Classification of Saint-Émilion wine

Classification of Saint-Émilion wine
Cheval Blanc, a Premiers grands crus classés A wine.

In 1955 the wines of Saint-Émilion in the wine-growing region of Bordeaux were classified. Unlike the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 covering wines from the Medoc and Graves regions, the Saint-Émilion list is updated every 10 years or so. Following the initial classification, the list was updated in 1969, 1986, 1996 and most recently in 2006. However the 2006 classification was declared invalid following a series of legal actions, and the 1996 version of the classification has been reinstated for the vintages from 2006 to 2009.

The region's Syndicat Viticole started planning for a classification of St.-Émilion wine in 1930, but it was not until October 7, 1954 that the principles behind the classification became official when the INAO agreed to take responsibility for handling the classification. The first list of classified St.-Émilion estates was published on June 16, 1955, and was amended on August 7 and October 18, 1958. The original list contained 12 Premier grands crus classés and 63 Grands crus classés.[1]


Controversy surrounding the 2006 classification

Château Monbousquet was one of the estates who had their initial promotions in the 2006 classification retracted following the controversy.

The fifth classification of St.-Émilion wine, announced in September 2006 and comprising 15 Premiers grands crus classés and 46 Grands crus classés,[2] was challenged by four dissatisfied producers that had been demoted - La Tour du Pin Figeac, Cadet Bon, Guadet and Château de la Marzelle - and has resulted in several confusing legal turns during 2007 and 2008 that currently mean that the 2006 classification is invalid and the 1996 classification is applied instead. The legal dispute has centered on the fact that several members of the panel involved in assessing the wines had vested interests (e.g. as négociants with business dealings with some of the châteaux), and thus could be suspected of not being impartial.

Initially, an administrative tribunal in Bordeaux declared the classification temporarily suspended in March 2007,[3] after which a Bordeaux court suspended the classification indefinitely by denying a motion to lift the initial suspension.[4] After that the Conseil d'État, the French supreme administrative court, on November 12, 2007 overturned the suspension of the 2006 classification, thereby reinstating it.[5] However, this ruling was not final, and only decided that the case of the four demoted châteaux did not merit a suspension of the entire classification. The matter was returned to a Bordeaux court to assess if the complaining châteux had been fairly treated. On July 1, 2008 this court ruled that the wine tasting mechanism used in the 2006 classification was not impartial, thus again making the entire classification invalid.[6]

Immediately after the ruling, it was estimated that a further appeals process aiming at reinstating the classification could take about two years, and would have an uncertain result. This led the French regulatory body for wine, INAO, to request the French Government to use emergency powers to reinstate St.-Émilion classification, which it did on July 11, 2008.[7] This decision extended the validity of the 1996 classification to the vintages 2006 to 2009. Thus, the complaining demoted châteaux are able to keep their classification, but those who were newly promoted are not. Presumably, this measure will allow INAO to arrange for a less contested classification to be finalised by around 2010.

The reaction among the estates who had their promotions retracted, such as Grand Corbin-Despagne, Monbousquet, Pavie-Macquin and Troplong Mondot, was one of despair, who beyond facing financial consequences stated the decision was unjust, and damaging to the image and community of St.-Émilion.[8][9] Xavier Pariente of Troplong-Mondot said, "That's almost 20 years of hard work and investment by all the personnel here wiped out at the stroke of a pen. It frightens me and it revolts me”.[10]

In December 2008, the French senate had allowed the 8 demoted estates to regain their previous status, with Pavie-Macquin and Troplong Mondot returning to Premiers grands crus classés, while Bellefond-Belcier, Destieux, Fleur-Cardinale, Grand Corbin, Grand Corbin-Despagne, and Monbousquet again to become classified as Grands crus classés, as a result of several months of lobbying.[11] However, in January 2009 this proposal was thrown out by the French government constitutional council.[12]

In March 2009, it was stated that the French Court of Appeal had made a final ruling, that the 2006 Saint-Émilion classification will not stand,[13] although the ultimate outcome was the opposite. A law passed on May 13, 2009 contained a footnote clarifying that the six chateaux promoted to Grand Cru Classe in 2006 would be able to keep their status with immediate effect, and date it back to the date of the classification, therefore the status of the classified estates of 1996, plus the eight chateaux promoted in 2006, is mandated by law until 2011, two years beyond what was previously scheduled.[14][15]

The 2006 classification

Château Angélus, a Premiers grands crus classés B estate.
Château Figeac, a Premiers grands crus classés B estate.

The revised classification, the subject of prolonged legal dispute, comprises 13 Premiers grands crus classés and 53 Grands crus classés.

