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St Emilion classification finally ruled invalid

A Bordeaux court yesterday ruled that the 2006 St Emilion classification is invalid and can no longer be used.

Chateaux must now remove the classifications of Premier Grand Cru Classé A or B, or Grand Cru Classé – which should have applied from the 2006 vintage up to 2016 – from labels on wines dating from the 2006 vintage.

‘The commission decided that the wine tasting mechanism was not an impartial system,’ said Philippe Thévenin, the lawyer who acted for the châteaux that fought the new classification.

At the heart of the ruling is the interpretation that by tasting one group of already classified wines, and then another group of wines that were hoping to be classified, a taster could not remain impartial. ‘The judge did not say the tasters were at fault, rather the mechanism,’ Thévenin said.

A spokesperson for the St Emilion Wine Union (Conseil des Vins de St Emilion) described the situation as ‘grave’.

The Union is currently awaiting a decision from INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine), the body that manages French wine classifications, and the French Agriculture Minister, as to whether an appeal will be launched within the next two months.

Legal sources say an appeal would take about two years.

Wine producers have described the ruling as a catastrophe. ’We are in shock,’ said Christine Valette of Château Troplong-Mondot, which was awarded Premier Grand Cru Classé status in 2006

Valette said the chateau had spent 20 years working to achieve the classification. ‘And now, just as we are about to start the 2006 bottling, we have to cancel all the labels and all the cases and redo them.’

Valette said she didn’t know what clients would think, but hoped they would be understanding. ‘The wine in the bottle is still Troplong-Mondot,’ she said.

Chateaux Cheval Blanc and Ausone were the only two Premiers Grands Crus Classés A.

Chateau Figeac’s application to be promoted from Premier Grand Cru Classé

B to Premier Grand Cru Classé A was rejected on the specific grounds ‘that Figeac does not sell at the same level of price as Cheval Blanc or Ausone’.

Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

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