New Saint Emilion classification

Hi,

Here it is:


Biggest news, of course, Figeac, which was pretty much expected.

I need to digest the rest.

I don't know some of the estates at all.

Best regards,
Alex R.
 
This is likely to make it more expensive to back-fill any pre-Rolland Figeac :( (Although, as has been discussed, how much this means without Cheval Blanc & Ausone...)
 
I have a load of the 2002, 2004 and 2008. Lovely, green, taut. No "gobs of fruit" in sight.
I have some from that era which is rather more to my taste too. In fact for me there was too much gloss even in some of those. I haven't tasted them for perhaps four years but I remember thinking then that even in halves the 2006 would need quite a few more years to ungloss.
 
This was no big surprise but the only other first growth is Pavie...the others have left the room…Figeac is up by something like a third price wise in the last year and I can see it trading on a broad par with those vulgar interlopers Pavie and Angelus, but I suspect Ausone and Cheval Blanc, which are no longer participating, will continue to trade in a league of their own. Angelus also withdrew from the classification, making this estate even more of a shameless interloper imo. But I heard the more modern Angelus wines are less tarted up now the daughter has taken over. But the problem with Angelus is that the point of tarting up the wines was to disguise the undistinguished terroir. Two estates to watch now are Belair-Monange and Troplong Mondot, both possessing great terroir, and both making fabulous wine. Christian and Edouard Moueix did not push for B-M to be upgraded this time because it is still a work in progress. I loaded up on several cases of Figeac as I saw it essentially as a free option. Of the so called modern era Figeac I have only tried the 2016 and it did not seem to be noticeably spoofed up, though clearly part of the change has been to pick later. One of the most thrilling Figeacs I have tried recently was the 2000, which was heavily lambasted by some of the critics for being picked too early.
 
An interesting classification, quite safe in its decisions I think, far less open to legal challenge than in future years. Very little movement within the classification at the upper levels, with just Figeac promoted from PGGC B to PGCC A, and no other promotions to that rank. Similarly no demotions at all.

Total number of classified châteaux up from 82 to 85, that small net increment hiding 13 departures and disappearances, properties that voluntarily withdrew before or during the judging process, or which became ineligible through changing their vineyard, or which no longer exist having been absorbed into other properties. There are 16 promotions to the GCC level, including some well-known names e.g. Rol Valentin, Clos Badon-Thunevin, Croix de Labrie, as well as one or two names I don't know at all.

Biggest surprise was not the failure of Canon to be promoted to A (I am not even sure they applied), but the fact Le Dôme was not ranked; Jonathan Maltus was openly shooting for PGCC level, haven't heard yet where his application fell down.

Rumours that the lawyers of Bordeaux emitted a collective sign of dismay on seeing the new classification are yet to be substantiated.
 
Here are some thoughts which I've put on my blog.

Recap: wine châteaux in the Médoc and Sauternes regions were classified in 1855, and those in the Graves (even though all in the Pessac-Léognan appellation, estates there remain “Crus Classés de Graves”) in 1953. Saint-Emilion introduced a new type classification in 1955 that broke with tradition in that it was decided from the very outset that it would be revised and updated every ten years.

Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions… In theory, this seemed like a wonderful idea, with newcomers able to climb the ladder and underachievers removed – as opposed to the other classifications set in stone. However, each new revision turned out to be a wrenching experience with long, drawn-out court cases and all sorts of ups and downs. This did a great disservice to the image of Saint-Emilion and its finest wines. The controversies reached a paroxysm in 2022 when three of the four Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Ausone, Cheval Blanc, and Angélus) decided to withdraw altogether. There now remain only two in the uppermost tier: Pavie and Figeac – which finally, and deservedly, made it to the tip of the pyramid.

It had unfortunately got to a point where the Saint Emilion classification was openly derided and the situation became very unhealthy, with the criteria and functioning of the whole process heavily criticised (for instance, tasting accounts for only 50% of the final score, terroir just 10%, etc.). The waters are further muddied by the huge confusion that exists in the average consumer’s mind between Grand Cru and Grand Cru Classé. For most people, these terms mean the same thing which, of course, they do not… In other words, the legal appellation for a classified growth is Saint Emilion Grand Cru, exactly the same as for an inexpensive unclassified wine.

