As the date for the announcement of the new St Emilion classification gets nearer, Bordeaux is rife with speculation.

The 2006 revision of the classification will be revealed on 7 September. Unlike the Médoc and Graves classification which has only been altered twice in 150 years, the St Emilion hierarchy is revised, in great secrecy, every decade.

Industry-watchers are dusting off their crystal balls. Difficult as it is to speculate, there is some talk in Bordeaux that Chateaux Troplong Mondot and Pavie-Decesse are strong candidates for promotion from Grand Cru Classe to Premier Grand Cru Classe.

A third chateau, Beausejour-Duffau-Lagarosse, could be demoted from Premier Grand Cru Classe to Grand Cru Classe.

There are four tiers within the classification: lowly Grands Crus, of which there are hundreds, 55 Grands Crus Classés, and 13 Premiers Grands Crus Classés.

The Premiers are divided into 2 groups, (A) consisting of top performers Ausone and Cheval-Blanc, and (B) being the rest of them.

Any property seeking promotion may submit a dossier to the panel, presenting soil analyses, details about vineyards and vinification, and press cuttings.

decanter.com has seen the dossier assembled by Dominique Decoster, who purchased Chateau Fleur Cardinale a few years ago. It essentially argues that the investments and efforts made, as well as the wine’s critical success should justify its promotion to Grand Cru Classé.

The panel assesses various criteria: the quality of the wine (after tasting recent vintages), the quality of the terroir, the renown and presentation of the wine, and its price.

The criteria, however, complicate the issue. Many wine professionals argue that Figeac, already Premier Cru (B), deserves to be promoted to (A) on grounds of quality. But its wine sells for much lower prices than Ausone or Cheval Blanc and thus promotion is unlikely. Conversely, Valandraud fetches high prices and gets high scores, but many question the quality of its terroir.

Proprietors whose wines deserve promotion are often disappointed as the panel also contains Bordeaux négociants and brokers and it is unlikely that wines that are not sold by the collectivity of négociants will win favour.

Written by Stephen Brook