Bordeaux Classification Chaos

Court rulings throw two of the major Bordeaux classifications into disarray.

In a ruling announced February 27, the Bordeaux Court of Appeal annulled the 2003 classification of the Médoc crus bourgeois, designed to improve quality and consumer awareness. Gone are 247 crus bourgeois, including the 87 crus bourgeois supérieurs and the 9 crus bourgeois exceptionnels. It is back to the 1932 classification which saw 444 properties allowed to use the bourgeois title.

The court action, brought by the nearly 200 properties delisted in 2003 turned on the composition of the jury appointed by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce to decide on the châteaux which merited the title crus bourgeois. The court decided that because some members of the jury were also crus bourgeois proprietors and Bordeaux négociants the jury itself was not impartial.

"We have worked on this for 10 years," said Thierry Gardinier, who headed the Alliance of Crus Bourgeois, and whose family owns Château Phélan-Ségur. "Now we are back to square one."

And in a further twist to the classification chaos, the same lawyer who won the crus bourgeois action is now challenging the 2006 Saint-Emilion classification. Acting on behalf of three demoted properties—Château Villemaurine, Château Cadet Bon and Château Guadet Saint-Julien—he is claiming that here, too, the composition of the jury was flawed and not impartial. The case started on February 23.

New York-based importer Denis Lesgourgues of Baron François commented "it makes France a laughing stock. In the end though, we sell these chateaux on their name not on the fact they are classified."

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