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2012 St Emilion: Objection!

It’s not really news, is it? Did anybody really believe, despite all the changes put in place for the 2012 St Emilion classification, that the final listing would go unchallenged? Unlike the legal wrangling that came in 2006, however, this time the objections come not from proprietors threatened with demotion, but from an unclassified corner of the appellation.

As I indicated yesterday, it has been reported that Pierre Carle, of Château Croque-Michotte, is not content with the process of classification. His objections have now been made clear in a press conference held at the château; this is reported in Sud Ouest. The complaints are as follows:

1. The system of scoring, which I described in detail in my post on the 2012 St Emilion classification, was only made public in June 2012. This was eight months after all supplicants were required to submit their dossiers in application. This, says Pierre Carle, is like asking a student to take the exam before seeing the syllabus. And, according to Pierre Carle, the scoring system, once revealed, was seen to be defective. In particular, the criteria were not stringent enough (I assume not sufficiently rigidly defined) and open to interpretation especially as the markers moved through the supplicants’ responses.

2. The methods of tasting – time of opening and decanting bottles, serving temperature, etc. – were not disclosed.

3. Scores are awarded for the price of the wine, but following declassification in 1996 the prices obtained by Croque-Michotte fell. Thus it is the classification system itself, as it was in 1996, which has inhibited Croque-Michotte’s ability to regain classification in 2012.

2012 St Emilion classification

4. There are inconsistencies in the scoring of Croque-Michotte; these include a poor score for terroir, particularly for the water content of the soils, but then a good score for having a drainage system in place.

5. The scoring for terroir was based on a geological map drawn up by Professor Cornelis van Leeuwen (Cornelis, who goes more often by the name Kees I think, is a nice guy – I met him at Cheval Blanc once) is inappropriate. Van Leeuwen himself stated that any attempt to classify the wines (I assume based on the map) would be meaningless.

6. Developments at Croque-Michotte have been overlooked. No score was awarded for environmental work, but the vineyards were certified organic in 1999.

The response from Jacques Bertrand, honorary president of the Conseil des Vins de St Emilion, was that the INAO was competent and the system was clearly robust. Having looked at all of Pierre Carle’s complaints, I see that despite a few possible inconsistencies here and there I don’t think – set against the robust system put in place by the INAO – that he has a very strong case. And unfortunately for him, his complaint does come across as sour grapes. Personally I suspect he will not benefit from taking his complaints any further, and I think he would perhaps be better off concerning himself with raising quality, rather than fighting against a classification that is likely to be ratified as it stands.

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