Why there will be three different levels of crus Bourgeois in the future? It might be confusing for the trade, says Wine-Searcher.
“Crus Bourgeois are to be given three categories – the same three that were abandoned in 2007, when the revived classification of 2003 fell apart under legal challenges. (The current year-by-year classification was started in 2009.) So, instead of there being an egalitarian club of plain, no-nonsense Crus Bourgeois, there will now be, in addition, Crus Bourgeois Supérieurs and Crus Bourgeois Exceptionels. There were nine of the last in 2003, and they opted out of the classifications of 2009 onwards, when they would have been lumped in with the rest of the plebs – sorry, the bourgeoisie.
The new rankings will not be judged purely on wine quality, however, though quality will be the first hurdle. The judging system indeed seems so byzantine that I doubt if anybody at this week's London press conference completely understood it, and most left with the impression that the details had yet to be worked out. But this is what it sounds like.
Châteaux must, by the end last month, have applied for a particular level, offering five vintages for a tasting from any of the years from 2008 to 2016. The blind tasting will be done by five "professionals" who must have no connection to any of the wines. If a château gets sufficiently high marks in the blind tasting – "over 12", says Frédérique de Lamothe of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois, though this is not 12 out of 20 or anything else, it's just 12; coefficients are involved in working out the marks, though don't ask me how – it will be let through into the judging for the two higher categories. The quantity of wine made by each château is a factor, as well as quality; some 20 percent fail every year, apparently, but often, says Lamothe, on quantity rather than on quality.
There are no limits on the numbers of Supérieur or Exceptionel châteaux, though in reality to have many more than about a dozen Exceptionels (out of a total of somewhere around 320-330 classified wines) would, one would think, strain credulity.
To gain Supérieur or Exceptionel status, three criteria come into play. One is agricultural and environmental practices; the second is the technical management of the property; the third is promotion, marketing and sales. To gain Exceptionel ranking a château must be of Exceptionel status in all three, as well as in wine quality. So in the end making great wine isn't enough; a château must be virtuous in environmental matters, well managed, good at marketing and at the least be well prepared to receive both professional and consumer visitors.
Terroir, you will notice, does not appear in this list of attributes – probably wisely, since once lawyers, geologists and viticulturalists start arguing over whether a particular terroir is better, worse or the same as another, they can go on forever, while the rest of us quietly lose the will to live. Besides, the terroir is supposed to be reflected in the wine, isn't it?”