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‘Tainted’ cru bourgeois classification under threat

The 2003 law that redrew the Medoc cru bourgeois classification looks set to be repealed within the next few weeks.

The highly controversial reclassification established the new three-tier cru bourgeois system which enables qualifying chateaux to label their wines cru bourgeois, cru bourgeois exceptionnel and cru bourgeois supérieur.

The exercise, which took several years, was designed to improve the standard of the wines by weeding out a large number of confusing second labels and eliminating producers of lower quality wine.

The original process was challenged by a group of chateaux that did not make the cut, after it was found that the criteria were not applied equally to all participating properties. The number of properties allowed to label their wines cru bourgeois was reduced from 490 to 247.

However, Jean-Pierre Valeins, magistrate of Bordeaux’s administrative court of appeal, said the reclassification process was tainted from the outset due to conflicts of interest on the part of several selection jurors.

‘Four of the 18 members of the selection panel had direct ties to châteaux involved in the reclassification process,’ Valeins told decanter.com. ‘In my opinion, this would have made it impossible for the jury to act impartially one way or the other.’

Magistrates’ opinions are generally, but not always, followed by the court. If the three officials tasked with making the final decision follow Valeins’s guidance, it will mean a return to the original 1932 classification.

‘It’s not like an exam, where there are right and wrong answers to questions, and it is possible to get some right and others wrong, but still get a result,’ said Valeins. ‘In this case, all the wines are judged in relation to each other. You cannot reconsider some without the rest. You have to start all over.’

Written by Maggie Rosen

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