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St-Emilion classification suspended

The 2006 St-Emilion classification has been temporarily suspended by an administrative tribunal in Bordeaux citing ‘serious doubt’ over the legality of the classification process.

According to news agency AFP, the tribunal ruled that there was ‘serious doubt over the legality’ of the classification and that it was possible that some chateaux had been discriminated against.

The tribunal upheld the complaints of Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac, Chateau Cadet Bon, Chateau Guadet and Chateau de la Marzelle, who were all demoted at the last ten-yearly reclassification of Saint Emilion, announced in September 2006.

The tribunal effectively agreed that there were problems with a partisan jury, that the candidatures were not treated equally, and that only seven of the 95 chateaux involved were visited in person.

‘It is a common sense decision,’ said Philippe Thevenin, the lawyer representing the four properties which took the case to court.

It is reported that three more St-Emilion Grand Cru estates will challenge the very nature of the classification as established by the INAO.

Today’s interim ruling anticipates a comprehensive legal probe into the way the 2006 classification was organised – to be held at a later date.

However according to Thevenin, the court’s interim decision means that for the time being, no St-Emilion classification exists. The previous ranking, drawn up in 1996, is no longer applicable after 10 years.

The ruling comes exactly one month after a Bordeaux court annulled the 2003 Crus Bourgeois classification for similar reasons. Both cases bear many similarities, with declassified chateaux owners asking questions about the impartiality of the classification jury.

Among the 10 jury members for the St-Emilion classification were two courtiers and a Bordeaux lawyer who was an advisor to one of the top-ranked chateau in the appellation.

It is understood that their presence on the jury has been questioned although observers say it is perfectly natural for such a jury to contain some members with vested interests.

Guy Petrus Lignac of Chateau Guadet told decanter.com, ‘It’s a shame that this has happened on the eve of the primeurs, as it sullies the image of Saint Emilion a little, but we can not pretend everything is perfect if it isn’t.’

Eric Agostini, the lawyer who successfully had the cru bourgeois classification annuled last month, said that the decision to annul a second jury-based ranking, ‘throws a terrible suspicion on the Bordeaux classification system as a whole.’

No date has been set for a full investigation.

See also

St Emilion chateaux take Classification to court

Cru bourgeois classification annulled

St-Emilion classification: the bloodletting begins

Written by Oliver Styles, and Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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