And yet… After a great deal of turbulence, the classification has survived, warts and all, and châteaux still strive to belong to it. The amount of paperwork involved with applying is mind boggling, a bureaucratic nightmare that is nevertheless well worth it to those estates fortunate enough to be accepted. In other words, being classified still means something. In practice, it carries greater financial weight in terms of an estate’s land value rather than the market price of its wine.

The Premier Grand Cru Classé category (A + B) now amounts to 14 estates, compared to 18 in 2012 . There are 71 Grands Crus Classés this year, as opposed to 64 in the previous classification. This represents a 10% increase, but is still fewer than the 75 châteaux in the original classification. .Overall, approximately half of candidates for the 2022 classification were not admitted. No estate included in the 2012 classification was demoted.

Those newly admitted GCC include Château Badette, Clos Badon-Thunevin , Château Boutisse, Château La Confession, Château Croix de Labrie, Château Le Croizille, Clos Dubreuil, Château Lassegue, Château Mangot, Château Montlabert, Château Montlisse, Château Rol Valentin, Clos Saint-Julien, Château Tour Baladoz, and Château Tour Saint Christophe. Happily, one château, Château Corbin Michotte, that had been downgraded, was reintegrated.

I am either little or totally unacquainted with several of these wines, and the new classification makes me want to get to know them better.

In a way that leaves Burgundians speechless, estates in Saint Emilion with different statuses have merged while retaining that which is most advantageous. Could you imagine a Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits annexing a Premier Cru and rebaptizing it Grand Cru? Anyway, Pavie has absorbed Pavie-Decesse, Clos Fourtet annexed Les Grandes Murailles, Cheval Blanc added Quinault l’Enclos, etc.

Is the classification system in Saint Emilion back on track? In my opinion, it will never be fully so if the leading estates do not belong. However, none of the wrangling, recrimination, and litigation that were so much a part of the previous two classifications has surfaced so far. Perhaps this is due to the fact that no château included in the 2012 classification was rejected in 2022.

Alex R.
www.bordeauxwineblog.com
 
Here are some thoughts which I've put on my blog.

Recap: wine châteaux in the Médoc and Sauternes regions were classified in 1855, and those in the Graves (even though all in the Pessac-Léognan appellation, estates there remain “Crus Classés de Graves”) in 1953. Saint-Emilion introduced a new type classification in 1955 that broke with tradition in that it was decided from the very outset that it would be revised and updated every ten years.

Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions… In theory, this seemed like a wonderful idea, with newcomers able to climb the ladder and underachievers removed – as opposed to the other classifications set in stone. However, each new revision turned out to be a wrenching experience with long, drawn-out court cases and all sorts of ups and downs. This did a great disservice to the image of Saint-Emilion and its finest wines. The controversies reached a paroxysm in 2022 when three of the four Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Ausone, Cheval Blanc, and Angélus) decided to withdraw altogether. There now remain only two in the uppermost tier: Pavie and Figeac – which finally, and deservedly, made it to the tip of the pyramid.

It had unfortunately got to a point where the Saint Emilion classification was openly derided and the situation became very unhealthy, with the criteria and functioning of the whole process heavily criticised (for instance, tasting accounts for only 50% of the final score, terroir just 10%, etc.). The waters are further muddied by the huge confusion that exists in the average consumer’s mind between Grand Cru and Grand Cru Classé. For most people, these terms mean the same thing which, of course, they do not… In other words, the legal appellation for a classified growth is Saint Emilion Grand Cru, exactly the same as for an inexpensive unclassified wine.

And yet… After a great deal of turbulence, the classification has survived, warts and all, and châteaux still strive to belong to it. The amount of paperwork involved with applying is mind boggling, a bureaucratic nightmare that is nevertheless well worth it to those estates fortunate enough to be accepted. In other words, being classified still means something. In practice, it carries greater financial weight in terms of an estate’s land value rather than the market price of its wine.

