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St-Emilion classification dispute goes before tribunal

A complaint launched by three châteaux demanding the cancellation of the 2012 St-Emilion classification has been heard at Bordeaux’s Administrative Tribunal.

Châteaux Croque-Michotte, La Tour du Pin Figeac and Corbin-Michotte launched the St-Emilion classification complaint in January 2013, citing numerous inconsistencies and procedural errors in how they – and other chateaux – were treated during the run-up to the publication of the new ranking in September 2012.

As a result, they allege, they did not deserve the result in which Corbin Michotte lost its Grand Cru Classé status and the other two were refused promotion from Grand Cru.

Among the inconsistences, according to papers filed by their lawyers Maitre Chloé Maisonneuve and Maitre Olivia Feschotte-Desbois, were châteaux visits by members of the classification committee, the application and interpretation of soil studies and late changes to the criteria upon which the wines and estates were judged that were only made apparent to the candidates after the results were published.

In total, the châteaux listed 23 inconsistencies that the opposing legal team for the National Appellations Institute (INAO) that oversaw the classification and the Conseil des Vins de St-Emilion were asked to explain.

‘There was transparency throughout the process,’ Maitre Dider Pinet for the INAO told the court, while Maitre Miasonneuve countered that ‘big châteaux were favoured over small family structures’.

‘The INAO didn’t prove or explain anything,’ Pierre Carle, of Chateau Croque-Michotte, told Decanter.com after the hearing. ‘We have listed many clear inconsistencies and are confident that we will be successful.’

A ruling is expected by mid January at the latest.

A separate criminal complaint lodged by the same three châteaux with the public prosecutor in May 2013 is still ongoing.

This complaint suggested that the classification was subject to ‘illegal interference’ due to members of the regional INAO also being owners of châteaux that benefitted from the new classification.

No one has specifically been named at this stage, as this type of suit is launched in France against ‘X’ until the results of the investigation are published. A date for a hearing in the case is likely to be set over the coming weeks.

There were 82 St-Emilion châteaux were classified in 2012; 18 as Premier Cru Classé and 64 Cru Classé.
Updated 10/12/2015: The names of those under criminal investigation have not yet been officially released.

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