 which was mired by controversies  and there were legal wrangles.

Last released in September 2012 the Classification ranked  82 of the highest classified  wineries of Saint-Emilion, on the Right Bank Bordeaux. There were two additions to the earlier Premier Grand Cru Classé A rank: Château Angélus and Château Pavie taking the number of the highest rated chateaux to 4. This rank was awarded based on the wines' exceptional ageing potential and their celebrated reputations.

There are four tiers within the St Emilion classification. Grand Crus may be the prestigious and the top classification in Burgundy but it is the lowly and pedestrian here; there are hundreds, 64 Grands Crus Classés, and 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés. The Premiers are divided into two groups, (A) consisting of top performers Ausone and Cheval-Blanc, and (B) being the rest, before 2012.

A rather innovative approach was used for the 2012 classification by placing the whole procedure under the supervision of INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) and the Ministries of Agriculture and Consumption. A special commission was constituted of 7 carefully chosen non-Bordeaux traders. This commission was also supported by two certifying organizations, Qualisud and Bureau Veritas Certification. However, the petitioners have challenged the selection process as flawed, especially the tasting panel.

The latest reclassification, announced by the INAO in September 2012, replaced the 2006 version, which was declared null and void two years later following a prolonged legal battle.  For an earlier related article, please visit St-Emilion Classification under suspension

La Tour du Pin Figeac had earlier challenged its demotion from Grand Cru Classé to the lowly Grand Cru status in 2006; it failed to be reinstated in September, 2012. The classification also saw Corbin Michotte as one of only three properties to be dropped down to the basic Grand Cru level. Croque-Michotte was denied the promotion.

Alain Moueix, president of the St. Emilion Grands Crus Classés Association had defended the transparency and strict quality focus of the 2012 reclassification process last September, when it was announced. All estates which were ranked among the 64 Grand Cru Classé properties in St. Emilion underwent an inspection of their vineyards, wineries and cellars, as well as the prices they commanded, and the previous ten vintages were also tasted blind by this independent panel.

Moueix stresses  that the process ranks the châteaux by the actual quality of their wines rather than purely the potential of their site as some producers argue “You can have the best terroir, but if you are not looking after it then the wine may be good but not great,’ he says.

However, in addition to the early complaints raised by these unsuccessful châteaux shortly after the latest reclassification was announced, some members of the wider trade expressed concern that today’s classification system places so little emphasis on terroir.

Tags: St. Emilion, Château Croque-Michotte, Château La Tour du Pin Figeac, Château Corbin-Michotte, Medoc, 1855 Classification, Classification, Right Bank Bordeaux, Grand Cru Classé, Château Pavie, Burgundy, Ausone, Cheval-Blanc, INAO, Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, Qualisud, Bureau Veritas Certification, Alain Moueix, St. Emilion Grands Crus Classés Association


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