Bordeaux St Emilion wines stripped of top label

3rd July 2008, Comments 0 comments

A French court rules that “Grand Cru” labels should be taken off bottles of the St Emilion wines from the Bordeaux region.

2 July 2008

BORDEAUX - The Bordeaux region's St Emilion wines have been stripped of their top classifications by a French court, which Tuesday ruled that "Grand Cru" labels should be taken off bottles.

"Just as we are about to start putting the 2006 vintage into bottles, we have to cancel all the labels and all the cases and re-do them," said Christine Valette, owner of Chateau Troplong-Mondot, recently awarded the second highest rank of St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe.

"I am in shock. The team at the chateau is in shock. I never imagined this could happen," added Valette, who said she has spent the last 20 years working toward winning the prized title.

The ranking, which applies only to the St Emilion region and is reassessed every 10 years, consists of three classifications - Premier Grand Cru Classe A, Premier Grand Cru Classe B and Grand Cru Classe.

The court said it was cancelling the St Emilion classification because it believed the system used to rank the wines after a tasting was not fully impartial.

The A category has only ever been awarded to two chateaux, the much sought after wines of Ausone and Cheval Blanc, while examples from the B category include chateaux Angelus, Clos Fourtet and Troplong Mondot.

The rankings are estimated to boost the price of the wine by about 30 percent, and thus also affect property prices.

A spokesperson for the St Emilion Wine Union (Conseil des Vins de StEmilion) described the situation as "serious".

The Union is awaiting a decision from INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), the government body that manages French wine classifications, and the French Agriculture Minister as to whether they will appeal the ruling within the allowed time period of two months.

But legal sources said an appeals process could take up to two years.

For many in Bordeaux, however the situation without the St Emilion classification system would be impossible.

"The whole situation is ... idiotic and absurd, they can't stop the 60 or more chateaux that have the rankings from using them," said Jean Baptiste Bourotte of Audy, a Bordeaux wine merchant who had just heard the news.

"I don't see how we could sell the wine."

[APF / Expatica]

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