Angélus co-owner Hubert de Boüard has rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing after it emerged that both he and Bordeaux négociant Philippe Castéjà were facing possible criminal charges relating to the renewal of the St-Emilion classification.
Investigation into possible conflict of interest in St-Emilion classification
Both men strongly deny wrongdoing
Plaintiffs seeking damages for way 2012 classification was handled
Bordeaux’s Tribunal de Grande Instance, or High Court, confirmed that investigations had last month been opened into 62-year-old Hubert de Boüard, the co-owner of Château Angélus and wine consultant, as well as into Philippe Castéja, the 69-year-old whose family owns Château Trotte Vieille and is a director of one of Bordeaux’s principal négociant houses, Borie-Manoux.
Media reports said the move was related to accusations that the men influenced the 2012 St-Emilion classification in their favour, while acting as INAO (National Institute for Origin and Quality) representatives.
It was reported that the investigation centred on suspicion of ‘prise illégale d’intérêts’. If charges were brought and subsequently proven, the offence carries a potential prison sentence of up to five years, and fines of up to EUR500,000.
Such a charge would be used in cases where ‘personal interest conflicts with a public role’, confirmed a bilingual French/English lawyer.
De Boüard rejected the allegation when contacted by Decanter.com for comment. In an email, he said that he ‘did not take part in the elaboration or the vote of the classification’.
He said that he was ‘certain of my innocence’, and added, ‘It is with serenity that I look forward to the future steps of the procedure’.
According to press reports last week, de Boüard told police that he had not taken part in the INAO deliberations relating to the St-Emilion classification. He denied that he had any influence on the 2012 ranking, which saw Angélus promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé A status.
Castéjà also denied any wrongdoing, according to media reports, although he could not be contacted by Decanter.com for comment.
Three St-Emilion châteaux, which were either downgraded or not promoted in the 2012 classification, were acting as plaintiffs in the case.
Lawyer Eric Morain, speaking on behalf of the estates – Châteaux Corbin-Michotte, Croque-Michotte and La Tour du Pin Figeac – described the case as a David and Goliath battle.
He said that St-Emilion’s classification system ‘has been locked from the inside by a few people for the last dozen years and it’s not easy for smaller producers to attack the system’.
He added that his clients were additionally looking for damages to offset their commercial losses due to classification issues.
In late 2015, Bordeaux’s Tribunal de Grande Instance rejected complaints about the classification procedure from the same three châteaux. It ruled that the 2012 classification was legal.