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Cru Bourgeois: new listing launched

The new Cru Bourgeois selection has been announced in Paris and London – to the relief of everyone concerned.

Frederique de Lamothe, the director of the Alliance des Cru Bourgeois du Medoc told Decanter.com today she was delighted to finally announce the results of three years’ work.

‘There has been a lot of stress,’ she said. ‘For three years we’ve been more or less working in secrecy without being able to tell anyone what we are doing.’

The Alliance has made clear that the listing is an annual quality assessment, not a classification of chateaux or terroirs like the 1855 classification.

The original Cru Bourgeois classification had been mired in controversy since it was updated in 2003, when it was annulled after 78 producers bitterly contested their exclusion.

The new listing, of the 2008 vintage, took three years to come together and involved the Allliance des Cru Bourgeois, under the presidency of Thierry Gardinier of Chateau Phelan Segur, in months of tastings.

Gardinier has since resigned the presidency – he explained that as he had withdrawn Phelan Segur as a cru bourgeois he felt it would be anomalous for him to continue as president – and has passed the baton to Frederic de Luze of Chateau Paveil de Luze in Margaux.

For the new classification a panel made up of paid wine professionals – but with no chateau owners – selected ‘benchmark’ wines which set the quality standard for all the 290 wines which applied for Cru Bourgeois status.

The benchmark – what consitutes the minimum level of acceptability for a cru bourgeois – is adjusted every year according to vintage quality. Thus in a poor vintage the number of labels is expected to drop.

‘But we expect relative stability of a percentage of estates with the listing,’ Alliance publicity director Francois Nony said.

Any chateau can apply to be a cru bourgeois; all wines are re-tasted between March and July every year for the new listing. Wines are tasted in barrel, with a percentage re-tasted after bottling in anonymous ‘shelf tests’ – ie the wines are chosen at random from retailers’ shelves.

Nony also made clear that there would be no special cuvees in the listing: after applying, only a chateau’s designated vineyards would be eligible for cru bourgeois status.

The new listing is democratic, with all selected chateaux classed together and no Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnnels or Superieurs.

Indeed, a group of former Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnnels, including Chateau Chasse Spleen, Chateau Les Ormes de Pez, Chateau de Pez, Chateau Potensac, Chateau Poujeaux and Chateau Siran broke away from the Alliance in May this year, with the intention of forming their own grouping.

Steven Spurrier said the new flat structure ‘makes perfect sense. Having different hierarchies just confused the public.’

However, it is doubtful that the Classification will remain in its present state for more than a few vintages.

There will probably be a vote of all member chateaux to decide on whether to re-instate some sort of hierarchy within the listing, she told Decanter.

This would be welcome to some of the higher-end crus.

Jean-Christophe Mau of Chateau Preuillac said the classification has his ‘full support’ but he agreed the next step should be to add a new level.

‘If you have wines of €4 on the same level as wines of €40, then you will eventually find only the smaller properties will want to put Cru Bourgeois on their label.’

For her part, Lamothe said her main emotion was relief at finally launching the new list.

‘I’m very happy to share the news with the wine world. After three years of work, the Cru Bourgeois is saved.’

Cru Bourgeois 2008: the full list of chateaux

Written by Adam Lechmere

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