The Premier Grand Cru Classé category (A + B) now amounts to 14 estates, compared to 18 in 2012 . There are 71 Grands Crus Classés this year, as opposed to 64 in the previous classification. This represents a 10% increase, but is still fewer than the 75 châteaux in the original classification. .Overall, approximately half of candidates for the 2022 classification were not admitted. No estate included in the 2012 classification was demoted.

Those newly admitted GCC include Château Badette, Clos Badon-Thunevin , Château Boutisse, Château La Confession, Château Croix de Labrie, Château Le Croizille, Clos Dubreuil, Château Lassegue, Château Mangot, Château Montlabert, Château Montlisse, Château Rol Valentin, Clos Saint-Julien, Château Tour Baladoz, and Château Tour Saint Christophe. Happily, one château, Château Corbin Michotte, that had been downgraded, was reintegrated.

I am either little or totally unacquainted with several of these wines, and the new classification makes me want to get to know them better.

In a way that leaves Burgundians speechless, estates in Saint Emilion with different statuses have merged while retaining that which is most advantageous. Could you imagine a Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits annexing a Premier Cru and rebaptizing it Grand Cru? Anyway, Pavie has absorbed Pavie-Decesse, Clos Fourtet annexed Les Grandes Murailles, Cheval Blanc added Quinault l’Enclos, etc.

Is the classification system in Saint Emilion back on track? In my opinion, it will never be fully so if the leading estates do not belong. However, none of the wrangling, recrimination, and litigation that were so much a part of the previous two classifications has surfaced so far. Perhaps this is due to the fact that no château included in the 2012 classification was rejected in 2022.

Alex R.
www.bordeauxwineblog.com
The question for me, unanswered here and why I almost never buy anything from Bordeaux: who's making what I call traditional claret and who's making Parkerized/Rollandized monstrosities.
 
Claude,

To me, the poster child for Parkerized monster wines was Pavie. But like so many others, they have calmed things down in recent years and the pendulum has swung back.

I also think that with the thousands of châteaux in Bordeaux, there has been a focus on just a small percentage of these, giving a misleading impression.

Your question is like my asking you, with your knowledge of Burgundy: Gevrey Chambertin village wines can vary in price by a factor of four. Which ones should I buy?
Bordeaux, like Burgundy, is a complicated reality that takes some getting into, the seeking of advice, and a lot of trial and error.
There are shortcuts, but no superhighway to getting a handle on things, even in the internet age.

Alex R.
 
Claude,

To me, the poster child for Parkerized monster wines was Pavie. But like so many others, they have calmed things down in recent years and the pendulum has swung back.

I also think that with the thousands of châteaux in Bordeaux, there has been a focus on just a small percentage of these, giving a misleading impression.

Your question is like my asking you, with your knowledge of Burgundy: Gevrey Chambertin village wines can vary in price by a factor of four. Which ones should I buy?
Bordeaux, like Burgundy, is a complicated reality that takes some getting into, the seeking of advice, and a lot of trial and error.
There are shortcuts, but no superhighway to getting a handle on things, even in the internet age.

Alex R.
What you say is true, Alex, but I've just not found my interest sufficient to merit the investment necessary to do the research. Even more so since I favor Cabernet over Merlot and one effect of Parker was to greatly increase the Merlot percentage in many of the wines (regardless of taste, a bad move in light of global warming). I admit that I do occasionally buy a bottle such as Haut-Marbuzet or Jaygueyron because I have faith that they will stay the course.
 
In a way that leaves Burgundians speechless, estates in Saint Emilion with different statuses have merged while retaining that which is most advantageous. Could you imagine a Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits annexing a Premier Cru and rebaptizing it Grand Cru? Anyway, Pavie has absorbed Pavie-Decesse, Clos Fourtet annexed Les Grandes Murailles, Cheval Blanc added Quinault l’Enclos, etc.
Nice post Alex. Just one point, it isn't correct to suggest Cheval Blanc has added Quinault L'Enclos to its vineyard, that would be a huge story if so.

Both the A tier properties which withdrew from the classification also withdrew all their other previously ranked properties, so Quinault L'Enclos followed Cheval Blanc out (both owned by LVMH) and La Clotte followed Ausone (both owned by the Vauthiers). Given that in both cases their reasoning was that the classification no longer reflected their values (and not any other explanation you might care to offer!) this was the only credible course of action for them.
 