Premiers grands crus classés A  
Château Ausone Château Cheval Blanc
Premiers grands crus classés B
Château Angélus Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse) Château Beau-Séjour Bécot
Château Belair Monange Château Canon Château Figeac
Clos Fourtet Château La Gaffelière Château Magdelaine
Château Pavie Château Trotte Vieille Château Troplong Mondot[a]
Grands crus classés
Château Balestard la Tonnelle Château Bellevue[b] Château Bergat
Château Berliquet Château Cadet Bon[b] Château Cadet Piola
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière Château Cap de Mourlin Château Chauvin
Château Corbin Château Corbin Michotte Château Dassault
Château Faurie de Souchard[b] Château Fonplégade Château Fonroque
Château Franc Mayne Château Grand Mayne Château Grand Pontet
Château Guadet Saint-Julien[b] Château Haut Corbin Château Haut Sarpe
Château L'Arrosée Château La Clotte Château La Couspaude
Château La Dominique Château La Marzelle[b] Château La Serre
Château La Tour Figeac Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Bélivier)[b]  Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix)[b] 
Château Laniote Château Larcis Ducasse Château Larmande
Château Laroque Château Laroze Château Le Prieuré
Château Les Grandes Murailles  Château Matras Château Moulin du Cadet
Château Pavie-Decesse Château Pavie-Macquin[a] Château Petit Faurie de Soutard[b]
Château Pipeau Château Saint-Georges-Côte-Pavie   Château Soutard
Château Tertre Daugay[b] Château Villemaurine[b]
Château Yon Figeac[b] Clos de l'Oratoire Clos des Jacobins
Clos Saint-Martin Couvent des Jacobins
Former crus classés
Château Bellefont-Belcier[c] Château Destieux[c] Château Fleur-Cardinale[c]
Château Grand Corbin[c] Château Grand Corbin-Despagne[c]  Château Monbousquet[c]

Other categories

A Saint-Émilion labeled as simply "Grand Cru" which is not ranked under any formal appellation.

Over two hundred other Saint-Émilion wines carry the description "Grand Cru", however this designation is awarded under the basic appellation rules and is not part of the formal 1955 classification.[16] Wines in this category are not seen as being of comparable quality to the Grand Cru Classés.[17][18]

See also

Notes and references

a.  ^ Promoted to Premier grand cru classé in 2006 and relegated in 2008[7]
b.  ^ Declassified in 2006 and reinstated in 2008[7]
c.  ^ Classified in 2006 and declassified in 2008[7]

  • Château la Clusière is no longer listed as it is now part of Château Pavie.[2]
  • Château Curé-Bon-la-Madeleine is no longer listed as it is now part of Château Canon.[2]
  1. ^ Site de Vins de Saint-Emilion: Origins of the Classification, accessed on January 16, 2008
  2. ^ a b c Brook, Stephen, (2006-09-08). "New St Emilion classification: surprises but no shocks". 
  3. ^ Styles, Oliver & Anson, Jane, (2007-03-30). "St-Emilion classification suspended". 
  4. ^ Kevany, Sophie , (2007-04-14). "St Emilion classification suspended indefinitely". 
  5. ^ Kakaviatos, Panos, (2007-11-14). "St Emilion back on track after classification ban lifted". 
  6. ^ Kevany, Sophie , (2008-07-02). "St Emilion classification finally ruled invalid". 
  7. ^ a b c d Kevany, Sophie , (2008-07-11). "St Emilion classification reinstated - again". 
  8. ^ Erlanger, Steven, The New York Times (July 24, 2008). "Ruling Turns a Village of Winemakers on Itself". 
  9. ^ Macle, Diana, Wine Spectator (July 29, 2008). "French Government Reinstates St.-Emilion Classification—Sort Of".,1197,4513,00.html. 
  10. ^ Sage, Adam, The Times (September 9, 2008). "Class war strikes Saint-Émilion châteaux as vineyards lose their titles". London. 
  11. ^ Styles, Oliver , (December 22, 2008). "Demoted St-Emilion chateaux return to 2006 classification". 
  12. ^ Styles, Oliver, (January 7, 2009). "French government dismisses St-Emilion reclassification proposal". 
  13. ^ Gibb, Rebecca, (March 17, 2009). "Saint-Emilion classification ditched". 
  14. ^ Anson, Jane, (May 18, 2009). "'Nightmare' of St Emilion classification finally over". 
  15. ^ Macle, Diana, Wine Spectator (May 20, 2009). "French Government Reinstates St.-Emilion Promotions".,1197,5085,00.html. 
  16. ^ Kissack, Chris. "St Emilion Classification". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  17. ^ Coates, Clive. The Wines of Bordeaux. University of California Press. pp. 294. ISBN 0-520-23573-8. 
  18. ^ Joseph, Robert. French Wines. Dorling Kindersley. pp. 89. ISBN 0-7513-0793-9. 

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