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St Emilion classification reinstated – again

In a bizarre twist to a seemingly endless saga, the French government has used emergency powers to resurrect the St Emilion classification.

Last week a Bordeaux court ruled that the classification, which is revised every 10 years, was invalid.

To fill the legal void left by the decision the French wine regulator the INAO (Institut National de l’Orgine et de la Qualité) asked the government to add an emergency amendment.

The amendment allows chateaux that were awarded the titles of ‘grand cru classé’ or ‘premier grand cru classé’ in the older 1996 classification, to use their former rankings. The ruling applies for the harvests from 2006 to 2009.

In practical terms the move is a positive one for the 11 chateaux thrown out of the revised 2006 classification, but for the châteaux who were promoted in 2006, this latest development is shocking.

Francois Despagne of Chateau Grand Corbin-Despagne, declassified in 1996 but reclassified in 2006, told the local paper, Sud Ouest, that he was ‘gutted’.

Negociant and winemaker Jean-Luc Thunevin also sympathised with chateaux that had been promoted in 2006. ‘I cannot understand how we can penalise those that have worked so hard,’ he said.

From a more positive angle, the view of Alain Moueix, President of the Association of St Emilion Grand Cru Classé wines, is that the amendment is a first step, one that at least allows all those involved to work from the basis of an existing classification.

The next step, he said, is to find a way to include the chateaux that were promoted in the 2006 classification.

Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

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