Chris,

You were right to correct the reference to Quinault L’Enclos in my post since they had withdrawn from the classification. But the reason for this withdrawal is rather murky, which is why I had thought to include it. I believe that Petit Cheval Blanc comes from there. But what of the remaining area not given over to red vines? In other words, have these red wine vineyards not simply been annexed?
Could this be part of the motivation for Cheval Blanc pulling out of the classification?


Why, if Cheval Blanc deferred, should the same owners feel obliged to do the same with Quinault L’Enclos? One does not necessarily follow from the other, since the categories are different and Quinault L’Enclos was not in nearly as exalted a position.


I’ve been around a while, and should I be told that the Quinault L’Enclos red “will only be used for the second wine” my antennae would start to quiver.
It’s like when people look me in the eye and say that their second wine “is not really a second wine”.
I don’t know if we’ll ever find out the truth, even if I’m sure: nothing has been done outside the law.

Alex R.
 
Hi Alex

I don't really see anything "murky" here. I think the reason given for withdrawal, that the classification no longer reflected their values (by which they mean too much emphasis is given to "reputation", i.e. presence in the media, and not enough to quality of terroir and wine), can be questioned. A cynic might say perhaps they no longer wanted to share the top tier with the likes of Angélus, but I can assure you that would be expressly denied by Pierre-Oliver Clouet. They wanted to focus on soil and wine, and not (just as an example of what counts as "reputation") how many Bond films your wine has appeared in. None of that is really "murky" is it?

I have never had any inkling that Petit Cheval came from anywhere other than the vineyard of Cheval Blanc. Do you have any evidence to support the claim it comes from Quinault L'Enclos?

Not sure what you mean by "what of the remaining area not given over to red vines?". If you're referring to La Tour du Pin, one 1.4-hectare parcel with the same terroir as Cheval Blanc was integrated into the Cheval Blanc vineyard before the 2012 classification - much was made of the fact this was the first adjustment to the Cheval Blanc vineyard for many years, more than 140 if memory serves. The remainder was replanted to white varieties, and is the source of Le Petit Cheval Blanc. That's entirely outside of the classification system (it's worth remembering that the classification pertains to a specific vineyard area, and most classified estates have "eligible" and "non-eligible" parcels - the "non-eligible" parcels have to go into the second wine or somewhere other than the grand vin, while eligible parcels can go into first or second wine as seen fit). I think Cheval Blanc has everything (except the white parcels obviously!!) classified which is why they could put almost all of it into the grand vin in 2015.

"Why, if Cheval Blanc deferred, should the same owners feel obliged to do the same with Quinault L’Enclos?" - because it wouldn't be credible to say the classification no longer reflected their values, but then somehow pretend that those same values don't apply to Quinault L'Enclos, which is after all made by exactly the same team, run by Pierre Lurton and Pierre-Oliver Clouet, and also funded by LVMH. Both categories have a percentage of the "points" available ringfenced for reputation, but the figure is even higher for grand cru classé where Quinault L'Enclos was ranked (35%) than it is for premier grand cru classé where Cheval Blanc was ranked (20%).

I'm sorry, I don't follow your last three lines.

Best, Chris
 

Tom Cannavan

Administrator
I confess I don't really follow St Emilion closely since I stopped attending the en primeurs many years ago, and never have as a consumer really. But I do feel a sense of disconnect from its classification - as I do for the Cru Bourgeois to an extent - perhaps because I don't 'care' about them too much personally, but also because these regularly changing classifications kind of devalue the whole classification system to an extent.

It's perhaps close to what Chris alludes to, but if vineyard X is classified and vineyard Y is not, then it's hard to imagine what factors would cause the promotion or relegation of either. If a new owner or new winemaker improves the wines, or indeed improves the viticulture, that's not necessarily fundamental change to the vineyard or property, but a period of good performance under certain leadership.

I am not necessarily arguing that a Burgundy model of micro-terroir classification is better, or indeed the 1855 left bank classification that needs an earthquake to change it is either, but I tend not to get to excited or deflated by the St Emilion changes.
 
