The director of the Cru Bourgeois classification body has said she is confident that reviving the three-tier hierarchy will prove successful, as new details emerge of how the system will work from the release of the 2018 vintage onwards.

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Alongside its ‘official selection’ from the Bordeaux 2016 vintage, the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc has also announced its specification and verification procedures for the new Crus Bourgeois Classification system that will come into effect from 2020.

Crucially, the new classification represents a return to the original traditional hierarchical system comprising three tiers of quality; Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel.

It will also be reviewed every five years, which means that châteaux can move up and down the hierarchy.

Last week’s statement marks a major step forward for the Alliance.

Speaking at a press conference in London to announce the new 2016 vintage and the new classification, Frédérique de Lamothe, director of the Alliance said, ‘We are very happy about the new process.

‘We have learnt a lot from the past and we are confident that this will benefit the châteaux, trade and consumers.

‘Most importantly, the new classification maintains the quality and origin of the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc. It is the result of five years of work in consultation with all the members of the Crus Bourgeois and the Government.’

Back in 2003, the system was remodeled to recognise 247 châteaux comprising nine Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels, 87 Crus Bourgeois Superieurs and 151 Crus Bourgeois. However, the classification was then subsequently scrapped in 2007 after a series of appeals by châteaux, which had not been included.

Three years later, in 2010, the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois responded to the debacle by creating a new government backed quality assurance procedure in which all approved Cru Bourgeois wines were selected in blind tastings by a panel of experts. It published its first Official Selection based on the 2008 vintage, and has done so every year since.


See also: Cru Bourgeois and the new order – exclusive to Decanter Premium members


How it will work

The new classification will be based on a quality based verification process carried out by an independent body of expert tasters. This body will assess each application by blind tasting several vintages from each applicant château.

It will also take into consideration other factors including agricultural, environmental and technical factors, and site visits will also be carried out.

For the 2020 classification, candidate châteaux can submit a choice of five vintages from 2008 to 2016. The 2025 classification will then comprise vintages from 2017 to 2021. According to Lamothe for the top tiers, the independent judges will be looking ‘for quality, consistency and the capacity of the wine to age.’

The first labels to carry the traditional terms will feature on the 2018 labels of the successful châteaux.

It remains to be seen how many châteaux will apply to the various quality levels. Candidates for the classification had until September 30 to submit their applications – specifying the tier to which they were applying.

The procedure is open to all Médoc vineyards in the following AOCs; Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis en Médoc, Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe.

Since 2008, the number of approved Cru Bourgeois châteaux have varied from 243 to a maximum of 278 in 2014. In 2018, there were 270 châteaux, which produced a total of 33 million bottles, representing a total of 31% of the Médoc’s total production.


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