2012 St. Emilion Classification Begins, 96 Chateaux Apply


St. Emilion Bordeaux Wine Harvest

The new, St. Emilion Classification for 2012 is about to take place. In fact, the first official meetings were held, Friday, October 21. A total of 96 chateaux applied for the new Classification. 28 are hoping for “Premier Grand Cru Classe'” status and 68 others are seeking the “Grand Cru Classe'”Classification. This is a marked increase from the number of chateaux in the current St. Emilion Classification; which includes 2 “Grand Cru Classe’ A” wines, 15 classified “Premier Grand Cru Classé” estates and  61 “Cru Classé” producers. St. Emilion is the only major appellation to reclassify their Bordeaux wine producers every ten years.

The last time Saint Emilion reclassified their wines, the results ended up in a court battle. By order of the court, a total of 72 estates were given the right to temporarily include the words, “Cru Classe'” on their labels through 2011. Starting in 2012, a new St. Emilion Classification would be set in place. This new, St. Emilion reclassification would remain in force for 10 years. To read about the current St. Emilion Classification: List of current St. Emilion Classifications

To avoid the same results of ending up in court, which is what happened after the last St. Emilion classification, a new system was put into place that is supposed to be impartial. To achieve those results, the INAO put together a team of 7 people from a myriad of different backgrounds and with no official connection to the Bordeaux wine industry. The diverse selection of members making up the team are: Mr. Tinlot (president), Mr. Guigal Northern Valley, Mr. Brugnon (Champagne), Mr. Drouhin (Burgundy), Mr. Vinet (Muscadet), Mr. Bronzo (Côtes de Provence), and Mr. Faure-Brac (sommelier).

The St. Emilion Classification will be based on tasting the wines and visits to each property seeking to have their wines classified. The Classification will not be cheap. All the 96 entrants will provide funding, based on the level of classification they seek. Chateaux seeking “Grand Cru Classé” status will pay 6,000 Euros. Chateaux hoping to achieve “Premier Grand Cru Classé” status will pay 7,500 Euros.

A jury of 12 impartial tasters will be put together to taste and score the St. Emilion wines on a scale of 20 points. Chateaux desiring “Grand Cru Classé” status will provide 10 vintages of their wines for the tasting. Chateaux seeking “Premier Grand Cru Classé” status must provide 15 vintages of their wines to be tasted. Properties scoring 14/20 will be awarded “Grand Cru Classé” status and estates earning at least 16/20 will have the right to place “Premier Grand Cru Classé” on their labels.

All visits and tasting’s must be completed by April 2012. It is no coincidence that the submissions needed to be finished by the time the 2011 En Primeur takes place. With all the efforts, checks and balances in place, coupled with memories of the recent, multi-year court battle, one would think the results would be final. But that is not the case. Chateaux that are unhappy with the results will still have the right to appeal the results. Would anyone like to wager on how many estates file an appeal?

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