St. Emilion wines lose top classifications

The St. Emilion wines from France's Bordeaux region have lost their top classifications.

After a year-long legal battle by four winemakers whose wines were demoted in 2006, a French court has ruled that "grand cru classés" labels should be taken off bottles.

The ranking, which applies only to the St. Emilion region, is reassessed every 10 years. It consists of three classifications: premier grand cru classé A, premier grand cru classé B and grand cru classé.

The rankings are done by a jury of brokers, merchants, oenologists and a wine professor who hold blind tastings of vintages from the previous decade. They also judge a range of other criteria, such as soil quality, the blend. bottling conditions and price.

Industry analysts say the awarding of a high ranking can both increase the price of the wine by one-third and affect property prices.

The rankings were suspended last year pending a final judgment. The suspension was lifted last autumn, but Tuesday's decision is effective right away. It was immediately assailed by industry professionals.

"It's an aberration to condemn the classification over so little," said Nicolas Thienpont, owner of Chateau Pavie-Macquin, recently awarded the second highest rank. "All those who have worked so hard to move up the rankings are being told today 'Sorry, because of four imbeciles who don't agree with it, we will cancel everything'," he told the London Telegraph.

Jean Baptiste Bourotte of Audy, a Bordeaux wine merchant, told the Telegraph, "The whole situation is ... idiotic and absurd. They can't stop the 60 or more chateaux that have the rankings from using them. I don't see how we could sell the wine."

The four St. Emilion châteaux behind the legal action are Guadet Saint-Julien, La Marzelle, Cadet-Bon and La Tour du Pin-Figeac. They argued that the classification jury had shown "partiality" by visiting only seven of the 95 candidate châteaux.

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