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Cru Bourgeois chateaux back new quality grades

A majority of Cru Bourgeois chateaux have voted in favour of a plan that could sub-divide the classification into different quality tiers.

Chateau Le Boscq, one of the 267 Cru Bourgeois estates for the 2012 vintage. Image credit: Dourthe

Cru Bourgeois
members were asked their opinion on the way forward at a general meeting last week.

Around 78% of those present backed a motion to recognise differences in quality and consistency between the estates, said Frederique Dutheillet de Lamothe, director of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Medoc.

The Cru Bourgeois concept dates back to the 1930s and there have been ‘Superieur’ and ‘Exceptionnel’ quality grades before.

But, the classification has steered clear of introducing such a system in the five vintages since its relaunch in 2010.

News of a change in strategy comes after the Alliance said 267 chateaux passed the annual blind tastings to enter the classification for the 2012 Bordeaux vintage. The list is always released two years after the harvest.

‘We want to try to give more visibility to estates,’ de Lamothe told Decanter.com at the Cru Bourgeois 2012 tasting in London this week.

‘We want to try to build in some levels. The family is huge. Some are at the top level every year and they really need to be granted a higher status.’

However, de Lamothe said change will be carefully managed. Cru Bourgeois has been dogged by political infighting in the past. The system collapsed following the 2003 classification due to legal challenges by some chateaux.

‘I arrived five days after the classification collapsed and it wasn’t fun. It’s an evolution, not a revolution. Maybe the first stage will be to only have one new level.’

De Lamothe said Cru Bourgeois chateaux have benefited from their relatively low prices in recent years, compared with strong price increases among some of the 1855 classed growth estates.

‘It’s working well. Prices have been stable and are accessible. Prices are not going to go from €10 [ex-chateau] to €50, but they might go to €10.5.’

Around 50% of Cru Bourgeois estates are distributed in the UK, but the classication has also seen strong success in China and the US. De Lamothe said the Alliance launched marketing efforts in the US 18 months ago. ‘There were around 100 member chateaux already on the market and now there are 160.’

Looking ahead to next year, and the release of the weather-hit 2013 vintage, de Lamothe said she was confident on quality. ‘The main problem will be the volume of wine available,’ she said.

Written by Chris Mercer

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