Bordeaux’s Château Angélus has withdrawn its candidacy from the next St-Emilion classification, the producer announced today.
The withdrawal follows that of Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone who announced the news in July 2021.
Currently only Château Pavie remains a Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ estate out of the original four having been promoted, alongside Château Angélus, in the 2012 ranking.
Angélus said that, while the classification had long been a ‘wonderful collective motivational tool’, the stakes within it had brought about ‘numerous criticisms’ and had made it the target of ‘a system of denigration’ leading to numerous cases of legal recourse.
It highlighted how this happened in 2006 and then again in 2012 (legal proceedings are still in progress almost 10 years on).
Angélus also referred to the recent court decision which, after more than 10 years of proceedings, fined Hubert de Boüard on account of his participation in the national wine appellations committee.
This, it said, had reinforced it in its choice to withdraw from ‘a process, the viability of which does not seem to us to be assured, and the advantages of which do not make up for the risks of unjust attacks’.
Angélus added that it had made the decision to withdraw having learned that two properties have brought emergency legal proceedings against the 2022 classification, which it said is in the process of being drawn up.
Describing the St-Emilion classification as ‘once a source of progress’, Angelus said it had become ‘a vehicle for antagonism and instability’.
In a statement it said: ’While regretting this deleterious context, Angélus takes note of it and exits the system in withdrawing from the 2022 classification’.
Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, President of Angélus, said: ‘While the values which we hold dear and the dynamic in which Angélus is currently engaged have led us to deem the current system as unsuited to the challenges of our estate and its appellation, our family’s deep attachment to the region and to the reputation of its wines remains intact.’
Going forward, Angélus said it would continue, ‘with humility’, to pursue its path in the same search for excellence and would devote itself, more than ever, to its first vocation, to which the de Boüard de Laforest family has been committed for eight generations now: the production of great wines capable of ageing over many years and which reflect their appellation, their terroir and each vintage.
‘Angélus will continue to actively promote St-Emilion and the great growths of Bordeaux on all the continents and in all four corners of the world,’ said Boüard-Rivoal.
‘Ahead of each new St-Emilion classification there is inevitable speculation about estate movement’ said Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent Georgie Hindle ‘particularly following the 2012 results but this has increased somewhat prematurely over the past few months with both Cheval Blanc and Ausone leaving the 2022 process and now Angélus too.
‘The estate’s removal is a further, and potentially pivotal, blow to the established ranking system, which has seen some controversy over the past decade,’ she said.
However, added Hindle, ‘the classification system has done much to augment the perception, popularity and prestige of St-Emilion’s wines and holds great weight for both consumers and the trade. It has been praised for increasing investment in the region and encouraging healthy competition between estates to improve the quality of wines.
‘But, after this news, questions will no doubt be raised as to the ramifications for the remaining properties in contention for promotions as well as for the classification’s overall and on-going relevance.’
It’s also interesting to note that as some estates withdraw, the INAO has received more candidate proposals for 2022 than in 2012. It now remains to be seen how the classification body will move forward and protect what has the potential to be a useful and credible promotional tool for the wines of the region.