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Cru bourgeois classification annulled

The latest cru bourgeois classification has been annulled by a court in Bordeaux, it emerged yesterday.

The 2003 law that established the hierarchy of the cru bourgeois wines in the Medoc was annulled by the administrative court of appeals in Bordeaux.

The repeal effectively returns the Médoc classification to its original 1932 status, and allows nearly 200 chateaux eliminated in the 2003 revision to call their wines cru bourgeois.

The ruling also rescinds the cru bourgeois superieur and cru bourgeois exceptionnel rankings, affecting 87 and nine chateaux respectively.

All Chateaux, including the ‘exceptionnel’ Chasse-Spleen, Poujeaux and Phélan Ségur, revert, along with the 444 chateaux of the 1932 classification, to a simple ‘cru bourgeois’ status.

The 2003 reclassification was the result of efforts to raise consumer confidence in the cru bourgeois label by eliminating poor quality wines through a more rigorous selection process. But the process – which saw the number of cru bourgeois reduced by nearly half – was marred by conflicts of interest.

In 2004, a group of 78 châteaux sought, and won, a partial repeal of the 2003 law, but appellants further demanded a total retraction.

Yesterday’s decision, predicted by decanter.com earlier this month, was expected by producers and outside observers. One magistrate agreed with the appellants that it was not possible to bestow a new status on 78 chateaux without a re-evaluation of the entire list.

Those in favour of the 2003 reclassification – however problematic – are disappointed in the decision. Thierry Gardinier, of Château Phelan-Segur and president of the Alliance of Crus Bourgeois said the new ruling had sent 10 years of hard work down the drain.

Even those on the side of the appeal, led by Denis Hecquet, president of the Médoc winegrowers’ union, said the affair had further tarnished the ‘lustre’ of the cru bourgeois name.

Written by Maggie Rosen

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