The Cru Bourgeois classification is alive and well and will be reintroduced in 2009, it was agreed at a meeting last week.
The Cru Bourgeois Alliance has moved forward with its plans to reintroduce the classification following a group meeting held with producers at the end of last week.
The meeting, held at Haut-Medoc chateau Clement Pichon, established the format for a new Alliance, enabling members to label their estates as Cru Bourgeois.
Following an opt-in vote, 275 chateaux voted to be in the new Alliance – 180 of them were part of the now defunct 2003 ranking. There were also 95 new entrants. The overall membership is likely to increase as Alliance membership is open to all properties in the Medoc, when and if they decide to join.
Thierry Gardinier remains president of the Alliance, but several key things have changed.
Properties classified as Cru Bourgeois will have to adhere to production rules and independent quality testing in order to remain in the classification. Although the production rules are yet to be finalised, proposals will govern, among other things, barrel and vat capacity, and a guarantee of 18 months ageing in barrel.
One anonymous property owner in St-Estephe said that for a 25ha (hectare) property, the proposals would mean investment in stainless steel vats able to contain an extra 1,000hl (hectolitres) of wine before adherence is due to be checked in September 2008. The new vats would cost around €150,000 (£113,000, US$222,000). If properties choose to increase barrel capacity, the cost will be far higher.
However, according to insiders there was a sense of reconciliation at the meeting with Denis Hecquet, who in 2003 was driving force behind the disgruntled producers dropped from the appellation, sitting alongside Gardinier throughout proceedings.
‘The two Medoc families that were once split are now back together,’ said Gardinier.
There will be no Cru Bourgeois Superieur or Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel at this stage. Gardinier said the idea is to create a consensus and ‘build from there’.
The audits will be held by an external agency in September 2008. and by January 2009 wine samples will be submitted for the right to put Cru Bourgeois on the label.
Properties will not know if they can call themselves Cru Bourgeois until just before bottling the 2007 vintage in 2009.
‘We hope to have validation from the French authorities by July of this year. But this is a huge step forward,’ Frederique de Lamothe, director of the Alliance, told decanter.com.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux