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New Cru Bourgeois classification: date for launch

The new ‘Reconnaissance de Cru Bourgeois’ classification will be announced on 23 September.

Bordeaux’s Cru Bourgeois Alliance has put together a radical new ‘benchmark’ system of rating wines for the new Classification.

The classification has been mired in controversy since it was updated in 2003, when 78 wine producers bitterly contested their exclusion.

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

The panel has selected 40 wines from Medoc and Haut-Medoc appellations, and 40 commune AOC wines. After a series of blind tastings, two standard tasting notes and average scores are produced.

Brinda Bourhis, spokeswoman for the the Alliance des Cru Bourgeois du Medoc, said, ‘the average of the scores given by each taster is the score to be reached to be recognized as a Cru Bourgeois.

‘The professionals who score the panel are the same ones that score the 290 crus, meaning that they are applying the same method as they did for scoring the panel tasting. It is not a question of memory but a question of consistency by the same people along the tasting sessions.’

There will be one level only – Cru Bourgeois, with none of the premium and super-premium categories that bedevilled the 2003 classification.

Frederique Dutheillet de Lamothe, director of the Alliance, said the system had been arrived because of the ‘suffering’ over the collapse of the 2003 classification.

In a series of judgements over a period of several years the 2003 classification – first questioned in 2004 – was annulled when a Bordeaux tribunal decided it the classification procedure was ‘not impartial’ and ‘tainted with illegality’.

Of 490 chateaux which registered to be included in the classification, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce listed 247 as either Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (9 chateaux), Superieur (87) or Cru Bourgeois (151).

Some producers – like the Mau family of Chateau Preuillac – were outraged to be excluded and levelled charges of cronyism – ‘copinage’ – at the panel, which included chateau owners as well as negotiants and other wine professionals.

Seventy-eight producers which had been excluded from the classification demanded a repeal.

The new system – which was ratified last year – is not without its critics. A group of former Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels have decided to form their own alliance, ‘Les Exceptionnels’.

The members of the group include Chateau Chasse Spleen, Chateau Les Ormes de Pez, Chateau de Pez, Chateau Potensac, Chateau Poujeaux and Chateau Siran.

Christophe Labenne, co-director of Chateau Poujeaux, told decanter.com, ‘This is a group that was originally formed in 2003, when we were first named Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels.

‘When the classification was cancelled, we waited to see when things would become clearer, but they never really did, so we decided to work together again.’

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Written by Adam Lechmere

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