Chris,


I defer to your greater knowledge on this subject. I had foolishly confused Quinault L’Enclos and La Tour du Pin, the renamed La Tour du Pin Figeac (of which there were two, as you know) that belonged to François Pinault and Albert Frère. It is the role of the latter which I should have described as “murky”. This is where the white Cheval Blanc AKA Petit Cheval Blanc comes from, as explained to me by Pierre-Oliver Clouet. But referring to my earlier post, what became of the red part (I neglected to ask at the time)? Does wine from the best plots go into Cheval Blanc, and the rest into Petit Cheval Rouge? As you know, the second wine of a first growth sells for very high prices. And there is the decided advantage that the notion of a specific terroir need not be attached to it…

Looking to the Médoc, if Château Margaux snapped up their immediate neighbour, Pontac Lynch, and even if they used it for their second wine, I would regret the disappearance of the cru bourgeois as well as the fact that the price will have been multiplied by 3 or 4 times.

In other words, I regreat the disappearance of wine from a specific terroir.

You write that “one 1.4-hectare parcel with the same terroir as Cheval Blanc was integrated into the Cheval Blanc vineyard before the 2012 classification”. Indeed, why not, and I’m sure that everything was done above board. So, whatever became of the remaining part (5.5 hectares by my calculation)?
Are you aware? I just don’t know. Fewer than 10,000 bottles of the white are produced according to their web site.

As to the percentages you cited for reputation entering into the classification, isn’t it the reverse of what you wrote (20% for grands crus and 35% for premiers grands crus)?

A lot of what I have to say, Chris, is nostalgic. I’m the kind of older Bordeaux lover who regrets the disappearance of wines such as Laville Haut Brion and La Tour Haut Brion in the Graves, or Bélair in Saint Emilion, and who is very wary of extra hectares added by great growths (Phélan Ségur’s sale to Montrose for instance, and whatever did Rothschild do with wines from La Fleur Milon?).

A look at Cocks and Féret of years past, and production figures cited therein is very telling (even taking into account lower yields at the time).

Of course, you are right to point out that wines such as Petit Cheval are outside the classification system, but it is sad to think that an established estate and former cru classé was gobbled up in the process.

I suppose this consolidation is unfortunately inevitable.

Alex R.
 
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Interesting Alex,
the loss of such fabulous estates. I used to buy without fail Magdelaine and Belair but today I have no wish to buy Belair monange
some of my favourite Bordeaux dinners and wines were the whites of laville Haut Brion but no longer wish to purchase La mission Haut Brion Blanc nor do I think it is the wine today it was of the past.
As for Latour Haut Brion I have yet to taste a better 82 and miss this estate more in it’s generosity of fruit in all the Graves wines
As one door closes another opportunity should come to the fore but I am struggling to find such affordability and respect for todays wines . Perhaps I just need to keep looking
thanks
 
Hi Alex

OK that makes sense now - I couldn't understand your concerns re Quinault L'Enclos at all, but I see your point regarding La Tour du Pin.

The issue of whether the 1.4 hectares of red that was integrated into Cheval Blanc or Le Petit Cheval is a good question, because there is a rule regarding consistency of vineyard over time. But there has to be a way for parcels to be absorbed/upgraded, as that is exactly what happened with Les Grandes Murailles and Clos Fourtet, for example. I shall ask Pierre-Olivier Clouet next time I see him.

The rest of the vineyard is dedicated to white. I am not surprised that production volume does not match the vineyard, as like Château Margaux I expect they take only the very best parcels for the final blend and sell the rest off. There is no commercial/financial pressure within LVMH so they can do that - they were working on the white project for years, without publicising it, selling *everything* off in bulk to start with. No reason why they shouldn't sell a lot off now. That's only my assumption though so certainly not saying you shouldn't question it!

Apologies, yes the percentages are the other way around. I blame lack of sleep, dirty spectacles, or something similar!! :)

Yes I am also sad when estates disappear, I used to taste La Tour du Pin at Cheval Blanc every year, for the few vintages they persisted with it, I seem to recall I liked it as much if not more than Quinault L'Enclos, but they clearly didn't have that level of interest in it.
 
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