In 1955 the governing body of Saint Emilion set out their own classification of the vineyards and the Chateaux. They were only 100 years after the 1855 classification that had been set out by the mayor of Bordeaux for Napoleon 3rd at the World Exhibition in Paris! This original 1855 classification covered mainly the 62 top vineyards in the Medoc area (left bank mainly Cabernet Sauvignon based wines), with the inclusion of Chateau Haut Brion in the Graves area. The only dramatic change to the 1855 classification was the remarkable upgrade of Chateau Mouton Rothschild from 2nd Growth to 1st Growth in 1973.
The advantage of the Saint Emilion classification of 1955 is that they decided to review the classification every 10 years in order to create movement and dynamism, and also to reward wines that have significantly improved. Whilst the 1855 classification is set in stone and as time goes on gradually becomes obsolete. It is crazy to think that Chateau Pontet Canet, Lynch Bages and Grand Puy Lacoste are still 5th Growths in the 1855 classification, when they are really on a level of 2nd Growths.
The reviews of the Saint Emilion classification have been roughly every 10 years since 1955, and have caused controversy for some Chateaux, whilst also being an effective 'check and balance' system for the Chateau owners,
The example of the 1986 classification when Chateau Beausejour Becot (previously a Premier Grand Cru Classe) was downgraded to Grand Cru Classe should be highlighted. The reason for this downgrade was that the estate had expanded their vineyard area and had tried to maintain their original high standing. The ruling body did not agree and downgraded. However the Chateau spent the next 10 years keeping the quality of their wines very high, maintaining a good quality reputation internationally for their wines and keeping the prices at a reflective level for the quality. So in 1996 the Chateau was restored to premier Grand Cru Classe status.
The latest controversy was from the re classification in 2006, when the system was reduced to farce. The ruling body upgraded the excellent Chateau Troplong Mondot from Grand Cru Classe to premier Grand Cru Classe, whilst downgrading several Chateaux from Grand Cru Classe to Grand Cru. In modern times these decisions can make significant financial positives or negatives to your balance sheet! So the group of Chateaux that were downgraded decided to take the ruling body (the Institut National d'Appelation d'Origine (INAO)) to court. They attacked the decision making process and the clarity of the decision making. There was then a few years of very negative time for Saint Emilion as the law courts swung their decisions one way and another. The resulting legal fudge was to please everyone, by leaving Chateaux that had been promoted as promoted, and any Chateaux that had been demoted retained their former status! So everyone won.
The INAO have been extremely wary of this negative situation for Saint Emilion, so they have tried to re classify the vineyards and Chateaux and avoid the law courts.
On Thursday evening the new classification was released from the Ministry of Agriculture in Paris.
Here is the new classification in full:
- Premier Grand Cru Classé A
Château ANGELUS (promoted)
Château PAVIE (promoted)
- Premier Grand Cru Classé B
Château BEAUSÉJOUR (DUFFAU-LAGARROSSE)
Château BEAU-SÉJOUR BÉCOT
Château CANON-LA-GAFFELIÈRE (promoted)
Château LA GAFFELIÈRE
Château LARCIS-DUCASSE (promoted)
Château LA MONDOTTE (promoted)
Château VALANDRAUD (promoted)
Chateau MAGDELAINE is no longer classified as the Chateau has merged with BELAIR-MONANGE.
Chateaux CURE-BON and MATRAS are no longer classified as they have been bought by Chateau CANON.
- Grand cru classé
Château BARDE-HAUT (promoted)
Château LE CHÂTELET (promoted)Château CHAUVIN
Château CLOS DE SARPE (promoted)
Château LA CLOTTE
Château LA COMMANDERIE (promoted)
Château CÔTE DE BALEAU (promoted)
Château LA COUSPAUDE
Château COUVENT DES JACOBINS
Château LA DOMINIQUE
Château FAUGÈRES (promoted)
Château FAURIE DE SOUCHARD
Château DE FERRAND (promoted)
Château LA FLEUR MORANGE (promoted)
Château FOMBRAUGE (promoted)
Château GRAND CORBIN
Château GRAND CORBIN-DESPAGNE
Château LES GRANDES MURAILLES
Clos des JACOBINS
Château JEAN FAURE (promoted)
Clos la MADELEINE (promoted)
Château LA MARZELLE
Château MOULIN DU CADET
Clos de L'ORATOIRE
Château PEBY-FAUGÈRES (promoted)
Château de PRESSAC (promoted)
Château LE PRIEURÉ
Château QUINAULT L'ENCLOS (promoted)
Château ROCHEBELLE (promoted)
Château SANSONNET (promoted)
Château La SERRE
Château TERTRE-DAUGAY now renamed Chateau QUINTUS
Château LA TOUR-FIGEAC
Chateau HAUT CORBIN is now part of Chateau GRAND CORBIN.
Chateau CADET-PIOLA is now part of Chateau SOUTARD.
Chateau BERGAT is now part of Chateau TROTTEVIEILLE.
Chateau LA CLUSIERE is now part of Chateau PAVIE.
The big headline from this new classification are the two additional Premier Grand Cru Classe (Class A) wines....Chateau ANGELUS and Chateau PAVIE. These are undoubtedly great quality wines and they have certainly repaid the significant investment from the owners in the vineyards and the winemaking facilities. The prices for these wines has also been very high, as well as the scores by Robert Parker.
In fact when I look at the new classification I do think that there is quite a lot of Pakerism stamped across it. Robert Parker has the power to move markets....as seen with his 100 points grading for 19 of the 2009 wines......perhaps Parker can now influence classifications too?