St Emilion Grand Cru “Farce”


A week after the French courts abolished the St Emilion Grand Cru system, after finding problems with the 2006 reclassification, the French government has reinstated the 1996 outcome for 3 years until a new reclassification can take place.

This court decision followed action by four of the estates who were demoted in the last reclassification. Evidence was given that judges knew the identities of the wines that they were marking, and had been influenced by the prices fetched for the wines. It was stated that Ch Figeac had not been promoted to Premier Grand Cru ‘A’ because it was not expensive enough. No quality terms would have been allowed on the labels, starting with the 2006 vintage: wines already in bottle will have to be relabelled.

In reinstating the 1996 results, the government has restored the position of the demoted estates, but has left the eight promoted vineyards with wines labelled with their new status. There are rumours that the American Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will block import of these wines, or at least refuse to accept the label design. The French government is expected to give advice on the subject, but this is unlikely to stop the feuding.

There is no word yet of the form of the next reclassification, but it seems likely that there will need to be an impartial, international jury to make the awards.