A Bordeaux classification, once drawn up in the 19th century but since fallen from use, has been revived by a group of winemakers in the Medoc.
The official list of the crus artisans du Medoc was published earlier this month and lists 44 chateaux in the Medoc region of Bordeaux.
As of the 2005 vintage, the 44 producers will be able to display ‘cru artisan’ on their label.
Until now, the listing was unofficial and had virtually disappeared from use. Although not part of the authoritative 1855 classification, which ranked top Medoc wines from first growth to fifth growth, it is mentioned in the Feret wine guide of 1868. By the mid-20th century, however, the classification was barely mentioned or used by winemakers and was one of the least-known, if not forgotten, Medoc groupings.
In 1989, a group of producers clubbed together to revive the defunct list which originally classified wines that were just below those of cru bourgeois status.
By 1994, the term ‘cru artisan’ was recognised by the European Union and the French government followed suit by issuing the terms of a new classification in 2002.
Under the terms, potential cru artisan wines had to be tasted and their estates evaluated by a jury of 11 wine professionals. The process, which began in 2004, was hampered by the turbulent court debate surrounding the re-classification of the crus bourgeois. In October 2004, a local tribunal had heard a similarly-composed jury of evaluators accused of being ‘impartial’.
On 11 January, however, the new growth was approved by the French government, giving cru artisan status to 44 out of 59 producers.
‘We now have to work on improving public knowledge [of the cru wines] despite our limited funds,’ a spokesman for the Medoc wine trade body told French newspaper Sud-Ouest.
The current classification is valid for 10 years, after which it is up for renewal. Cru artisan wines currently retail in France at €5-10.
The 2005 cru artisan classification
AOC (commune in brackets)
AOC Haut Medoc
Written by Oliver Styles, and agencies