For a word that’s become associated with the establishment, cru ‘bourgeois’ wines have pretty revolutionary origins. The exact date of arrival is not certain – some say they date back to the 13th century when Bordeaux was a duchy of the English crown. Others to the 15th century, when French laws were relaxed to allow the best land not to be the sole preserve of the church or of titled aristocrats.
Scroll down for Jane Anson’s tasting notes and scores for the 14 new Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels
Their real rise, though, clearly came after the French Revolution itself, when noble lands were broken up. These estates, owned by the working ‘bourgeois’, gained traction and grew in number. Their more recent history has been similarly turbulent; first resurrected, then challenged and overturned, then reinvented as a mark of quality. And, as of February 2020, the latest chapter of the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc has arrived – back to being an official classification with three quality tiers, the intention being to provide clearer signposting for consumers.
After a little more than a decade of being a yearly ‘stamp of quality’ that essentially judged the characteristics of individual vintages, cru bourgeois has returned to being an official classification that rewards châteaux across a set period of five years. The hope is that it will give lasting power and sustainability to a category of wines that are in many ways the backbone of the entire Bordeaux system – great quality, reasonably priced claret.